I am glad that this the first element to be discussed as part of our PERMA series as I feel it is extremely relevant during this national (or should I say global) lock down. We all have a host of feelings, including our children who don't know why they are feeling the way that they are. Many adults don't know how they are feeling at any given moment. How do you feel right now in this moment? Where in your body can you feel it? Were you able to answer that question? Most people would be saying "I don't really feel anything right now". We may not be aware of it but we are experiencing varying emotions at all times but we tend to only tune into them when they are more extreme or heightened.

Did the photo make you smile? If not why not?

My clients will be familiar with a phrase that I use frequently "Awareness is the first step towards change". I passionately believe that by identifying and understanding the emotions that we are feeling, we can increase our overall wellbeing.

Our first challenge is to tune in to what we are feeling. Let's start with the most basic of emotions suggested by Silvan Tomkins in the 1960's; surprise, interest, joy, rage, fear, disgust, shame, and anguish. Do you agree with his suggestions? I wonder if perhaps our terminology for these emotions may have changed over time. Notice that the word 'happy' isn't there. The feeling that we all chase after is in fact a construct. It is a pleasant feeling but it is often a secondary emotion. This means that we could be experiencing 'interest' while reading this article that then (hopefully) in turn may initiate 'hope'.

There have been several books that have now been written about EQ (Emotional Intelligence), notably the one by Daniel Goleman - Emotional Intelligence. His book is available in paper, ebook and audio and I recommend it as an introduction to understanding emotions. Goleman proposes that there are 5 elements to emotional intelligence;

1. Self-awareness – recognising your own emotions and what makes you tick.

2. Self-regulation – your control over your emotions and how to express them appropriately.

3. Social skills – interpersonal relationships. How do you get on with others?

4. Empathy – consideration of other people's emotions and feelings.

5. Motivation – awareness of what drives you and what drives those around you.

If you are interested in finding out how emotionally intelligent you are, why not try this test. It will then give you an idea of what areas you may need to work on.

What now I hear you ask?

We all need to talk about emotions. It is as simple as that. We need to know what an emotion is and when we are feeling it. Below are some suggested activities, one of the links will take you through to a separate post on discussing emotions with your child and family.

1. Expressive writing - write for 15 minutes a day for 5 consecutive days. Write what ever comes in to your head, try to focus on how 'you are feeling'. Don't worry about grammar or spelling, it is the process that is important. No-one is going to read it (unless you want them to). You will be amazed what things may come out. If anything, it will be cathartic.

2. Guided meditation - use a YouTube meditation to identify emotions.

3. Watch a TED talk by Dr. Watkins on why we feel the way that we do.

4. Download an app and track your moods to identify potential triggers. I use Daylio to track how I am feeling. I have been able to identify specific triggers for low mood. The biggest one is if I get less than 8 hours sleep. I am creating a list of appropriate apps that will be posted in the next few days.

5. Use Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions. The wheel will encourage you to identify what emotions there are, what their opposites are and the combinations.

For activities for children and families click here.


I use a subscription app (Scribd) that comprises of a huge amount of ebooks and audio books all for £7.99 a month. I most certainly get more than my money's worth as I read at least 10 books a month. Please note that I DO NOT receive any money for recommending this app.