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How to get in touch with your emotions (5 highly effective ways)

When many people come to see me in therapy and we discuss why they are looking to start seeing a counsellor one of the common reasons is “I would like to know how to get in touch with my emotions.”

Getting in touch with our emotions has become somewhat of a cliché as mental health awareness has become more mainstream. However, mental health literacy, the actual ability to check in with emotions, has not necessarily improved at the same speed. 

What exactly is “getting in touch with your emotions”?

Getting in touch with your emotions is learning:

  • How to know what you are feeling in the moment
  • How to label emotions with more accuracy e.g. (I feel frightened vs. I feel bad)
  • How to recognise the patterns in your emotional experiences and how they relate to thoughts, situations and other triggers
  • How to use different skills and techniques to regulate your emotions in the midst of challenging moments 

Keep a journal

    Journalling is a great way to get in touch with your emotions for several reasons. Firstly, it helps you develop self-reflective awareness and critical thinking skills. It also helps you to slow down and consider how you think and feel at a speed that doesn’t cause you to get swept up by emotions. Often when we simply keep our thoughts to ourselves, or even speak them out loud, we can lack the ability to de-couple our thoughts from our emotions and become over identified with our emotional experience. There has been much research into the effect of journalling on emotional intelligence. If you’d like to learn more, you can check out the work of James Pennebaker on expressive writing

    Practice Mindfulness or other forms of meditation

    Mindfulness, and other forms of meditation, have become increasingly popular in the last decade. There are now dozens of apps that teach you the basics of meditation. However, basic mindfulness, which I will define as simply paying attention to your experience without commenting on it, is enough to make you more in touch with your emotions. You can start with a formal practice via an app such as Headspace or Insight Timer, but even just making it a personal habit so it becomes a personality trait, has been shown in dozens of studies to improve emotional intelligence. 

    Ask yourself questions

    The simple act of asking yourself questions is really all you need at the end of the day to get in touch with your emotions. Taking a break to ask: “How do I feel about this?” will direct your attention towards your emotions. It’s that straightforward. What is challenging is making it a habit. 

    Some other questions you may ask are:

    • How will I feel about this situation 10 years from now?
    • If this emotion could talk, what would it say?
    • If I was calm right now, what would I say about this situation?

    Express yourself creatively

    Creativity is a unique way to get in touch with your emotions. Whether you like to express yourself through visual art, music, crafts or even sports, creativity allows you to access parts of your brain that you usually wouldn’t. By doing so you can break free from 

    Have emotion-centred conversations

    Having conversations that talk directly about your emotions, either with a friend, a partner or a therapist, will teach you how to identify and communicate what you are feeling. Some people find this challenging because for most of their lives their conversations have been focused outward on objects, solutions or facts. For some, it can feel as if emotion-centred conversations are like learning a second language. This is all the more reason to practice with patience and kindness. It’s a new skill, one that will be learning for life, and you’re not expected to be a master overnight.

    Counselling is a great way to learn to get in touch with your emotions in a safe space. Ben Fishel offers counselling for a range of issues, including depressionanxiety and trauma. If you’d like to see how he might be able to help you, you can schedule a call via the button below or contact him via the contact form above.

    References

    Harrison, P. A., & Fopma-Loy, J. L. (2010). Reflective journal prompts: A vehicle for stimulating emotional competence in nursing. Journal of Nursing Education49(11), 644-652.

    Miao, C., Humphrey, R. H., & Qian, S. (2018). The relationship between emotional intelligence and trait mindfulness: A meta-analytic review. Personality and Individual Differences135, 101-107.

    Pennebaker, J. W. (2012). Opening up: The healing power of expressing emotions. Guilford Press.

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