Identifying Your Feelings: Using Self-Awareness and Practicing Mindfulness

One of the five core competencies of Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is self-awareness. CASEL defines self-awareness as the ability to understand one’s own emotions, thoughts, and values and how they influence behavior across contexts. A big part of being self-aware is the ability to identify one’s emotions.

One tool that can be used to help identify your emotions is mindfulness. There are a few skills you can use to be mindful and help you to identify how you are feeling. When being mindful, your goal is to pay attention to what is going on in your mind. You don’t necessarily need to clear your mind of all emotions, but you just need to pay attention to what you’re thinking in the present.  


Part of being mindful is also about observing what is going on with your body. With some emotions, you might experience stomach aches, headaches, tense shoulders, clenched jaw, crying, or yelling. It’s important that we take a deep breath and give ourselves some time to think about why we are experiencing these symptoms.


It's healthy to feel a variety of emotions. We have all experienced feelings of being happy, surprised, sad, bad, disgusted, angry, and fearful. However, there are some other emotions that we have felt or will feel in the future that are a little bit more difficult to identify.


This is why it is also something that can be revisited as students get older because they go through more life experiences and can articulate more specific emotions.


Sometimes feelings can be overwhelming, and it’s important to practice mindfulness so you are able to process your emotions in a healthy way. It can also be helpful to talk to a trusted individual, counselor, or mental health professional.


There has been a stigma around asking for help in the past, but all people feel overwhelmed from time to time, and it is okay to reach out for help.


Although you often can’t choose your feelings or control what’s going on around you, you can choose how you react to different situations. Remember to slow down, take a deep breath, practice mindfulness, and identify your support system to help figure out what to do next.


Discussing how to identify your emotions is something that is beneficial to students of all ages and adults as well.


When you identify and understand your feelings and why you’re feeling that way, it helps you to process and respond to situations. Identifying your feelings helps you to discover what you need at the moment, and will help you with your mental health. Having an understanding of your own feelings can help you to be empathetic and better understand how others are feeling.


Below is a preview video from our "Identifying Your Feelings" lesson from our "Mental Health, SEL, and Substance Abuse Prevention" curriculum for grades 5-6. 

View Preview Video for "Identifying Your Feelings"  

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