1. Home

  2. Habit Directory

  3. Identifying Emotions
Identifying Emotions

Identifying Emotions

Discover More Habits
Identifying Emotions infographic
Pencil icon


Emotion identification is about reflecting and giving a label to what we are feeling in the present moment. This is one of the first steps in emotional regulation. This habit is widely used in Dialectical-Behavioral Therapy (DBT).

Finger up icon

Possible Benefits

  • May improve mood 
  • May decrease stress
  • May improve emotional regulation 
  • It can help improve relationships 
  • May decrease anxiety 
  • May help prevent mental illness
Gear icon

Required Equipment

Journal (optional)

Question mark icon

How to Do It

When you’re feeling something, follow these steps: 

  1. Take a moment for yourself.  
  2. (Optional) Find a private place.
  3. Focus on your feelings and try to give them a name:
    1. Anger
    2. Happiness
    3. Sadness
    4. Fear
    5. Surprise 
    6. Blame
    7. Anxiety 
    8. Satisfaction
    9. Etc. 
  4. Identify the cause of that emotion. Ask yourself, what happened before you felt this?
  5. (Optional) Write down in your journal the emotion or emotions you felt and what happened before them.
Gear icon

Why it works

  • When we know for sure what we are feeling, the tension decreases and this improves the mood.
  • Emotional regulation is being able to feel without being overwhelmed. Using emotions as a compass for our needs. When we have the ability to identify what we are feeling, this process improves. 
  • People who correctly identify what they feel communicate better and are more assertive with others. 
  • If emotions are not identified, this can lead to chronic stress or anxiety and be a risk factor for mental illness. 
Clock icon

Time Commitment

1-5 minutes

Calendar icon

Suggested Frequency

1-2 times per week

Whenever you feel very stressed

Clock icon

Time of Day


Warning icon

Possible Side Effects

At first, it can be frustrating and difficult to separate what you feel. 

May cause higher anxiety at first.

Notes icon


  • Learn about specific emotions and their causes to improve identification. 
  • Talking about your emotions to other people may increase the benefits. 
  • This technique is different from CBT Labeling because it focuses on all emotions, not just the negative ones. 
  • Emotional dysregulation is related to disorders such as panic attacks, alexithymia, personality disorders, self-injury, anxiety disorders, depressive disorders, manic symptoms.
Sources list icon

Supporting Studies and Articles

Expand Collapse
  1. Emotion Regulation and Psychopathology. https://www.annualreviews.org/doi/full/10.1146/annurev-clinpsy-032814-112739?url_ver=Z39.88-2003 
  2. Emotion Regulation and Mental Health: Recent Findings, Current Challenges, and Future Directions. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22262030/
  3. Feeling okay about feeling bad is good for your mental health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/feeling-okay-about-feeling-bad-is-good-for-your-mental-health-2017091412398
  4. Identifying and Describing Feelings and Psychological Flexibility Predict Mental Health in Men With HIV. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23368629/
  5. Emotional Intelligence Toolkit. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/mental-health/emotional-intelligence-toolkit.htm
  6. Emotion Regulation, Mental Health, and Social Wellbeing in a Young Adolescent Sample: A Concurrent and Longitudinal Investigation. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29697988/
Category icon


 Happiness  Confidence  Stress  Productivity  Sharpness
Discover More Habits

More Habits

Rate Habit

Identifying Emotions

Contact us





Thank you

Thank you for your message. It has been sent.