top of page

3 Ways to Better Understand Your Emotions

Understanding our emotions is a critical aspect of personal and professional growth. Emotions play a significant role in our decision-making processes, relationships, and overall well-being. However, many individuals struggle to fully comprehend and manage their emotions effectively.

Today we will explore three practical strategies to better understand your emotions, enabling you to navigate through life with greater self-awareness and emotional intelligence.

Cultivate Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is the foundation of emotional intelligence. It involves recognizing and understanding your own emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. Here are three ways to cultivate self-awareness:

A. Mindfulness Practice: Engaging in mindfulness exercises allows you to observe your thoughts and emotions without judgment. By practicing mindfulness, you can develop a deeper understanding of your emotional states and patterns. For instance, taking a few minutes each day to focus on your breath and observe your thoughts can help you identify recurring emotions and triggers.

B. Reflective Journaling: Keeping a reflective journal provides an opportunity to explore and analyze your emotions. Set aside time each day to write about your experiences, thoughts, and feelings. Reflecting on these entries can help you identify patterns, understand the root causes of certain emotions, and gain insights into your emotional reactions.

C. Seek Feedback: Ask trusted friends, family members, or colleagues for feedback on how they perceive your emotions and behaviors in different situations. This external perspective can provide valuable insights into blind spots or areas where you may be misinterpreting your emotions. Be open to constructive criticism and use it as an opportunity to grow.

Identify Emotional Triggers

Understanding the triggers that elicit specific emotional responses is crucial for managing and regulating your emotions effectively. Here are three strategies to help you identify emotional triggers:

A. Reflect on Past Experiences: Think back to situations in which you experienced intense emotional reactions. What were the circumstances surrounding those events? Identifying patterns in these experiences can help you recognize common triggers that lead to certain emotions. For example, if public speaking consistently causes anxiety, you can explore strategies to address this trigger.

B. Pay Attention to Physical Sensations: Emotions often manifest as physical sensations in our bodies. Paying attention to these bodily cues can help you identify your emotional state. Notice how your body reacts in different situations – does your heart race when you feel stressed, or do you feel a pit in your stomach when you're anxious? By recognizing these physical sensations, you can become more attuned to your emotions.

C. Keep a Trigger Log: Maintain a trigger log where you record situations that provoke strong emotional reactions. Include details such as the context, people involved, and the specific emotions experienced. Over time, patterns may emerge that help you pinpoint recurring triggers. This log can serve as a valuable tool for self-reflection and understanding.

Practice Emotional Regulation

Once you have a better understanding of your emotions and the triggers that elicit them, it's essential to develop strategies to regulate and manage your emotional responses. Here are three techniques to practice emotional regulation:

A. Deep Breathing: When faced with intense emotions, taking slow, deep breaths can help calm your nervous system and reduce emotional reactivity. Focus on your breath, inhaling deeply through your nose and exhaling slowly through your mouth. This technique can help you regain control and approach situations with a calmer mindset.

B. Cognitive Reframing: Cognitive reframing involves shifting your perspective on a situation to alter your emotional response. Challenge negative or distorted thoughts by replacing them with more positive and realistic ones. For example, if you make a mistake at work and feel overwhelmed with self-criticism, reframe the situation by focusing on the opportunity for growth and learning.

C. Engage in Self-Care: Taking care of your physical and mental well-being is crucial for emotional regulation. Prioritize activities that promote relaxation and reduce stress, such as exercise, meditation, or engaging in hobbies. When you prioritize self-care, you are better equipped to handle challenging emotions and respond in a more balanced manner.


Understanding our emotions is a lifelong journey that requires self-reflection, self-awareness, and the willingness to grow. By cultivating self-awareness, identifying emotional triggers, and practicing emotional regulation, you can develop a deeper understanding of your emotions and enhance your overall well-being. Remember, emotional intelligence is a skill that can be honed, leading to more meaningful relationships, effective decision-making, and personal growth. Embrace the opportunity to better understand your emotions and unlock your full potential.


Jonathan H. Westover, PhD is Chief Academic & Learning Officer (HCI Academy); Chair/Professor, Organizational Leadership (UVU); OD Consultant (Human Capital Innovations). Read Jonathan Westover's executive profile here.



bottom of page