Create an emotional inventory to retrain your brain.

Have you ever tracked your steps with a Fitbit or other app? If so, you became aware of something you might have been taking for granted. In a similar way, the emotion or mood tracker I propose helps you increase your awareness and appreciation for the variety of emotions you can have in a day, even in an hour. The emotion tracker doesn’t need an app. You only need your mind to track your moods.

Why bother becoming hyper aware of each emotional ebb and flow? Because your built in negativity bias, which every human has to some degree, means you’re more likely to focus on and remember negative emotions. Only by consciously training your mind to acknowledge all your emotions, even the most fleeting ones, can you combat that negative neural wiring.

The more you get to know your emotional highs and lows, the less likely you will be to catastrophize about them or dwell on them to the exclusion of all your positive, happier moments.

If identifying more subtle emotions is difficult for you, please remember that for many people an absence of a strong emotion means they’re feeling calm. 

The practice:

At the end of the day, write a list of all the feelings you can remember. It can be helpful to do them sequentially throughout the day as it allows you to notice patterns. For example, you might find your mood is higher or lower at different times of the day, before or after eating, during particular activities, or in conversation with certain people.

Try the practice every day for one week. You might even see a difference after only one day, it’s that much of a cognitive shift.

This practice helps you become more aware of your inner emotional life and its natural vicissitudes.

If you have trouble noticing and naming emotions, you can use bodily sensations as clues to what you’re feeling. Butterflies in your stomach? Perhaps you’re feeling anxious or nervous about something. Tightness in your chest? Maybe you’re sad or angry.

If it’s too difficult to keep a running tally throughout the day, see how many feelings you can recall before you go to sleep.

It’s impossible to remember all your various emotions from a whole day; yet, you can remember enough of them to retrain your brain.

Once you have your list, celebrate the fact that you can feel so many different feelings.

Of course, the more sensitive and empathic you are, the more deeply you will feel everything.

Notice how all emotions come and go. Not one of them lasts.

Pay extra attention to the pleasant ones, as they are easy to gloss over, and recognize that the less desirable ones will soon vanish.

Be a comfort to yourself: Patient, kind, gentle and compassionate.

Treat yourself with tenderness and watch for moments of peace, calm and a sense of safety. They are there. They have always been there, even if you ignored them. Once you notice them they naturally begin to grow.


Copyright Nicole S. Urdang 

Nicole Urdang

Nicole S. Urdang, M.S., NCC, DHM is a Holistic Psychotherapist in Buffalo, NY. She holds a New York state license in mental health counseling and a doctorate in homeopathic medicine from the British Institute of Homeopathy.