What is Emotional Intelligence?
Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify, use, understand, and manage your own emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges and defuse conflict. This ability also allows us to recognize and understand what others are experiencing emotionally.
Positive Actions to Help you Manage Emotions
There are a number of actions that you can take that will help you to manage your emotions. Many of them are very general, but try them because you may just find that they work.
Exercise. Exercise releases reward and pleasure chemicals in the brain such as dopamine, which makes you feel better. Being fit also makes you healthier, which helps in managing emotions.
Be kind to others. This helps stop you worrying about yourself.
Be open and accept what is going on around you. Learn to appreciate what is happening and avoid excessive criticism of others or of situations. This is linked to mindfulness, which is about being aware of what is going on in the moment.
Talk. Spend time with other people and enjoy their company.
Distract yourself. Watching a bit of TV, reading, or surfing the internet will probably help you forget that you were feeling a bit down.
Don’t give in to negative thinking. If you find yourself having negative thoughts, then challenge them by looking for evidence against them.
Spend time outside. Being in the fresh air, especially around nature, is very helpful for calming the emotions. There is evidence that we need to see horizons, so if you can go up a hill and look at the view then do.
Be grateful. Thank people in person for doing nice things for you, and remember it.
Play to your strengths. That often means doing things that you enjoy, but it also involves doing things that are good for you.
Notice the good things in your life. In old-fashioned terms, count your blessings.
Finding the right balance in managing your emotions can help reduce your stress levels and may help fight depression.
Applying Reason to Emotion
As said above, you can change how you feel. The key is to be aware of your emotional response, and understand what might be behind it. That way, you can apply some reason to the situation. For example, you might ask yourself some questions about possible courses of action, like:
How do I feel about this situation?
What do I think I should do about it?
What effect would that have for me and for other people?
Does this action fit with my values?
If not, what else could I do that might fit better?
Is there anyone else that I could ask about this who might help me?
This helps you to apply reason to an emotional response before reacting.
Making Decisions with Emotions
When you make decisions, you can draw on reason, emotion, or a mixture of the two. Emotional decisions are sometimes seen as made in the ‘heat of the moment’, but emotions play a greater part in most decisions than we may be aware.
If you’re married, for example, you’ll know that considerable thought may go into the decision about whether or not to get married. Very few, however, would argue that the decision is made solely on the basis of logic.
The best decisions are made using both logic and emotion. If you only use one or the other, your decisions may either not be very balanced, or not support your emotional needs. Instead, you need to combine your emotional response with more rational considerations. You can do this by:
Stopping before you decide, to give yourself a chance to think.
Think about how you will feel as a result of each possible action.
Consider what might happen as a result, and how your decision might affect others. Would you be happy with those effects?
Take some time out before making a decision. Consider the decision against your values.
Does it fit with them? If not, why not? Think about what someone whom you respect would think about your decision. Are you happy with that?
Finally, consider what would happen if everyone were to take the same action. If this would be a disaster, then probably best not to do it. Emotions are Important It pays to be aware of our own and others’ feelings. Highly emotionally intelligent people do this all the time. Like any other, it is a skill that can be developed and which is well worth acquiring.