Is this a YES day or a NO day?

Published Categorized as emotional literacy, emotions

I have been thinking very much about the idea of how we can get to the point of noticing emotions arise as they do, and how to help children do this. Noticing emotions arise, in the moment they arise, sounds quite simple doesn’t it? Most of us probably think we do acknowledge emotions as they arrive. However, from my own experience and from working with others, I’d say many of us don’t. For most of us, once an emotion has kicked in, the thoughts and behaviour triggered in response happen quite automatically with little focussed awareness. These automatic reactions can often be unhelpful and might be, for example: to withdraw and ‘lose steam’, to become defensive, to start dominating and controlling or to start on a loop of internal negative self-talk.

As I explain in my video: How to Become Emotionally Intelligence, the point at which an emotion arises is key to our successful management of many of our emotions and key to our ability to break from our automatic responses. So how do we develop this awareness?

Well, the reason I think we generally don’t have this awareness is because we tend to be so very much in our ‘heads’. Most of us are not encouraged to ‘look inside’ and consider what bodily and physical sensations might be going on for us. We might not be aware of a niggling anxiety rumbling away in the background even though it’s affecting our ability to concentrate or we might not have fully acknowledged that a feeling of disappointment, from the cancellation of a social engagement, is tainting our day. We’re simply not primed for focusing inwards – so when an emotion arises, we tend not to notice – not consciously – not in a way that says something like: ‘Oh look I am feeling humiliated. I’d better not do my usual and become defensive.’

So this is where I thought about a very simple idea that could help young children (and adults come to that) start on their journey of looking inwards. To do this, at the start of a day, sit quietly for a moment, consider all of the sensations inside your body. For example (but it need not be this complicated for a child – it just gives you some prompts to use):

I might make a child friendly version at some point!

And then to sum up the catalogue of sensations, simply ask: is this a YES day or a NO day? Or possibly, sometimes, a bit of a YES and NO day?

A YES day might feel like you’re: ready to go, excited by possibilities, up for any challenges, cheerful, ready to share your positivity etc.

A NO day might feel like you can’t be bothered, you want to hide away, you’d like to stay in bed, you don’t feel up to much etc.

And although this is mostly about encouraging us to look inwards and notice the sensations we are feeling, it’s also important to acknowledge that it’s completely fine to have NO days. It’s a totally normal part of being a human. What’s more, simply acknowledging you’re having a NO day can help you manage yourself with more realistic expectations and authenticity. You could even develop the shorthand of warning others with, ‘I’m having a bit of a ‘NO day!’