One of the skills I am passionate about developing is emotional literacy. There are many reasons why, however one of the main reasons is because I knew I needed to relearn. One of the main ways I have learnt to figure out my own emotions is by using an emotions diary/ journaling guide. However, before I share how I started to figure out my emotions using an emotions diary, let’s discuss emotional literacy and why it is important.
Why Develop Emotional Literacy?
Emotional literacy is the building block of emotional intelligence. Subsequently, when we develop our own emotional literacy we can access and develop important information about ourselves and others and process any emotional baggage (don’t worry we all have it!), take better care of ourselves and look after wellbeing.
What is Emotional Literacy?
Just as learning to read and write begins with literacy of letters and sounds, learning to interpret and manage feelings begins with emotional literacy. The term “emotional literacy” was coined by Claude Steiner in 1979.
The definitions of emotional literacy include –
- “To be emotionally literate is to be able to handle emotions in a way that improves your personal power and the quality of your life and – equally important, the quality of the life of the people around you. Emotional literacy helps your emotions work for you instead of against you.” ~ Claude Steiner
- “Emotional literacy is the ability to put feelings in to words so that those feelings can be understood within some sort of psychological context.” ~ Tian Dayton
- “… lets us sort out all of those feelings, name them and begin to understand their causes and effects. It is the basic building block of emotional intelligence.” ~ Joshua Freedman
- “Emotional literacy helps us precisely identify and communicate our feelings. Naming them helps us identify our unmet needs; communicating them helps us identify those people who voluntarily assist us in meeting our needs. The key to emotional literacy is using simple, clear and direct three-word I messages like – ‘I feel sad.'” ~ Steve Hein
After reading the above, do you agree that emotional literacy could be a useful skill to develop? If so, read on as I share one way I have been figuring our my emotions using an emotions diary.
Figuring Out Emotions Using An Emotions Diary
To develop my own emotional literacy, I chose to create an emotions diary. I used this diary regularly, not just when I was going through a difficult time. It also helped me to understand and learn to manage my emotions more effectively on a day-to-day or maybe more accurately on a moment-to-moment basis (and yes I still journal with it).
An emotions diary is basically keeping a journal or ‘notes’ on your emotions. You can write about the name of the emotion/s, shifts in them, what was going on at the time or leading up to you noticing the emotion, whether or not you thought the emotion/s was appropriate and were any other people present. Also, I chose the word emotions instead of feelings as it resonated with my intention more. Basically an emotions diary is an empowering way to reconnect with your self and explore what is going on within you.
An Example of An Emotions Diary
There are a number of pre-made journals available, for me I like to keep things simple, so all you really need is some paper and pen/pencil. Following are the key aspects I include in my emotions diary –
1. Date / Time:
I include the date and time so I can look back on how I have changed and evolved over time.
2. Description of Emotion:
Trust me, I know naming an emotion can be challenging as learning to identify and label an emotion are skills in themselves, so when I started I just did my best and when required used these “primary emotions“. I then also like to add – does this emotion feel good or bad? Up or down? How intense is the emotion on a scale of 1-10 (1 = low intensity and 10 = high intensity).
3. Event / Situation:
Was there an event or incident that led up to the emotion? If so, I write them down. I include (if relevant), where I was, who I was with and what was going on.
4. Physical Sensations:
What did I notice going on in my body and where did I notice it?
5. Behaviour / Action:
What behaviour and/or action did I take? Was this behaviour / action a reaction or a response? Was this appropriate? What helped me cope with this emotion?
6. Moving Forward:
Is there something I can learn from this? Is there anything I can do in relation to the event / situation and/or emotion? If so, what? How can I move forward and/or release this experience?
Over to You…
Remember, figuring out our emotions using an emotions diary can take a while, It is not something you master over night, it takes time to see results (and I continue to learn). If you choose to start to use an emotions diary, I recommend taking your time, bringing your self-compassion with you and discover what works best for you as we are all unique.
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