I have a question for you.
"How are you feeling right now?"
Many people have no idea, or provide an automatic response like, "I'm feeling good, I'm fine."
If you have difficulties with knowing how you feel, you are not alone.
There are many reasons why you may not be able to easily identify what you are feeling - including the fact that many people who ask you how you are feeling, don't really care! It's just a societal nicety to get out of the way.
But knowing how you are feeling IS important.
Combined with knowing what you are thinking and identifying what your body is experiencing, it's one of the key ways you make sense of the world around you. This awareness is a part of living a more mindful life and taking responsibility for your overall self-care.
Below are five habits or behaviours that might be getting in the way for you understanding what you are feeling. Note, I do not discuss trauma in this article, or anxiety and other mental health conditions that can cause difficulties in accessing emotions. The five habits discussed are behaviours and habits that everyone can fall into with realising it.
5 feelings habits or behaviours
The first is DISTRACTION. There are so many things that distract us and take us out of ourselves on a day-to-day basis, not the least being, the 24 hour digital world we live in. Whether it be social media, watching YouTube videos, Netflix or Foxtel, there's so much you can tune into any second of the day and never have to be alone with yourself, your thoughts and your feelings. Distraction is a huge blockage that can get in the way of knowing how you really feel.
Did you know that the statistics around how often people pick up their phone is amazing. It’s about once every five or 10 minutes. And the number of people who, the first thing they do in the morning is not check in with themselves, but check in with what random people are doing on Facebook or Instagram. Hands up if you can relate to either of these things. I know I definitely get hooked into this from time to time.
The next three obstacles I’m grouping together and calling them REASONS. This covers justification, blame and shame. In these situations you can identify what you are feeling but you are stepping into your logical mind instead of allowing yourself the experience.
In JUSTIFICATION you are explaining your feelings. For example. “Oh, I'm feeling pretty tired, but I didn't sleep real well. And you know, maybe if I've gone to bed early or I wouldn't feel quite so tired” or “I'm feeling okay today, but you know, I had time to myself and I was able to go for a walk and unlike other days where I don't get that sort of time”.
BLAME is when you are attributing your feelings to what someone else did. For example, “I'm feeling really angry and it's your fault because you cut me off” or “it's your fault because you didn't do the dishes”. “I'm feeling really frustrated because they didn't ring me when they were supposed to”. So your emotion is all about what someone else did to you.
I'm not saying some of these things didn't happen and some of them might not have contributed to your frustration or your anger or your happiness or whatever you're feeling. However, allowing yourself to go down this train of thought is taking you away from what you are feeling right now and interfering with your ability to experience that emotion fully.
The next reasoning obstacle is SHAME.
So, you'd like to stop feeling guilty.
If you're like me you are not short of examples where motherhood guilt popped up its head.
As recently as last week I was at an all day event and about 11.30 I received a text from my youngest.
'Mum, where are you?' 😳😳
I put my hand up for another vote towards the Worst Mother of the Year Award.
Well, first the bad news about feeling guilty...
You cant really stop it....
You don't really want to.
Guilt is an emotion, and like all emotions it has a purpose - it is giving you feedback and guidance on your life.
It is important that you feel guilt.
There are two question to ask yourself:
Have a look at these two examples.
Do you feel part of a group of friends?
If you answer no, you are not alone..
Nearly 30% of Australians over 18 years of age reported that they rarely or never felt part of a group of friends.
Loneliness is not just caused by not having enough friends.
Hence the saying that you can feel lonely in a crowd.
Feelings of loneliness are to a large extent caused by our perception of our social connectedness. It is related to how connected we feel.
The good news is by working on your thinking about social situations you can change how lonely you feel.
It's one thing to know that changing our thinking can help reduce our feelings of loneliness.
But how do you change your thinking?
I admit it, I get annoyed, irritated, even angry easily. Some days it could be missing a change of lights and getting stuck in the traffic, not knowing what I'm going to have for tea, my children asking me the same question 20 different times in an hour, or something totally out of my control like the state of world politics. Somedays I just wake up irritated due to other stresses.
My brain battles with the fact that the world is not how I would like it to be and is full of "whys and shoulds''.
Now anger can be a great motivating force for change, however, when directed at things you can't change or don't have the time, energy or inclination to change, it is like banging your head against a brick wall.
It's hard being angry and annoyed, it takes energy and it hurts the people around me when I am short with my patience or have no space in my world perspective of indignation to listen and be with them.
Calming the beast
I have been working on some different strategies and I thought if I share them other people may find them useful.
1. Awareness - recognition that I am feeling annoyed. Labelling this emotion.
2. Making sure I am eating, drinking and walking regularly. So important to try and maintain a balanced physiology.
And number three is something I have been trying recently and am really impressed with the difference it is making.
3. Rating my annoyance - how important is it that I react to that perceived injustice/annoyance. I use a scale of 10 and give myself permission to react angrily when the number is an 8 or above.
Interesting when I apply a rating most times it has only been about 2/3 out of 10.
If you think these strategies may help you give them a go and comment below whether they worked or not. If you know someone who may be interested, either tag them or share this post.
Do you remember being at the shops and seeing someone you know? Being a friendly sort you give them a wave or a smile. But they don’t wave back. I know, it’s pretty rude isn’t it. And you might feel a bit of a dill and wonder if other people are looking at you. Or perhaps you wonder if they are ignoring you on purpose, and that makes you feel a bit anxious. So perhaps you take on some of this uncertainty and carry it around with you for the rest of the day, or until you see them again.
Does your child spill milk on the floor when they are preparing their breakfast, and you think, or say, “bugger, another mess to clean up”? Especially when you have a busy day ahead.
Does this sound like you? Do you tend to automatically focus on the negative of a situation? Or do you think, “maybe they didn’t see me”; “isn’t it great he’s becoming independent”.
Having a negative response bias is a type of distorted or helpful thinking style. We all may do this from time to time, but more so when we are under prolonged stress or feeling depressed. We may see our weaknesses and forget our strengths. When someone gives us feedback we focus on the negative and reject the positive.
Noticing the positive is a choice, and it is also a skill we can develop. Maybe the next time you notice a negative thought, look for an alternative explanation, see a different perspective, choose to focus on the positive, and allow the negative thought to take a backwards role.
photo by http://www.buddhadoodles.com
If you are a regular reader of my posts you'll notice I mention noticing a lot. To some people this sounds too simple to be of much help. It is simple, but that is no reason to dismiss it as not being effective. Noticing things tends to be the first strategy I teach my clients and it is a practice I use everyday in my own life.
Today was the first day all three children were going to school. I tend to lay in bed in the morning and listen to them move around each other. This is not being lazy, this is helping them cultivate their own independence. Yes, it is. Also, just like their mother, at least one of them prefers to move around in their own little bubble not interacting with the world until they wake up properly, so sometimes adding more people into the morning mix is not helpful.
However, as I lay in bed I can hear what is happening. Two children needed to be taken to school. There were two adults available to do the driving this morning and one child was saying they wanted their dad to take them. At this point I realised it would require another adult, me, to hop up so that arrangements could be made. As I put one foot on the floor I felt something shift inside me so I took a moment in between placing the other foot on the floor to check in on myself. When I did I noticed a spot of irritation starting to grow inside me, it was green and spikey. It was small, but threatened to get bigger. This feeling was also accompanied by a negative voice. It sounded a little like a whiney child - "here we go again, the demands are starting'. Now this was totally irrational and out of proportion to the situation. Here is the exciting bit....
As I placed my attention on to this spot I felt it stop growing and shrink back to nothing. My irritation disappeared. This all happened in the time it took to place my other foot on the floor. And I left my room calm
I don't know what you think about this - but noticing, simple yes, effective yes, yes, yes.
* My aim is for these posts is meant to useful, interesting and/or inspiring. They are not designed to be used for therapy..
Kim Dunn is a Child Psychologist and Founder of Positive Young Minds.