10 Emotional Intelligence Exercises for Self-Awareness
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 8 min read


  1. Practice Mindfulness
  2. Keep a Journal
  3. Create Space for Self-Reflection
  4. Ask for Feedback
  5. Challenge Your Beliefs
  6. Identify Your Emotions
  7. Practice Emotion Regulation
  8. Use Empathy
  9. Develop Listening Skills
  10. Cultivate Optimism

If you're looking to boost your self-awareness, emotional intelligence exercises can be a game-changer. These activities are not only simple and practical, but they also have the power to help you recognize, understand, and manage your emotions effectively. Being self-aware is like having a secret superpower: it lets you navigate life with a better understanding of yourself and others. So, let's dive into these 10 effective emotional intelligence exercises to enhance your self-awareness.

Practice Mindfulness

Our first exercise on the list involves mindfulness—a simple yet powerful technique that helps you stay anchored in the present moment. Here's how you can practice mindfulness:

  • Focus on Your Breathing: Begin by finding a quiet spot where you can sit comfortably. Close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Notice the rise and fall of your chest as you breathe in and out. This simple act of focusing on your breath can help you become more aware of your body and your current state of mind.
  • Observe Your Surroundings: Another way to practice mindfulness is by thoroughly observing your surroundings. You could be in your room, at a park, or even on a bus—it doesn't matter. Just take a moment to notice the colors, sounds, smells, and textures around you. This practice can help you stay grounded in the present moment.
  • Mindful Eating: We often eat our meals while scrolling through our phones or watching TV, missing out on the actual experience of eating. Try practicing mindful eating. Pay attention to the taste, texture, and smell of your food. This helps you enjoy your meal more and also makes you more aware of your body’s signals of hunger and fullness.

Remember, the goal of these emotional intelligence exercises is not to empty your mind of thoughts, but to observe them without judgement. Mindfulness teaches you to accept your emotions and thoughts as they are, which is a crucial step towards improving your self-awareness.

Keep a Journal

Journals are like mirrors for your thoughts and emotions, making them great tools for emotional intelligence exercises. Journaling can help you understand your feelings more clearly, track patterns and triggers, and work through complex emotions.

  • Write About Your Day: At the end of each day, take a few moments to write about what happened. What were the high points? The low points? How did certain events or interactions make you feel? This can help you understand your emotional responses better.
  • List Your Emotions: Create a list of emotions that you felt throughout the day. Feeling words not only help you articulate your emotions better but they also help you to identify them, which is a key aspect of self-awareness.
  • Reflect on Your Entries: After a while, take some time to go through your entries. You might start to notice patterns or triggers for certain emotions. This can be a powerful way to gain insights into your emotional habits.

Remember, there's no right or wrong way to keep a journal. The idea is to make it a regular practice, like brushing your teeth. Over time, you'll find that journaling is a great habit to cultivate for improving self-awareness and practicing emotional intelligence exercises.

Create Space for Self-Reflection

Just like a quiet room helps you focus on a good book, creating space for self-reflection can help you focus on your thoughts and emotions. It's one of the most effective emotional intelligence exercises to boost self-awareness. Here's how you can do it:

  • Find Quiet Time: It might be early in the morning before everyone else is awake, during a lunch break, or late at night when the day's chores are done. The point is to find a time when you can be alone with your thoughts.
  • Unplug from Distractions: Turn off your phone, computer, and TV. These devices often fill our minds with information, leaving less space for self-reflection.
  • Let Your Mind Wander: Don't try to control or guide your thoughts. Let them flow freely. You might be surprised at what comes up when you give your mind the freedom to explore.

Self-reflection is not about achieving a particular outcome or solving a problem. It's about observing your thoughts and feelings without judgment. As you make space for self-reflection, you'll find that it becomes easier to understand your emotions and reactions, making this one of the most beneficial emotional intelligence exercises for self-awareness.

Ask for Feedback

Asking for feedback is another great way to improve self-awareness and it's a key exercise in emotional intelligence. It's like having a mirror that reflects not just your physical appearance, but your behaviors and attitudes as well. Here's a simple way to use feedback for self-improvement:

  • Choose the Right People: Ask for feedback from people who know you well and who you trust. This could be a close friend, a family member, or a work colleague. They should be able to provide honest and constructive feedback.
  • Ask Specific Questions: Instead of asking general questions like "How can I improve?", ask specific questions like "What can I do to be a better listener?" or "How can I handle stress more effectively?"
  • Respond with Gratitude: Receiving feedback can sometimes be uncomfortable, but remember, it's an opportunity for growth. Thank the person for their feedback, even if it's not what you wanted to hear.

Asking for feedback can sometimes be tough, but it's one of the most powerful emotional intelligence exercises you can do. It gives you a different perspective on yourself and can highlight areas for improvement that you might not have noticed. So, who will you ask for feedback today?

Challenge Your Beliefs

How often do you question your own beliefs? Challenging your beliefs is an enlightening exercise in emotional intelligence that can lead to greater self-awareness. Here's a simple way to start:

  1. Identify a Belief: Think about something you strongly believe in. It could be about yourself, others, or the world around you.
  2. Ask Why: Why do you hold this belief? What experiences or influences have led you to this conviction? This step can be revealing as it helps you understand the roots of your beliefs.
  3. Consider the Opposite: What if the opposite of your belief were true? How would that change your perspective or behavior? This step can be challenging but it's also where the magic happens. It's all about stepping out of your comfort zone and seeing the world from a different angle.

Remember, the aim isn't to change your beliefs, but to understand them better. Challenging your beliefs, like many emotional intelligence exercises, isn't about reaching a final destination but about enjoying the journey of self-discovery. So, what belief will you challenge today?

Identify Your Emotions

Knowing your emotions is like having a compass for your mind. But, it's not always as simple as happy, sad, or angry. Emotions can be complex, and that's where the power of naming them comes in. This is one of the most effective emotional intelligence exercises. Here's how to do it:

  1. Feel the Emotion: When you feel something, take a moment to sit with it. Where do you feel it in your body? Does it have a color or shape? The more you can sense it, the better.
  2. Name the Emotion: Now, give it a name. If 'happy' or 'sad' doesn't quite cover it, be creative. Maybe you're feeling 'sunshine-bright' or 'blueberry-sour'. The more specific you can be, the better you'll understand what you're feeling.
  3. Understand the Emotion: What's behind the emotion? Are you feeling 'sunshine-bright' because you got a good night's sleep? Or 'blueberry-sour' because you're tired of the gloomy weather? By understanding the 'why', you'll be better equipped to manage your emotions in the future.

Remember, there are no right or wrong emotions. Whatever you're feeling is valid. Identifying your emotions is all about understanding yourself better. And the more you practice, the easier it gets. So next time you're feeling something, don't just brush it off. Give it a name and get to know it a little better. Who knows what you'll discover?

Practice Emotion Regulation

Managing your emotions doesn't mean suppressing them. It's about understanding them and choosing how you respond. Emotion regulation, one of the key emotional intelligence exercises, can help you do just that. Here's how:

  1. Pause and Breathe: When you notice a strong emotion, stop. Take a deep breath. This creates a break between the feeling and your reaction, giving you a chance to choose your response.
  2. Label the Emotion: As we discussed earlier, naming your emotions can help you understand them. So, are you feeling 'firecracker-frustrated' or 'marshmallow-mellow'?
  3. Choose Your Response: Now that you've named your emotion, how do you want to respond? If you're feeling 'firecracker-frustrated', maybe you need to take a walk or have a calm conversation. If you're 'marshmallow-mellow', perhaps it's a good time to tackle a challenging task.

By practicing emotion regulation, you're not letting your emotions control you. Instead, you're acknowledging them and making conscious decisions about how you react. And that's a skill that will serve you well in all areas of your life.

Use Empathy

Empathy, the ability to understand and share the feelings of others, is a cornerstone of emotional intelligence. It's like a magic wand that can transform your relationships and deepen your connections. Here's how you can weave empathy into your emotional intelligence exercises:

  1. Step into Their Shoes: Imagine how the other person might be feeling. Even if you haven't had the same experience, you can still try to understand their perspective.
  2. Listen Actively: When someone is talking, give them your full attention. Try to understand not just the words they're saying, but also the emotions behind those words.
  3. Show You Care: Small gestures can make a big difference. A kind word, a gentle smile, or a simple acknowledgment can show someone that you see them and you care.

By practicing empathy, you're building bridges of understanding with others. It's not always easy, but it's worth it. After all, we're all in this together, right?

Develop Listening Skills

Listening is an art. It's not just about hearing words, it's about understanding the emotions, intentions, and thoughts behind those words. If you want to boost your emotional intelligence, sharpening your listening skills is a brilliant place to start.

  1. Be Present: When someone is talking to you, stay in the moment. Don't let your mind wander to your to-do list or what you're planning for dinner. Give them your full attention.
  2. Don't Interrupt: It's tempting to jump in with your own ideas or solutions, but try to resist. Let the other person express their thoughts fully before you respond.
  3. Reflect Back: Show the speaker that you've understood what they've said by summarizing or paraphrasing their points. This can help to avoid misunderstandings and make the other person feel heard.

By fine-tuning your listening skills, you can become more attuned to others' feelings and perspectives. This can greatly enhance your emotional intelligence and help you navigate your relationships with more ease and understanding.

Cultivate Optimism

Now, let's talk about optimism. It's more than just seeing the glass as half full. It's a mindset, a way of interpreting the world around you. And guess what? It's also a key part of emotional intelligence exercises.

  1. Practice Gratitude: Start your day by writing down three things you're thankful for. It could be something as simple as a warm cup of coffee or as profound as a supportive friend. Shifting your focus to the positives can help you maintain an optimistic outlook.
  2. Visualize Success: Imagine achieving your goals. How does it feel? What does it look like? Visualization can instill a sense of hope and motivation, fueling your optimism.
  3. Reframe Challenges: Instead of viewing obstacles as setbacks, see them as opportunities for growth. By changing your perspective, you can turn adversity into an advantage.

Remember, cultivating optimism isn't about ignoring reality or denying difficulties. It's about choosing to believe in possibilities, despite the challenges. Optimism can bolster your emotional resilience, enabling you to navigate life's ups and downs with grace and poise.

If you enjoyed our blog post on emotional intelligence exercises and want to continue developing your self-awareness, we highly recommend checking out the workshop 'Design an Emotionally Smart 2023' by Carla Bonomini. This workshop will help you design a more emotionally intelligent future, both personally and professionally.