Understanding your Own Emotions Better

  • Keep a journal.  Write down the significant things that happened to you that day and how they made you feel, why, and what you did about it. 
  • Get list of emotions (emotion list) or just focus on happy, sad, angry and fearful.  List things in your life that made you feel each of these emotions, and why.
  • Pay attention to physiological changes in your body (Muscle Tension, Heart rate, Body temperature).  Associate feelings in body with current event and most similar event that has happened to you in the past.  This may help us to understand why we are feeling the way we do. 

   List the following information: Physiological feelings (body state) + event (what did I want, believe, expect about this event? And did what happen match with this?)  + Previous event (think about most similar previous occurrence and outcome of that event)  --> This will help us to identify how you are feeling.

  • Events of Past or Present (Do the following exercise)


Understanding others' Emotions Better

  • Facial Expressions:
    • Pay attention to facial expressions: Eyes (and brows) and mouth are the most important.  See page on Understanding Others Emotions.
    • Imitate facial expressions in a mirror; role play
    • Pay particular attention to facial expressions in tv commercials, sitcoms, movies, or magazines.
  • Vocal expressions: (this section is still being revised)
    • Pitch: High pitch could mean fearful; low could mean sad or angry.
    • Speed: Slow usually means sad.  Fast usually means fearful, but could mean angry.
    • Volume: Loud means high energy; listen for positive or negative energy (postive=happy; negative= anger or fear)
  • Gestures, body postures (this section is still being revised)
    • Pay attention to personal space
    • Pay attention to where people are looking
    • What are they doing with their arms
  • Know the context of the situation (think about what they wanted, believed and expected from the situation).   Always try to put yourself in someone else's situation. 
  • Stories (Using fictional stories to learn how to better infer how people are feeling)

Controlling your emotions better

Controlling our emotions requires several things.  First we must be able to recognize when we are feeling a certain way (angry, anxious).  We must be able to pick up on these signs early, maybe before they even happen.  We  could sometimes predict how we will feel in a given situation because we know our emotional triggers- what sets us off.  An emotional event (our what we perceive to be an emotional event) could have us react without thinking, almost automatically.  We are able to control these emotions with the front part of brain (prefrontal cortex).  It is this part of the brain that helps us to assess the situation, analyze the problem, put it into perspective, and weigh the outcomes of the different emotional responses we may have.  The sooner we identify how we are feeling, the easier it will be for us to pull back from the situation and give ourselves time to think about it and how we are going to respond. 


  • Being prepared is your best defense.  If you are likely to get upset easily, think about any situation before you enter it.  Think about how it is going to make you feel, and how you should respond in that situation.  What will you do to avoid getting upset and overreacting?
  • Know your emotional triggers and stay away from them. Alcohol or drugs will make it harder to control your emotions. If you take prescribed medication, make sure to take your meds.  
  • Think about how your emotions and actions will affect others and make them feel?  What will the consequences of your emotional outbursts be?  Could you live with it?
  • Be aware of when you are starting to get upset: tension, tightness in the stomach,  increased heart rate.  and do the following:
    • Deep breathing exercises
    • STOP and think before you act
    • Walk away.  Tell people around you that whatever is going on is important, but you need a break and will be back later.
    • Think of something pleasant (have good memories close at hand).  Have a phrase or saying that automatically makes you laugh or smile.
    • Hum or sing
  • Exercise regularly (jog,  walk, weghts, yoga, meditation)

Expressing your emotions better

  • Make a conscious effort to use the words "I feel" more often when interacting with others.
  • Play games with your friends, family or significant others:
    • Get a list of emotions from List of Emotions 1 or List of Emotions 2 and write the emotions down on index cards.  You could take turns
      • Telling the people in your group something that made you feel that emotion and why
      • Doing charades and acting out the emotion without any words (just facial expression, gestures and postures)
      • Playing an emotional Pictionary and drawing the emotions
  • Keep a journal (as described above)

Improving your decision-making (through emotions)

Do the following exercise.  List the possible choices you could make, then list the consequences if you made that choice.  After you list the possible consequences for each of your actions, you will have to determine how these consequences would make you feel by choosing a number on a scale from 1 to 5.  For each decision you might make, add up your feelings for both the immediate and long-term consequence.  Whatever choice has the higher number (more positive feelings), than go with that decision.

Improving your memory through emotions

 If there is something that you want to remember, you have to make it relevant to you.  Attach an emotional association to it.  If it's not something emotional, then challenge yourself to make it something emotional.