I’ve been thinking about this a lot and while I don’t think this will be a comprehensive list, I’ll try. Often emotions will manifest as one or more interoceptive (physical) sensations and interoceptive sensations can be confused for emotions (especially anxiety or nervousness). Here are some ways to identify both that I’ve found helpful.
Common interoceptive sensations:
Am I hungry? Signs: stomach pain/nausea, stomach making noises, irritable, tired, lightheaded, headache, trouble focusing, more than a few hours since last food intake
Am I dehydrated? Signs: persistent thirst, dry mouth/tongue, dry eyes, worsening headache, physically sluggish, dizziness, very yellow urine
Do I need to sleep? Signs: trouble focusing, frequent yawning, decreased alertness, memory problems, irritable, muscle soreness/discomfort, eyelids feel heavy, headache, slurred speech, decreased coordination, whole body tremors, dizziness, blurred vision, hallucinations [some of these are extreme effects, i.e. you haven’t slept for more than 24 hours]
Am I cold? Signs: whole body shivering, fingers or toes noticeably cold when touched to thigh or abdomen skin, teeth chattering, bluish tint around lips, numbness or tingling in fingers or toes
Am I hot? Signs: sweaty or clammy skin, red/flushed skin - especially of the face, ears, neck or upper chest, lightheaded, prickly or itchy skin (with or without red bumps), headache, muscle cramps, nausea, confusion [those last few are really serious - seek medical attention/cool off immediately]
Do I need to use the bathroom? Signs: pressure or pain in the lower abdomen, cramping, gas, feeling more comfortable when curled in the fetal position than stretched out flat
Common emotions and how to identify them:
Am I anxious? Anxiety is usually future-related. What’s going to happen in my short or long term future that I might be scared or nervous about? Is there anything new or out of the ordinary? Is something changing? Have new expectations been placed on me? Do I feel like there is something I need to avoid, even if that means doing something out of character or drastic?
Am I sad? Sadness is usually related to loss. Have I lost or am I losing something important to me? Is a part of me that I like going away or changing? Is something coming to an end? Do I feel like crying or withdrawing?
Am I happy? Happiness is usually related to fulfillment. Have I gotten something that I wished for or wanted? Has someone done something for me or given me something? Am I reaching a goal or milestone soon? [Note: happiness can sometimes feel like anxiety or be mixed with anxiety if it’s too intense.]
Am I angry? Anger is usually related to violation. Has someone done something that violates my beliefs, rights, trust or property? Has someone taken something from me or damaged something that I value? Do I feel like lashing out physically or verbally at someone?
Am I afraid? Fear is usually related to preserving safety. Am I in danger emotionally, physically, socially or mentally? Do I feel like fleeing or hiding? Is there a person in my life who I try to avoid being around? Am I engaging in behavior that carries a high risk of injury or self-harm? Is my future uncertain in ways that I’m not sure I can handle?
Like I said, this is really first draft-y and rough but hopefully it’s a start. What works for me might be different than what works for you.
My input: I interpret emotions as physical sensations, and I am more likely to recognize my emotions from the physical sensations they cause me than from the mental thought patterns unless they’re extreme. So I’ll give my interpretations of the emotions in case that helps.
Anxious/afraid: I’ve put these two together because the symptoms are pretty much identical for me on the physical level. Anxiety is generally milder then full fear, but that’s it. Symptoms are: stomach ache, funny feeling in the stomach (kind of almost-sick but also tingly, hard to describe), pacing, vision changes (everything seems brighter), increased sensory sensitivities, increased clumsiness, hand tremors and reduced fine motor control, tense muscles, either no or increased appetite, fidgety, nausea, overwhelming urge to do something about the situation regardless of how practical or safe that something is, whole-body trembling/shivering, a sensation of being cold, (I often mistake being anxious for being cold because of these last two).
If getting close to panic, which is just extreme anxiety, all of the above except for fidgeting and pacing. When panicked, I instead become extremely still unless someone triggers the flight response. In addition: crying or an urge to cry, screaming or an urge to scream, rapid breathing, lightheadedness (related to the hyperventilation, not always present for me), headache (also related to the hyperventilation, not always present for me), a sensation of falling a great distance, temporary loss of language skills (I tend to become unable to say more than simple words in full-blown panic or to become completely nonverbal. This might be an people-with-language-issues-specific thing) and an extreme aversion to being held, touched, or otherwise restrained. Violence or flight if restraint is attempted or other threats are perceived. When I am panicked, I am incapable of being reasoned out of my anxiety and not exactly thinking rationally, and I may or may not be fully aware of what I am doing. Likewise, I may or may not have full memory of things done during panic.
Sad: sharp pain in the throat, a sensation of tightness in the throat, stinging in the eyes, headache that gets worse with the intensity of the emotion, runny nose, stomach ache, complete loss of appetite, crying. In cases of extreme sadness, my speech becomes slurred and I start to stutter a lot more. In cases of extreme sadness (e.g., bereavement), I become completely nonverbal and have a meltdown that may last for anywhere between a half hour and all day. The meltdown is often followed by a shutdown, wherein I’ll sleep for 12+ hours. For me, there is often a period of feeling physically and emotionally numb where I can function apparently as normal as I process the sadness-inducing news, but once it’s processed, I cannot contain it. The period is often longer the more extreme the resulting sadness will be - in the case of bereavement, I will often be numb for a day or two before I process it fully and react.
Happy: Fidgety, flappy, bouncy, feeling of lightness, grinning, sore cheeks from involuntary grinning, a desire to hop, jump, dance, or otherwise frolic. Muscles feel relaxed.
Angry: Stinging in the eyes, a sensation of heat about the face, shoulders and arms, tingling hands, tightness in shoulders and back muscles, vision changes (when I’m angry, it’s like someone turned up the contrast on the world - bright things seem brighter and dark things seem darker), hands may involuntarily clench into fists, rigid posture, involuntary shouting or an urge to shout, a feeling of pressure on the chest. May or may not be crying. Urge to do violence to the source of the anger.