What makes humans different than every other animal on earth? What makes us able to work together and accomplish such big projects? The ability to make and use symbols, like art, music, and most importantly language. Many writers are afraid of symbols, maybe they were scared off by being lectured about them in school, but as writers, we use them all the time. Each word is a symbol for the concept or object it describes. So don’t be afraid.
My friend recently introduced the concept of integrating objects into my story to describe the characters feelings. One you might already use would be the weather. The concept is simple enough, but very effective. Choose an object that relates to your character, a tree a picture, a statue, anything will do. Now come up with different stages that object could go through, cracked, droopy, stiff, faded, any descriptive words that can be related to an emotion. Lastly, put in a few paragraphs where the character looks at said object and sees it differently, either due to a change in their perspective or a physical change in their surroundings. Ta-da! You have integrated a symbol.