Emotional intelligence is a term first defined in the 1990s to describe the ability to perceive and express emotions in ourselves and others. Some of us are naturally adept, but others aren’t quite as skilled. The good news: improving emotional intelligenceis possible!

Having difficulties in correctly understanding and acting on emotions creates both personal and social problems for many. This can include being able to correctly “read” body language and non-verbal gestures. Often individuals with addictions, eating disorders, or associated mental health issues have trouble recognizing their own feelings and emotions, or attempt to avoid them in order to control stress or difficult situations. Improving emotional intelligence can help during the recovery process, and provide important long-term skills.

There are four areas related to emotional intelligence. Improving emotional intelligence involves strategies for each of these areas:

  • Perception of emotions
  • Understanding emotions
  • Using emotions to promote how we think and act
  • Managing emotions

Activities for Improving Emotional Intelligence

There are literally hundreds of skills that are designed for improving emotional intelligence, which is often referred to as “EQ”. Here are several to get started. Remember, improving emotional intelligencemay require help and guidance from others, just as some of us need help improving our athletic or musical skills. It doesn’t mean that your EQ can’t be increased, it merely means it will take more time and practice!

  1. When feeling something uncomfortable emotionally, don’t stop or try to avoid it. Let it rest for a few minutes in your mind.
  2. Write down how you are feeling for one week. While this seems simple, many people don’t take the time to feel or recognize emotions. Are you able to connect any actions that day (positive or negative) to the emotions felt?
  3. If you impulsively act without thinking, consider what emotion was connected to this action. Did the action help or harm?
  4. Do your emotions seem connected to physical feelings, such as headaches or muscle tension?
  5. Be conscious of how others act and react. Do their emotions lead to positive or negative actions? How do you react under the same circumstances?
  6. Practice empathy. This doesn’t come naturally to many people, but it can be learned.
  7. Practice optimism. This can be as simple as reframing sentences, saying “I will…” instead of “I won’t.”

Improving emotional intelligence allows us to be more accepting of ourselves, and others.

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