Emotional Intelligence, Health, & Resilience

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is not anything like our Intelligence Quotient (IQ) which relates to mental ability.  EQ has to do with emotional ability and is defined as: the ability to perceive, use, understand, manage, and handle emotions.  It is understanding not only our own emotions, but those of others we interact with.  It is impossible to be resilient if in challenging times we cannot manage the associated powerful emotions.

Why emotions?
Emotions are normal adaptive mental and physiologic feeling states that direct our attention and guide our behavior.  They are survival mechanisms, prompting us to act quickly and take action that will maximize survival and success. They can be both powerful and automatic, but if this were consistently the case, we would cease to be the rational species we are.  With our higher-level brains, we can manage our emotions…thereby demonstrating EQ.
Examples of emotions are anger, fear, happiness, sadness, disgust, surprise.  There are many more, but these are considered core emotions driving our behavior.  People with low EQ are usually swept away by powerful emotions, which drive behavior they would not have chosen in a more rational, less emotional, situation.  So, it’s easy to see how in a challenging situation, whether acute or chronic, runaway emotions would not be consistent with resilience i.e. the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. 
Blessing and curse
Another definition of EQ may further help us understand our emotional self.  EQ is the ability to identify our own emotions and those of others, to self-motivate ourselves and know how to monitor our emotions and those of the people around us.

The words identify, self-motivate, and monitor imply a higher brain activity than a mere survival reflex.  Other mammals experience emotions that drive behavior, but as far as we know, it all happens as reflex activity.  We humans are blessed with a brain that allows us to identify, self-motivate and monitor. We can, for example, identify when we feel anger, self-motivate to suppress that anger and monitor our emotional self in order to maintain our equanimity.

However, that same brain is capable of tricking our bodies with thoughts that produce emotions normally activated by outside stimuli.  This is the basis for our self-induced stress response which we discussed in a previous article.  So, whether it’s an external situation or our thoughts, emotions are triggered which then drive behavior.

But once again, our higher-level brains can intervene in this process and stop inappropriate or non-resilient behavior.  So, although our human brain can be a cause of stress (and usually is) and non-adaptive behavior, it is, in fact, the solution to these challenges and, more importantly, can help us strengthen our EQ and, as a result, our resilience.
Building EQ and resilience
And so, we must ask, how can we build the EQ we need for resilience when we are the problem and the solution? Certainly, the strategies addressed in our previous three articles (and our ongoing four-part video series) are part of the solution, however, relative to EQ, it requires that we dig deep and examine how we process the world around us.

  1. Quiet your chattering mind.  We are all plagued with active minds.  We have up to 60,000 thoughts every day, most of which are negative and repetitive.  Since these thoughts trigger emotions and potentially non-resilient behavior, it’s important we identify, monitor, and limit those thoughts.  This is mindfulness, that very healthy state of presence.  By being present, we reign in our runaway, destructive thoughts.  Presence comes with paying attention, on purpose, to what we are doing…no matter how mundane. Something as simple as feeling the sensations associated with climbing stairs, or gardening, or with art, or a walk in the woods…this mindfulness mutes unwanted stimulation and calms our emotional roller coaster self.

Likewise, mindfulness allows us to monitor what’s going on in our mind and body.  By identifying emotions we are experiencing, we can eliminate automatic negative behavior and promote an internal milieu more capable of preventing or recovering from, challenges in our lives i.e. resilience.

  1. When you are with others, be there.  This too is mindfulness, but in this social context, it is being present in order to be fully engaged with those you are with.  They too, are emotional beings, and are, like you, experiencing positive or negative feelings.  Rather than being lost in thoughts of your to-do list, or whatever drama there may be in your life, being present will make it more likely you can better determine what emotions they are feeling.  Paying attention to the words, but also the facial expressions, gestures and body positions can give us a more authentic understanding of what the other person is experiencing.  Non-verbal communication is a major part of our interaction with others and is a window into one’s emotional state.  Being completely present with others promotes understanding, compassion, empathy and authentic engagement, thereby reducing the likelihood of confrontation, misunderstanding, and alienation.  Social engagement is a key building block of resilience.

In a nutshell…
To summarize our last four articles… Resilience is critical to our survival and healthy longevity.  A robust, holistic lifestyle, abundant mindfulness, positivity, willingness to grow, openness to other ideas, and attention to our emotional internal milieu, will ensure that no matter what life may throw our way, we will continue to flourish.

Live Long and well!

About Dr. Roger Landry
Dr. Roger Landry is a preventive medicine physician, and President and Chief Content Officer of Masterpiece, a group of multi-discipline specialists in healthy longevity who partner with communities to enrich their wellness offering, and with individuals to support their healthy longevity strategy. Dr. Landry is the author of the award-winning Live Long, Die Short: A Guide to Authentic Health and Successful Aging. He hosts a podcast Dr. Roger and Friends: The Bright Side of Longevity.

Legal: Opinions are those of the author, Dr. Roger Landry. Construction:  SHALC GC, Inc. (AZ ROC#291056) (CA CSLB #1062050) (ID # RCE-56939) (NC #75061) (NV #0080574) (VA #2705152813) (WA #SHALCGI863P9).  Shea Homes Limited Partnership (CA CSLB #855368).  Shea Homes, Inc. (CA CSLB #672285). Sales: Shea Homes Marketing Company (CalDRE #01378646) (FL #CQ1034437). Shea Communities Marketing Company (AZ DRE #CO001121001) (ID #CO53675) (NC #C25840) (NV #B.1002134.CORP) (WA #19548). Homes in Bickford Ranch, Lake Frederick, Lake Norman, Summerlin, Sunstone, Orlando, Tehaleh, Valor, Vineyards and Vistancia locations are intended for occupancy by at least one person 55 years of age or older, with certain exceptions. Encanterra, Verde River, and Wickenburg Ranch are all-ages communities with select 55+ neighborhoods. Monarch Dunes is an all-ages community. Use of the golf course and club is at the pleasure of the club owner, and requires payment of additional fees. The Polo Club is private and requires the purchase of a separate membership from the club owner to access the club and its amenities. Golf courses at Encanterra, Verde River, and Wickenburg Ranch are planned to be private and access requires purchase of a separate golf membership from the course owner. Pricing does not include options, elevation, or lot premiums, effective date of publication and subject to change without notice.  All square footages and measurements are approximate and subject to change without notice. IN ARIZONA, A PUBLIC REPORT IS AVAILABLE ON THE STATE REAL ESTATE DEPARTMENT WEBSITE.  This is not intended to be an offer to sell, nor a solicitation of an offer to buy real estate to residents of any state or jurisdiction prohibited by law. Trademarks are the property of their respective owners. Equal Housing Opportunity.

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