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Emotional awareness

Being able to correctly identify emotions is an important step in being able to regulate them.

Emotions are physical reactions that arise as a response to our external events and our interpretations of those events. In order to identify what emotion you are experiencing you must be able to notice what is happening in your body (the physical reaction) and be able to identify the emotion. Identifying the emotion also means being able to name them.

- An article by Nummenmaa and colleagues (2013) depicts bodily maps of emotions showing how different emotions are associated with differences in body activation. Here is a link to the article.

- Emotions have distinct facial expressions and bodily sensations.

- I like the movie Inside Out and the way the characters depict the five basic emotions. It is a good tool for teaching kids about emotions and I even sometimes show a clip of the movie to adults. Here is a link to a movie clip from Inside Out where the five basic emotions are introduced.

- Kids are not born being able to regulate their emotions. Actually, the prefrontal cortex which is the part of the brain that helps us to regulate our emotions (among other tasks that require cognitive control) develops until a person is at least 25 years old. A very useful skill for helping young people regulate their emotions is to help them gain greater awareness of them. Even just naming the emotion a young person seems to be experiencing can be very helpful "you seem disappointed for XYZ is that right?" , "you are raising your voice a lot, it seems like you angry at me for XYZ", and " you seem so proud for the good work you did at school/ hobby".

- Many people suffering from different psychological disorders / symptoms can also have difficulty with emotional awareness. Writing down your emotions, the associated thoughts and situations can help a person gain greater emotional awareness. Meeting with a trusted mental health professional can also help with emotional awareness. When emotional intensity is very high or distressing, then getting help from a professional may be necessary.

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