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February 6, 2020 | Written by Brad Russell

Inside Out: The Complete Guide to Emotional Intelligence for Happiness and Fitness

Fitness girl sitting on a floorMany health enthusiasts focus on outward physical fitness to improve their appearance and overall well-being.

But did you know that emotional fitness plays a key role in health and happiness as well? Research shows that emotional intelligence (EQ) helps regulate everything from immediate problem solving to interaction with others. And unlike many other intelligence quotients, the scientific consensus is that you can study and improve your own emotional intelligence and fitness levels.

A detailed look on how to harness the power of emotional fitness can help you maximise the chances of achieving your fitness and personal goals.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence involves the awareness, control, and expression of your emotions and mental state. It can affect your personal physical activity as well as interpersonal communication.

  • Intrapersonal Emotional Intelligence – Recognizing and regulating your personal feelings, motivations, fears, and goals
  • Interpersonal Emotional Intelligence – Recognizing and responding to the emotions and motivations of others

How Does Emotional Intelligence Translate to Emotional Fitness?

Emotional sporty manEmotional intelligence plays an essential role in self-management. The ability to regulate your emotions (regardless of circumstances) indicates that you have achieved a high level of emotional fitness.

Emotional intelligence impacts your ability to reduce anxiety and stress, mitigate conflicts, and overcome unforeseen challenges. Areas of self-development such as physical fitness and financial health can also see tangible improvement.

For example, a Carnegie Mellon study found that we can predict 85% of an individual’s financial success from emotional fitness factors. Only 15% of predictable financial success came from technical factors. Furthermore, an ongoing research study at the Yale University Center for Emotional Intelligence found that emotional fitness is linked to the motivation and confidence needed to stay committed to an exercise regimen until the end.

What are the Five Core Areas of Emotional Intelligence?

For decades, scientists have studied how emotional intelligence and emotional fitness can impact a person’s quality of life. These research studies have resulted in various models that can describe emotional intelligence, including the Ability Model, the Bar-On Model, the Genos Model, the Mixed Model, and the Trait Model.

Since this guide centers on how emotional intelligence impacts physical fitness, we will focus on the Mixed Model. There are five core areas to the Revised Mixed Model of Emotional Intelligence: self-perceptionself-regulationdecision makingmotivation, and interpersonal skills.

  1. Self-Perception
    This aspect of emotional intelligence refers to your ability to evaluate, accept, forgive, and improve yourself. Rather than judging or being disparaging against yourself, this category is about identifying your strengths and improving your weaknesses. Example subcategories include the following:

    • Self-regard: How you view and respect yourself
    • Self-Awareness: How much you understand your emotions and how your behavior impacts others
    • Self-confidence: How strongly you feel about your worth and abilities
    • Self-actualization: How much you prize living up to your full potential
  2. Self-Regulation
    This category refers to the ability to choose wisely when acting upon your emotions. It deals with how you manage negative feelings and how well you express positive emotions. Suggested subcategories include the following:

    • Self-control: Managing impulses so they do not harm yourself or others
    • Assertiveness: Standing up for yourself when necessary
    • Integrity: Commitment to values and personal performance
    • Independence – Ability to self-direct a specific course of action
  3. Choosing between two directionsDecision Making
    This category describes the ability to make the best choices possible. It can be broken down into several subcategories:

    • Problem Solving – Ability to make decisions in the face of challenges
    • Innovation – Comfort level with brainstorming, creativity, and new solutions
    • Adaptability – Flexibility in light of changing circumstances
    • Reality testing – Ability to be objective and see through temporary distortions
  4. Motivation
    Motivation refers to self-drive toward goals and optimism in the face of adversity. This category includes the following components:

    • Initiative – Willingness to create or act on opportunities
    • Commitment – Ability to follow through with a plan
    • Stress tolerance – Management of emotions that threaten to adversely affect your performance and well-being
  5. Interpersonal Skills
    Once you have established the core aspects that largely affect how you feel inside, it is time to address the factors that affect people on the outside. These are known as interpersonal skills. Mastering interpersonal skills does not mean that you must force yourself to become an extrovert. Rather, it means that you can interact effectively with others without excess stress. Interpersonal skills include the following subcategories:

    • Empathy – The ability to understand another person’s point of view
    • Social responsibility or service – Taking time to contribute to the common good
    • Conflict resolution – Ability to successfully resolve disagreements
    • Optimism – Ability to keep a positive attitude until completion

How Do I Improve My Emotional Intelligence?

Now that you have reviewed the primary areas of emotional intelligence, there is no need to panic if you consider yourself weak in some areas. Most scientists believe that unlike many other forms of intelligence, one can learn and improve emotional intelligence through practice. You can continuously improve emotional fitness by tackling each of the five core emotional-intelligence areas.

  1. Improve Self-Perception
    The first step is to change self-defeating moods and attitudes. These are unproductive. Instead, learn to gain self-awareness by assessing your best traits. One of the most famous ways to do this is to evaluate your goals against some of the most desirable human traits (known as the Big Five or OCEAN personality traits):

    • Openess to experience – Exuding a sense of adventurousness
    • Conscientiousness – Projecting mindfulness and intelligence
    • Extraversion – Demonstrating friendliness and energy
    • Agreeableness – Showing cooperativeness and conflict-resolution abilities
    • Neuroticism – Understanding the importance of balance and inner stability

    Once you have evaluated your personality traits, you can strengthen any desired areas with compassion. Experts suggest using universally accepted character strengths. According to the University of Pennsylvania Center for Positive Psychology, one such model is the VIA Inventory of Strengths (VIA-IS). These character strengths include wisdom and knowledgecouragehumanityjusticetemperance, and finally transcendence.

  2. Improve Self-Regulation
    The easiest way to improve self-regulation is to pay attention to internal warning signs. This may include concrete signs like automatic judgments and negative self-talk, but it can also include lethargy (a common way the body copes with anxiety), stress, or feeling emotionally drained. You can then redirect energy to more positive outlets. This can include tangible efforts in self-expression (such as taking an acting or dance class) as well as planning positive future scenarios (such as creating a vision board).
  3. Improve Decision Making
    One of the best ways to improve your decisions is to increase objectivity. This means avoiding making emotionally charged decisions based on how you feel at the moment and instead performing a cost-benefit analysis whenever you can. Once you get into the habit of weighing costs versus benefits, it will feel more instinctive to make unbiased choices. You may also wish to read a few books on the practice of logic and linear thinking before putting theory into practice.
  4. Improve Motivation
    Improve motivationMotivation is about drive toward a goal. Instead of keeping your goals abstract, create motivation by developing a singular purpose for each day. This can be as simple as “By the end of today, I will ___.” For one week, you can write this phrase on an index, tape it to your mirror, and then switch out the index cards each day. Gather your seven index cards to evaluate your completed goals at the end of the week.
  5. Improve Interpersonal Skills
    You can improve your interpersonal skills by taking a step back to take a genuine interest in others. Listen actively, acknowledge others’ strengths or expertise, and find at least one positive traits in others. Keep in mind, however, that being cooperative with others does not involve turning into a doormat. Instead, it means that you can be assertive when necessary while indicating that the end-goal is cultivating positive interactions with others. You can focus on investing in interpersonal relationships with family, friends, and career colleagues (in that order).

The Bottom Line

Emotional fitness ensures that you have the internal fortitude to reach your outward fitness goals. But the central way to develop emotional fitness is through boosting your level of emotional intelligence (EQ). Although very few people have mastered EQ all at once, experts are confident that dedicated practice of each of the five core areas can eventually ensure success.


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