Learning to observe and accept your emotions

Emotional acceptance exercise: Observing emotions

This emotional acceptance exercise is a way to help you learn to be more aware and accepting of your emotions. It teaches you to see your emotion from a bit of distance.
The exercise can be done when you are having an emotion that is uncomfortable. Pick a time when you are having an emotion strong enough for you to recognise you are having it, but not so strong that you are feeling overwhelmed by it.

Step 1: Identify the emotion

The first step is to identify the emotion you are having - if you have more than one emotion, just pick one.
If you have trouble identifying the emotion, sit for a moment and pay attention to your physical sensations and thoughts. See if you can give an emotion you are having a name (e.g. sadness, anger). Once you have a name for the emotion, write it down.

Step 2: Get some space

Now that you have identified the emotion, close your eyes and imagine putting that emotion five feet in front of you. Imagine that for just a few minutes, you are going to put it outside of yourself so that you can look at it.
You will take it back later on, but for now, you are going to allow yourself just a bit of distance so that you can observe the emotion.

Step 3: Give the emotion a form

Now close your eyes and answer the following questions:
• If your emotion had a size, what size would it be?
• If your emotion had a shape, what shape would it be?
• If your emotion had a colour, what colour would it be?
Imagine the emotion out in front of you with the size, shape and colour you have in mind. Just watch it for a few moments and recognise it for what it is. When you are ready, you can let the emotion return inside you.

Reflect on the exercise

After the exercise, reflect on what you noticed about your experience. Did you notice any change in the emotion when you got some distance from it? What about changes in your reactions to the emotion? Did the emotion feel different in some way once the exercise was finished?

What's next?

Practise this exercise once a day for a month. After a month, see if you notice changes in how you relate to your emotions. The exercise may seem strange at first, but many notice that it helps them to think differently about and be more accepting of their emotions.

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