In our previous article “Get A Healthy Brain”, in relation to improving cognitive abilities such as memory, mental focus, creativity, and recall, we covered all the aspects of achieving and maintaining a healthy brain and boosting intelligence (IQ). But, that’s not the whole story about what some experts consider overall intelligence. Many psychologists believe that general intelligence (IQ) is too narrow and does not encompass the full range of human intelligence.
Today we will focus our attention on the Importance For Emotional Intelligence In Leadership (EQ) and it’s importance in achieving and maintaining personal mental health and well being. High EQ also makes it much easier for one to acquire new social and emotional skills that will serve them well in many different areas of your life. The term “emotional intelligence” originated with Dr. Wayne Payne’s 1985 Doctorial Thesis “A Study of Emotion: Developing Emotional Intelligence”.
In 2016 a ResearchGate study summarized the literature available on EI by discussing the evolution of the term Emotional Intelligence and various definitions of EI. The popular use came in Daniel Goleman’s 1995 book “Emotional Intelligence-Why it can matter more than IQ”, where he recognized 5 distinct categories of skills which form the key characteristics of EI and proposed that, unlike one’s intelligence quotient (IQ), these categorical skills can be learned where absent and improved upon where present: self-regulation, motivation, empathy, social skills, and self-awareness.
Life success is a result of many factors. Both IQ and EQ undoubtedly play roles in influencing your overall success, as well as things such as health, wellness, and happiness. Rather than focusing on which factors might have a more dominant influence, the greatest benefit may lie in learning to improve skills in multiple areas. It’s pretty obvious, don’t you think, “book smarts” (IQ) and “street smarts” (EQ) play an equal role in determining life success?
What Is Emotional Intelligence?
Today we’ll answer the question, what’s emotional intelligence about, and how it relates to, and partially responsible for your overall physical health and mental well being? EQ refers to a person’s ability to perceive, control, evaluate, and express emotions, and typically, people with high EQ are usually make great leaders and team players because of their ability to understand and empathize and connect with people around them. Specifically, EQ refers to the following abilities:
- Identifying Emotions
- Evaluating how others feel
- Controlling one’s own emotions
- Perceiving how others feel
- Using emotions to facilitate social communication
- Relating to others
Wikipedia describes emotional intelligence as:
…is the capability of individuals to recognize their own emotions and those of others, discern between different feelings and label them appropriately, use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior, and manage and/or adjust emotions to adapt to environments or achieve one’s goals.
For more information on IQ read here. A 2002 study “The Importance of Emotional Intelligence (Competence) in Positive Psychology”, reviewed by ResearchGate, concluded,
that emotional intelligence does not have to compete emotional with academic or general intelligence, but rather that they could be understood as complementary in reaching the best possible outcome for every human being: to be happy in life.
A high EQ helps individuals to communicate better, reduce their anxiety and stress, defuse conflicts, improve relationships, empathize with others, and effectively overcome life’s challenges. A National Institutes of Health (NIH) study, determined EQ, or EI, is the rudder for feeling, thinking, learning, problem-solving, and decision-making. The NIH recommended an emotional–cognitive based approach to the process of gaining emotional intelligence which involved a nine-layer pyramid of emotional intelligence and the gradual development to reach the top of EI (start at base of pyramid moving up to top): emotional stimuli; emotional recognition, expression of emotion; self-awareness; self-management; social awareness, empathy, discrimination of emotion; social skills and expertise; universality of emotions, self-actualization; and transcendence.
Picture yourself in a stress-free environment. You are on a beach, listening to the gentle ocean waves, and the cool ocean breeze is hitting you in the face and blowing your hair about, and you have nothing to do except relax and enjoy the natural world around you. Bliss, right? Emotional wellness or well being isn’t hard when there’s no stress. In our 24-7 demanding world we live in, though, we face more stress than ever before. Burnout, chronic fatigue, depression, and poor life-work balance, are at alarming levels for everyone. According to the American Society of Stress, 77 percent of Americans experience some form of physical symptoms of daily stress and 73 person experience some form of psychological symptoms.
Stress Detrimental To Emotional Intelligence
Fortunately, being emotionally well doesn’t mean eliminating all stress from your life. That would be impossible and, and obviously, not realistic, and most likely, also boring!
All human beings, need stress,
says Jack Goppel, cofounder of the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute.
Stress, when well-managed, can assist you to grow and build resistance, just like exercise helps build muscles.
Loosing a family member, divorce, major illness, or moving are all major life changes that can cause stress. Some studies, like this NIH study, link an overactive stress system and high levels of cortisol in the body to depression and other health conditions including heart disease, even. When you’re emotionally well, you are better prepared to cope with stressors in healthy ways so that they don’t become overwhelming, and life-threatening, and interfere with your functioning.
When stress gets out of hand it can lead to unhealthy coping strategies, such as overeating, alcohol or drug use, or smoking, according to a National Institutes of Health (NIH) study. The study concluded stress has long been known to increase vulnerability to addiction, and their paper focused primarily on the association between stress and addiction in humans, particularly in relapse risks, and future directions in dealing with stress-related addictions. It also means you are able to identify and express your feelings openly.
Don’t ignore anxiety, sadness, depression, and anger. These emotions may be uncomfortable, but they are vital signals, and they are telling you something isn’t quite right with you emotionally? According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), for example, cancer patients putting up a false front, or putting on a “happy face,” even if they don’t really feel that way, is not a good idea.
This may be their way of trying to protect the people they love, and possibly themselves, from painful feelings. Some people believe even that a person with cancer can improve their outcome by being cheerful and happy all the time, but this isn’t true, per the ACS. Persistent anger, or irritability, in particular, may be a sign of underlying anxiety or depression that is being repressed.
If your feelings or emotions interfere with your ability to concentrate, or engage fully in your work, or enjoy the things you normally like to do, it’s time to look inward, and be mindful of yourself and what’s happening to you, and try to resolve your issues yourself, or if you are not able to, seek professional medical help. An NIH study addressed the link between depression and excessive anger in individuals. The use of anti-depressants are not that effective, but there are other options.
The study concluded that non-pharmacological management like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is effective in depression as well as in anger management, resulting in significant decrease in anger symptoms as well as in severity of depression. The Mayo Clinic also addressed depression (major depressive disorder) in this review. It’s best to try and resolve issues yourself, if you can, and here are some ways to combat stress, reduce anxiety, and depression symptoms, and keep yourself balanced.
Cognitive Behavioral Skills
Cognitive behavioral skills can help you promote mental health, build resistance, and deal with unavoidable stressors. They can also help reduce anxiety and depression symptoms. These skills are based on components of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT). The gold-standard evidence-based treatment for mild to moderate anxiety and depression, cognitive-behavioral skills building (CBSB), begins with learning to recognize the relationship between what we think and feel, and our actual behaviors. A really good reference on CBT is the NIH the “Cognitive-Behavior Coping Skills Therapy Manuel”. For an explanation of the key principles of Cognitive Behavior Therapy, read a 2013 Royal College of General Practitioners study (Sage Journals).
Many of our emotions result from our thoughts. Negative or screwed thoughts are often followed by feelings of anxiety, stress, or depression. An example of this is a 2011 study published in the journal of American Psychiatric Association of adolescents experiencing depression and undergoing CBT in a 30-minute invention entitled the COPE program, resulting in advanced practice nurses can work with practice time limitations and still provide evidence-based treatment for depressed teens.
Negative thinking can also lead to unhealthy and harmful behaviors. The pattern is referred to as the “thinking, feeling, and behavioral triangle.” Most people don’t consider their thought patterns because they’re automatic and pre-programmed in the brain. The first step in CBSB is to learn ABCs:
- Activating event–a stressful event occurs.
- Belief–the stressful event results in negative belief or thought.
- Consequence–you feel emotionally bad, or you behave in an unhealthy way.
The Power Of Positive Thinking Over Negative Thoughts and Emotions
The Importance For Emotional Intelligence In Leadership can’t be stressed enough and one of the key factors in maintaining high emotional intelligence, is having a positive attitude.
It’s the keen ability of certain individuals to recognize automatic negative thoughts and turn them into positive ones. There are numerous studies confirming the health and well being benefits of positive thinking. A couple prime examples are Mayo Clinic “Positive thinking: Stop negative self-talk to reduce stress”, and John Hopkins Medicine “the Power of Positive Thinking”.
Is your glass half-empty or half-full?
— asked the Mayo Clinic. How you answer this age-old question about positive thinking may reflect your outlook on life, your attitude toward yourself, and whether you’re optimistic or pessimistic, and how it may even affect your health. According to Hopkins expert Lisa R. Yanek, M.P.H., findings held even in people with family history who had the most risk factors for coronary artery disease, and positive people from the general population were 13 percent less likely than their negative counterparts to have a heart attack or other coronary event. Stress may not place you at risk for a heart attack, but it will create physical symptoms of anxiety, such as rapid heartbeat, headache, stomachache, and sweating. Ask yourself, “What was I thinking?” Many negative thoughts become almost automatic and without purpose, like any other habit. We don’t choose them, they just happen.
Recognize Triggers, and Change The Script. Learn to recognize what triggers negative thoughts. Let’s say a car cuts you off in traffic, this activating event, might provoke a negative automatic response, like, “That careless driver could have just caused an accident”, sending your mood into a downward spiral. When you notice negative automatic thoughts, though, you can actually reverse them by thinking positive.
You could write down ahead of time what you’d like to think in stressful situations, or, during that critical moment, you could take a deep breathe, and encourage yourself to think positive. So, the next time a car cuts you off in traffic, and you begin to have a negative thought, stop yourself, and turn it into a positive thought, like, “Thanks heaven I’m safe,” He must be really upset about something.” This change in attitude, buffers you from the automatic negative response of feeling stressed and anxious. Here are a couple illustrations of negative thoughts, the typical emotional response, and using positive thinking (PT), what might be your positive response:
- “I just have this feeling something terrible is going to happen.” – Response: anxious or worrisome thought. PT response:Everything is going to be Okay, so I’m not concerned about it.
- “The world sucks and I suck along with it.” – Response: depressive thoughts. PT response: The world has many problems, and so do I, but if I do my part, and everyone else does their part, we can make it a better place.
- “I should have been a better parent.” – Response: guilt thought. PT response: Yea, I had some problems being a parent, but I’m doing a better job now!
Read books about being positive, such as “How Successful People Think Change: Your Thinking Changes Tour Life,” by John Maxwell, or “The Power of Positive Thinking,” by Norman Vincent Peale, and, “How To Stop Worrying and Start Living: The Tested Methods For Conquering Worry,” by Dale Carnegie. Start by reading five to ten minutes a day to get your day started on a positive note, and shield yourself from negativity during the day.
Turn Your New Found Positive Attitude Into A Habit
Approximately 66 days is the time required to break an old habit and establishing a new one, and that includes the way we think. With time and practice, you can change your negative thinking to positive in response to stressors in your life, too, and that will change what you think and how you feel. For the next 66 days, try to montitor your thoughts in response to activating or potentially stressful events. Try keeping a journal of stressful events, your thought patterns which followed, your reflections on how you felt and behaved, and what you’d like to think instead, and journal all your new positive responses and reactions.
According to an NIH study, your journal log will, after reflections, assist you to reinforce the idea of positive reaction, leading to developing the ability to cope with stressful situations always in a positive way, and each successive time, it becomes easier and easier, because you are changing your response into a positive habit.
Eventually, after understanding what’s emotional intelligence about and how to develop it, and what you can do about stressful situations, frustrating or challenging events may start to feel like opportunities to practice CBSB. You can gain a feeling of control and confidence over these types of situations, and soon you will feel better overall, as fewer automatic negative thoughts present themselves to you, and the result, your thoughts become, for the most part, positive.
What Else Can You Do About Stress Affecting Emotional Intelligence?
Chronic stress and the prolonged negative effects which accompany it such as anger, depression, and anxiety can precipitate the onset and progression of hypertension, heart problems, and diabetes; increase susceptibility to viruses, and infections; delay healing of wounds and injuries; and exacerbate conditions such as arthritis and atherosclerosis, per an NIH study. In addition, psychiatric illness such as depression, is stronger than the association with physical or medical illness.
The value of EI is immense; developing emotional intelligence encourages many positive traits, from resilience to communication, motivation to stress management, all of which can be seen as conducive to effectively achieving personal, physical and occupational health, and success.
In addition to CBSB to deal with stress events that disrupt your emotional equilibrium, remember that the eight other life factors (physical, social, spiritual, occupational, environmental, aging, genetics, and intellectual), if in proper balance and healthy, will help strengthen and maintain your emotional well being, too. Here are a few more proven ways for you to relieve stress and feel better.
Start A Journal. As indicated in the study referenced above, journaling is not only healthy but it will also help you keep track of stress symptoms you are experiencing daily, such as anxiety, irritability, trouble getting restful sleep, concentrating, or bad habits such as overeating and chain smoking. Add to that list what you think is causing you the most stress. Some of these stressors can be unavoidable, but others can be avoided or reduced.
List ways you can eliminate these stressors from your day, including creative ways to do it (or read “Importance In Creativity”). For example, you might choose a route to work which is longer, but is less stressful to drive. Setting aside a little extra time to avoid stress triggers is worth it. Journaling is a good way to express and release your emotions, by forcing them outward, and you have to be mindful of them, and deal with them, not keep them buried inside, causing even more stress on top of stress.
Engage In Regular Physical Activity. We all know the physical health benefits of exercise, but did you know it’s also great for your brain and emotional intelligence? Any activity which helps reduce cortisol buildup (cortisol is a hormone which has many negative effects on your brain and your body). One 2009 study published in the Journal of Exercise Science & Fitness Explored the relationships of physical activity, emotional intelligence and health in Taiwan college students.
The study concluded that participation in PA might be an effective way to improve the physical, psychological, as well as emotional health of college students. Want one more study? A 2014 American Journal of Health Studies research of 438 undergraduate students found that those who participated in regular physical activity showed significantly higher emotional intelligence and brain health.
If you are short on time, at least stretch your muscles with a resistance band for a few minutes, go for a short walk out in nature. Other physical activities that are also good for brain health and strengthening emotional intelligence are: gardening, fishing, bird watching, hiking and camping, pet walking, and swimming. Remember thirty minutes of physical activity five days a week, is the evidenced based exercise recommendation.
Use Body Awareness Techniques. Try leaning against a wall, or simply pressing your palms together will keep you grounded. These actions give your mind a reassuring sense of where your body is positioned in space by activating the “proprioceptive sense“, which can be calming, relieves anxiety, and increases focus, and easy to do, even in a busy workday.
Get At Least Seven Hours of Restful Sleep Each Night. Sufficient sleep refreshes your mind and allows your body to repair and heal itself. Anything less than seven hours results in increased cortisol production, and evidence shows a link between lack of sleep and mental issues and depression. An inability to fall asleep and remain in sleep is a clear sign of depression.
There are literally hundreds of studies supporting the wide-ranging health benefits of sleep. Here are just a couple: The NIH “The Benefits of Slumber”. and Harvard Health Education “Benefits of Sleep”. According to Harvard, consolidation represents the processes by which a memory becomes stable and keeping our brain functioning properly, and memory consolidation takes place during sleep through the strengthening of the neural connections that form our memories.
Use Abdominal Deep Breathing Exercise. This diaphragmatic exercise can reduce stress and benefit mental health, help slow your heart rate and decrease your blood pressure, according to research by the NIH, and other studies. Try this: “Breathe in through your nose for a slow five count, while your abdomen expands, then out through your mouth for a slow count of five, and pull your abdomen in. On the breathe in, think, “I am calm,” on the breathe out, I am “blowing all the stress out.” Or try this deep-breathing exercise (1). Just a few minutes of breathing can calm you down. You can work this in during your lunch break.
Stay In The Present Moment (Mindfulness). Worrying about the future, and guilt about events in the past, can cause undue stress. According to an NIH study, practicing mindfulness and living in-the-moment are distinct, interactive predictors of positive emotions and psychological health.
Learn how to stay in the present moment. For example, chew a piece of gum and count the number of chews it takes before the flavor runs out of the gum, or simply deep-breathe for 5 minutes, regardless of where you are. If you have to, excuse yourself for 5 minutes. The book, “The Present and The Gift of Changing Times,” by Spencer Johnson, is a great quick read that teaches the value of living in the present moment.
Meditate. Meditation can calm your mind and ease anxious, negative thoughts, per the NIH in this in depth study. Even a few minutes of visualizing a calm environment, like relaxing in a beach chair on the beach, can release tension. According to a Scientific America study, imagining or visualizing how to do something or desire something, reinforces the brain’s ability to accomplish whatever you striving to accomplish, and actually do it better. Try a mobile phone app, such as CALM, to engage in guided imagery, or the MINDFULNESS app (Google), which also has a health component.
Try some yoga moves because studies have shown the exercise is strongly connected to brain health and strengthening emotional intelligence, particularly in relationship to effective leadership and managerial skills. An IIMB Management review Study looked at the impact of adoption of yoga as a way of life on increasing emotional intelligence of 60 managers and determined yoga as a integral element in improving managerial performance in organizations and the need to further explore this construct in greater detail. “Benefits In Meditation” article is a good read too.
Get Outside. Enjoying the wonders of nature is one of the great ways to relax, shed stress, elevate your mood, and enhance emotional (EI) and standard intelligence (IQ). Numerous studies have documented the benefits linking nature to brain health. Here are a couple of examples: A 2015 Stanford University study found that just walking in nature is a mental health prescription that yields measurable mental benefits and may reduce risk of depression. Is a sour mood getting you down?
According to a Harvard Medical School study, supports the concept that mood disorders can be lifted by spending more time outdoors. So, kick your shoes off and leave your cell phone somewhere else. And, by the way, going barefoot, or grounding, as it’s referred to, has some great physical and mental benefits, as well, according to an NIH study. Per the study, direct physical contact with the vast supply of electrons on the surface of the Earth has been found to promote intriguing physiological changes and subjective reports of well-being.
If you are stuck indoors for a while, use screen savers with calming outdoor images, or listen to recording of relaxing natural sounds in your car, like water running in a stream, or my favorite, sounds of crickets and grasshoppers singing at night and the crackling of a campfire, we have on a CD. You can close your eyes and imagine you’re in a sleeping bag lying next to a cozy campfire out in nature somewhere. Here are a couple of related articles on nature you might enjoy reading: “Tips In Camping”, and “Best of Camping-Incredible Health Benefits Part 2”,
Disconnect to Socially Connect. Technology can be overwhelming, so, regularly disconnect from TV, cell phone, computer, and social media, to stay connected to family and close friends, and to maintain a healthy brain. Disconnect particularly at night at least an hour before you intend to sleep. Studies, like this NIH one, the “blue light” from cell phones interrupt our circadian rhythm sleep cycle preventing restful sleep. Cultivate new relationships when ever possible to build your social circle.
The NIH looked at the relation of technology and mental health and determined there is a growing perception that habitual involvement with these technical devices may have a negative and lasting impact on users’ ability to think, remember, pay attention, and regulate emotion. In another NIH study, it was found that Korean middle school children exhibited habitual use of smartphone use, and the most concerning aspect being the negative effects of smartphone addiction.
Smartphone addiction is a phenomenon that pertains to uncontrollability of smartphone use. Connect the old fashion way, eye-ball to eye-ball, one on one, and, please stop being a slave to your smart phone. Talk to someone you trust about what you are feeling about parting with your phone at least sometimes.
Feed Your Emotional Well Being Through Your Stomach.
Many people don’t realize it, but you are actually what you eat. Scientific research shows that eating healthy nutrient-dense foods can drastically reduce stress and anxiety and depression, changing your mood and improving your way of life, according to an NIH study.
Research has also shown that low levels of vitamins and mineral deficiencies, and low intake of fatty acids and Omega 3s, can contribute to negative moods, and mimic various mental health issues. A Harvard Medical School study verifies that vitamins and mineral deficiencies, and low intake of fatty acids and Omega 3s, can contribute to negative moods, and mimic various mental health issues, and mood disorders, confirming the benefits of eating omega 3 fatty acid-rich foods. For example, insufficient level of Vitamin D, can lead to mood swings, depression, and fatigue, as verified in this NIH study.
Food allergies and intolerances can have a great effect on your mood. Dietary changes such as the reduction of eating “junk foods” and fast foods, have been suggested for children with ADHD and Autism, per a Harvard Medical School study. Limit eating high-salt and high-sugar foods, fried foods, and processed foods, to reduce the risk of illness and disease, especially cancer, and mental disorders. These studies confirm there is a strong link between nutrition, mood, and behaviors. High blood sugars lead to irritability, while low blood sugars bring about feelings of anxiety, depression, lethargy. And on and on.
Many people feel that it’s difficult to eat healthy, or to change their eating habits. It’s really simple, if you keep it simple, remembering it takes 66 days to break a habit and start a new one. Start slow and make changes over time, replacing unhealthy food with healthy nutritious foods. Experiment with different whole grains, fresh fruits, and veggies. Get creative and try new recipes and new ingredients.
Start buying fresh, as possible, fruits and veggies from a small local farmer or nutrient-dense food varieties from these following sources: (A) For meals and a healthy lifestyle, eat fresh, organic, well-balanced nutrient-dense foods, such as grass-fed finished lean meats, fresh, organic, free-range finished poultry, grass-fed finished dairy and eggs (A); fresh cold-water or wild-caught fish and seafood (A); fresh organic fruits, vegetables, raw nuts, and seeds (A); and organic whole grains and complex carbohydrates, natural fermented foods, monounsaturated oils like extra virgin olive oil, fresh organic herbs and spices, and antioxidant drinks, infused water, naturally fermented red wine and beer, and fruit and veggie smoothies (A). And, reward yourself with a piece of dark chocolate for a snack! Yes, that’s right, dark chocolate, not milk chocolate.
Supplement Your Diet. As added assurance, in addressing deficiencies, reducing unwanted stress, and improving your mood, you can accomplish this very effectively by adding to your diet, a natural “Adaptogen”, organic whole food supplement, named Peruvian Maca (A). The health benefits are well-established and wide-ranging. Remember, a plant that has earned the status of Adaptogen, is one of the few plants in the entire world that has the ability to naturally assist your body to “adapt” to stressors, and other harmful factors affecting your overall health and well being.
P Maca has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and has the capability of balancing the endrocrine system and all the hormones, boosting energy level, reducing stress, enhancing mood, learning, and memory, reduces signs of anxiety and depression, improves circulation and balancing alkaline pH level, and even improves libido, reduces symptoms of menopause in women, and is effective in treating mild erectile dysfunction in men. 2 good articles worth reading on Peruvian Maca are WHAT IS STRESS RELIEF?, and WHAT IS IN MACA ROOT?. The wide ranging benefits of Peruvian Maca are well documented, and are incredible, per this NIH study.
You have learned about the Importance For Emotional Intelligence In Leadership and in one’s personal daily life. Coping positively in the workplace and your daily life with stressors or emotionally-draining situations using the strategies outlined in this article, like exercising, expressing your emotions, remaining positive, using creativity, eating the proper nutrient-dense foods, letting go of guilt and worry, and adding natural supplementation, will strengthen emotional intelligence.
A little stress is good for your body and mind to grow and build resistance, but, good stress management should be employed. As the Dali Lama once said,
The suffering from natural disaster, we can not control, but, the suffering from our daily disasters, we can.
No truer words have ever been spoken. With these actions, you’ll feel more relaxed, healthier, and may be even ready to experience new exciting challenges you’ll welcome and enjoy experiencing. To change the IMPOSSIBLE to the POSSIBLE, enhance your emotional intelligence!
Please address your questions below. If you have comments, or need additional information, let me know, and we’ll get back to you.
(1) Living Better Video
(A) Use these links for more information, more documented studies, and to purchase any of these incredible nutrient-dense foods, which will be instrumental in achieving higher emotional intelligence and brain health.