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Published on February 8, 2021

8 Daily Habits To Develop Emotional Intelligence

8 Daily Habits To Develop Emotional Intelligence

Why do you want to develop emotional intelligence? Perhaps it’s because you want to be in true control of your life. After all, we control only three things in life: our thoughts, behaviors, and feelings.

The most important of these three is our feelings because they drive our thoughts and behaviors. In fact, about 80% or more of our decisions and actions come from our feelings and emotions.[1] However, our feelings are also the most difficult part for us to control since we have the least direct influence on our emotions.

Gaining control of your emotions requires that you develop and harness your emotional intelligence, which is the ability to be aware of your emotions and then manage those emotions.[2]

By following the daily habits described in this article, which are all informed by research in neuroscience and psychology, you will develop emotional intelligence skills and gain much better control over yourself and your life.

1. Delay Displaying Emotions

Have you ever reacted rashly during a tense situation and later on wished you could turn back time? How about regretting something you said in the heat of a moment? Whether these impulsive reactions are a rare occurrence or something that happens to you all the time, there’s a lot of advantages to being able to delay showing your emotions.

But first, let’s talk about how our minds work and our two thinking systems. The autopilot system corresponds to our emotions and intuitions, while the intentional system reflects our rational thinking.[3]

Since our intentional system is slow, it takes time to activate it and reflect on the kind of errors that the autopilot system can make. To address this, you need to develop a daily habit of counting to 10 before following emotion-driven behaviors and decisions. This will allow your intentional system to turn on and address your feelings before you show your emotions.

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Simply understanding how these two systems work and taking some time before reacting will allow you to be more in control of your emotions.

2. Journaling

Writing down your thoughts and feelings regularly is beneficial for developing emotional intelligence. Journaling is also an act of self-care that promotes creativity and self-awareness.[4] Research has also shown that journal prompts or simple guide questions to get you started are useful for stimulating reflection.[5]

While there are no exact rules for journaling, make it a habit to do so daily and establish a process. Develop a morning or evening journaling activity that involves three habits relevant to emotional intelligence:

  • Journaling about yourself and your feelings at the moment
  • Journaling about what you learned about your feelings over the last day
  • Journaling about where you would like to focus on in developing your emotional intelligence, including both the ability to know and manage your feelings, over time

Remember, the key is to get started and to be consistent. Keep it simple by picking a journaling method— you can write in longhand, type, use a voice recorder, or pick a journaling app—and just keep at it.

As you start to practice the habits listed here, you’ll want to review your journal entries from time to time. It will also be a good way to check your previous stumbling blocks and how far you’ve come.

3. Meditation

Meditation is another way of improving emotional intelligence.[6] While most people tend to associate meditation with spirituality, meditating can build new neural pathways, which may aid in managing stress and emotions.[7]

In particular, meditation can also help men who struggle with traditional norms around emotions and difficulty expressing their feelings. Studies have shown that meditation has helped men engage with their emotions constructively.[8]

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I recommend developing these two daily meditation habits:

  • At least 10 minutes of Zazen (empty mind) meditation – This type of meditation aims to clear and calm the mind. To do this, get into a cross-legged sitting position. Next, breathe, empty your mind, and try not to think of anything. Zazen will help you build attention and focus, which can then be used to have more attention to your emotions.[9]
  • At least 5 minutes of loving-kindness meditation – This type of meditation will help manage your feelings toward other people and make these feelings richer and more positive. By practicing this, you can strengthen your connection and feelings of kindness towards your loved ones and even acquaintances.[10] This can be done by visualizing the people in your life, focusing on these people, and thinking of these people sending and receiving love and kindness to and from you.

4. Yoga

You may have heard of its many health benefits, but let me highlight how it also has a significant impact on emotional intelligence. Practicing yoga teaches you to be in the present and prompts you to become self-aware, thereby allowing you to more easily recognize your emotions. This also translates to body awareness and the ability to manage your body.[11]

Emotions often manifest physically, so body awareness will help you be more aware of your emotions, be able to discriminate between these emotions, and manage them better.[12] Get into a daily yoga habit for at least 15 minutes.

5. Regularly Identify Cognitive Biases

Our emotions often lead us in the wrong direction due to mental blindspots called cognitive biases. These are dangerous judgment errors that can cause you to make poor decisions in your personal and professional lives.

You need to get ahead of these troublesome blindspots by assessing and learning which ones are relevant to you. Then, figure out a daily ritual to address the cognitive biases most impactful for you.

The first four habits I described will also best position you to identify and deal with these biases. For example, you can use journaling to write down how you plan to address them.

6. Relating to Others

While the first five habits on this list will allow you to reflect, assess, and deliberate internally, you should also equally consider how you relate to people. After practicing the fifth habit, I’m sure you will realize just how full we are of cognitive biases when it comes to our emotions concerning other people.

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To manage your emotions better, have a daily habit of evaluating your emotions when you interact with other people. Pause, reflect, and identify what you can learn about yourself during these interactions. You can even use this as one of your journal prompts.

Equipped with the information you’ve learned about yourself, plan how you will interact with others moving forward. Remember to continue delaying showing your emotions to others, especially at first, to learn to manage yourself well.

7. Develop Active Listening Skills

Many people listen without actually hearing what is being said. This is especially true for many arguments when people adopt a combative stance and spend their time formulating a response in their mind instead of really listening to the other person.

Without the right listening skills, no emotional intelligence can form or be employed, and most conflicts would remain unresolved.

When conversing with others, listen actively instead of just as an afterthought or as a way to pass the time until it’s your turn to speak. Rather, listen to ensure that you have a good understanding of what is being discussed.

When resolving conflict, active listening helps you determine how you can contribute to solving the problem. This is because it gives you time to clarify any confusing points as well as employ your emotional intelligence to help you come up with an appropriate response.

8. Use an Assertive and Collaborative Communication Style

While each habit can be practiced individually with good results, I’m rounding out this list by highlighting the importance of an assertive and collaborative way of communicating. That’s because the first 7 habits all work harmoniously to allow you to be more assertive and direct.

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Keep in mind everything you’ve learned about yourself, your biases, and how you react to others. Then, develop the habit of being assertive—not aggressive—and being more direct when communicating. This allows you to express your opinions more clearly, thereby encouraging others to communicate with you clearly as well.

Conclusion

No matter what your reasons are for wanting to hone your emotional intelligence, you only stand to benefit from the attempt.

Adopting these daily habits is the key to developing emotional intelligence, which is your gateway to having true control over your life. While the learning curve can vary per person, anyone can take a shot at—and master—these habits.

Practice just a few to see how it enriches certain aspects of your life, or utilize all 8 to reap the compounded benefits of an emotionally intelligent mind.

More Tips on How to Develop Emotional Intelligence

Featured photo credit: Katerina Jerabkova via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky

Cognitive neuroscientist and behavioral economist; CEO of Disaster Avoidance Experts; multiple best-selling author

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Published on May 3, 2021

How To Get Over Anxiety: 5 Professional Tips

How To Get Over Anxiety: 5 Professional Tips

Anxiety is killing our mental energy. It is, after all, the leading mental health issue in our society today.  In 2017 alone, more than 284 million people experienced anxiety across the globe, making it the most prevalent mental health disorder globally.[1]

If you are asking the question, “how do I get over my anxiety?”, then this article is for you. I’ve put together a list of my top strategies to help you get over your anxiety. These are the same strategies that have worked for many of my clients over the years, and I think they can work for you too!

Anxiety is, in general terms, as uneasiness or nervousness about an undetermined outcome. Sometimes, this worry and uneasiness is quite excessive and goes from something that we can manage on our own to something for which we need professional help.  If your worry or apprehension includes panic attacks or compulsive behaviors, consider reaching out to a therapist or a doctor for more professional help.

I like to think of anxiety as information—a sign that something is off in your life. It could be a global pandemic, a challenge at work, instability in relationships, or the sign of a larger mental health issue.  Whatever it is, it’s good to think this through and be asking the questions that will help you uncover the parts of your life that could use some adjusting.

Again, consulting with a therapist or counselor, even just for a brief period of time, can help decipher some of these questions for you.  And if you want to give it a go on your own, well that takes us to the first of my five tips on how to get over anxiety.

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Here are 5 tips on how to get over anxiety and live a more fulfilling life.

1. The Mighty Journal

You will be amazed by the power of journaling—the path of self-discovery it can lead you down. The best part of journaling is that there is no right or wrong here. It is a private place where you can work through the stuff in your head and figure some things out.

There are lots of formats for journaling, and I have personally changed my own approach several times depending on what was going on and what I was looking for.  It could be that narrative of your day or bullets with highlights or thoughts of the day.

To make the most out of your journaling I would encourage you to push yourself and go beyond a recount of the day’s events. What you really want here is to get into your thought process and understand the feelings behind the thoughts. Timelines can also be a great way to gain some understanding of relationships and the different events in your life. Again, it is a matter of what works for you.

The pen truly is mightier than. . . the meds?!? My own little psych-mashup.

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2. Schedule Your Self-Care Time

What are the ways you treat yourself? Life is busy and when life demands increase, self-care is often one of the first things to fall by the wayside. But it is critical that you build in your “you time” because when stress levels increase, so will anxiety.

If self-care is not something that you are accustomed to thinking about, I listed some ideas for you to consider.  Keep in mind that if you schedule it with someone else, it might help with accountability.

Think about working smaller chunks of time into the workweek and then something a little more extensive on the weekend, like a hike, excursion, creative home project, or even the occasional weekend away.

Self-care ideas:[2]

  • Take your lunchtime away from your desk, and get outside for a walk or join a colleague for some casual chitchat.
  • Schedule a massage or trip to the spa/salon.
  • Watch a favorite movie or TV show, either on your own or with your favorite person/people.
  • Work out, inside or out—anything that gets your heart rate up.
  • Go on an evening or afternoon walk.
  • Tap into your creative outlet, break out that knitting, woodwork, artwork, or instrument.
  • Dance, at home with your kids, partner, or on your own.  Play your favorite tunes and do your thing!

You can also try these 40 Self Care Techniques To Rejuvenate And Restore Yourself.

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3. Listen to Your Music

Music speaks to our soul. It is a go-to for many of us when in need of a pick-me-up or just blowing off some steam. But sometimes, life gets busy, and we don’t incorporate it into our life the way we once did—finding ourselves in a music deficient rut, listening to the same boring stuff on the radio.

Let this be a reminder to explore the new music out there. Streaming services have revolutionized our access to music and have made it easier than ever before. Explore it and find your jam.

Additionally, music therapy is a growing form of therapy built on the research that it helps decrease pain, blood pressure, and—you guessed it—anxiety while also increasing mood, healing, and overall positivity.[3]

Medical Doctors are using it more and more in operating rooms and incorporating it into their practices. If you subscribe to Spotify or Apple Music, you can just type in “relaxing music” and you will be sure to find something that will do the trick, bringing calm and focus into your life.  In my research for this article, I came across some great ones., and they are now a part of my daily rotation.

4. The Five Senses Exercise

When we experience heightened anxiety, I think of it as the physical energy rising from our feet to our head like a thermometer. Sometimes, this energy can even bring us to a place where we feel disconnected from our bodies. The 5 senses exercise will help you reconnect yourself to your body and bring your anxiety levels down to a more manageable level.

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The 5 senses exercise is a mindfulness exercise where you connect your 5 senses to your present environment. This is a great way to ground yourself and bring your attention and your energy to the here and now.  What I love about this exercise is that it can be done anywhere and at any time. If you start to feel your anxiety creep up, this could be a good strategy to center yourself and possibly ward off a panic attack or prolonged anxiety.

The process is simple:

  1. Start by taking a few deep breathes, inhaling as you count to 3, and then exhaling as you count to 3.
  2. Next, identify 5 things you see, 4 things you hear, 3 things you can touch and feel, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste.
  3. Take it in, give yourself a few minutes.
  4. Repeat if needed, and carry on.

5. Mindset Matters

This last one is a big one. A lot of times, anxiety waxes and wanes with how we think about something. Be mindful of your negative self-talk, keeping it in check and working to incorporate perspective. If you know that you are headed into something challenging, prepare yourself for it mentally and allow yourself to be ok with the challenge. After all, the challenge helps us grow and develop.

Also, remember that life is full of choices—granted the options in front of us may be less than ideal, but remember that they are there.  Incorporating some of these above strategies could be one of the first choices you make to create change in your life and get a hold of the anxiety

A quick easy way to get some perspective is to acknowledge the things that you are grateful for (this is also a mindfulness practice).  The gratitude journal is one way to do this where you write down three to five things that you are grateful for every day. Try it out for a week or so and see how you feel. Of course, the more time you practice this, the more you will feel the benefits.

Summing It Up

Anxiety is something that we all experience from time to time, working to identify the source of your anxiety will help you discover the best strategies for you. However, there are some definite best practices that you can incorporate into your life that are sure to minimize your anxiety and keep you living the active and fulfilling life you want.

More Tips on Coping With Anxiety

Featured photo credit: Fernando @cferdo via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Our World in Data: Mental Health
[2] NCBI: Social Anxiety Disorder: Recognition, Assessment, and Treatment
[3] Harvard Health Publishing: How music can help you heal

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