Emotional Intelligence - Why should you care?
Every moment of our lives we experience emotions or feelings. Take 10 seconds right now to notice what emotion(s) you’re feeling. As I type this and my cat is trying to get my attention in front of the laptop screen, I feel love for her, a bit annoyed, happy, grateful, and now that she just headbutted me, more love.
This morning I’ve already felt: anxiety, confusion, sadness, excitement, hope, pride, calm and compassion. And it’s only 10am.
What about you? Do you pay attention to your emotional life? Do emotions arise in the background of your life as you go about your daily business, allowing the emotions to come up and pass calmly without largely affecting your decisions and actions? Or are you often unaware of the moods you’re in, allowing your feelings to dictate your thoughts and actions, which follow your latest mood rather than what is always best for you?
If you’re in the latter category, you’re not alone. The majority of us are not aware of the multitude of emotions that descend upon us daily and which exert incredible influence over our decisions when we are unaware of them.
This is what emotional intelligence is: being aware of the emotions and thoughts that arise in your body and mind, and responding to them appropriately in your best interest. This is a learned skill, and with practice it not only makes your own life flow more smoothly but improves your understanding of other people’s actions and feelings, therefore improving the relationships in your life and avoiding a lot of drama.
Emotional intelligence also has a surprisingly intimate connection with your physical health: emotional states play a significant role in our vulnerability to disease and in the ability to recover from physical and mental setbacks. Emotions like anxiety, stress and anger tax our central nervous system which is essential for proper immune function, and release stress hormones into our bodies which can become a major threat to our health if left unchecked.
Did you know that high levels of emotional intelligence in children is a better indicator of success later in life than IQ? The immense power of our emotional brain can hijack our success and even paralyze our thinking brain, no matter how intelligent we are. The capacity to rationally and calmly manage our emotions profoundly affects all of our other abilities, either facilitating or interfering with them.
The way our brain has evolved leaves us pretty much no control over when we are swept away by strong emotions or what emotions arise. However, we can have some say in how long an emotion lasts. Emotions are signals that arise for a reason, with a message about the situation we are facing: we need to feel fear, stress, love and compassion in order to survive. Improving your emotional intelligence does not mean suppressing these helpful emotions, but is about finding a balance where the more difficult emotions don’t have the power to take over your life and cause you more unhappiness than is necessary.
The whole point of getting to know yourself is to be more happy, more often. This is what we all want and as the studies coming out are repeatedly proving, happiness is a skill that can be learned. I’d say it’s worth practicing.