Emotional and social health is a significant pillar of overall wellness. Someone could eat the healthiest diet in the world and be in the best shape of their life. But if they don’t have their emotions or relationships in check, they aren’t healthy. So what is emotional intelligence and how does it fit into the picture?

What is It?

Emotional intelligence deals with how someone recognizes and manages both their emotions and the emotions of others. It’s being “intelligent” about your own personal emotions and those close to you. It affects our own mental health, as well as the quality of our relationships, or social health. Thus, it’s important for multiple different areas of wellness. Some studies have even found a link between emotional intelligence and job performance/satisfaction. 

Emotional Intelligence: Self

Emotional intelligence starts with being aware of your emotions. Think of it as a more complex version of teaching children how to choose the emoticon that best describes how they feel. Many of us feel that we always have to be “on” and in certain environments can’t show when we’re sad, drained, worried or feeling negative emotions. Though this is common, it’s not healthy. Acknowledging our own emotions is step one.

Step two is the ability to harness those feelings into something productive, and to manage emotions. Feeling overly anxious about a presentation this week? Harness those nerves into practicing a couple extra times. Angry at a family member for how they handled a situation? They can’t read your mind, so use that energy to write out how you’re feeling and prepare to address them respectfully. We need to allow ourselves to feel our emotions, but simply sitting in our emotions isn’t enough. Emotional intelligence is knowing how to get through it.

Emotional Intelligence: Others

Someone who has a healthy emotional intelligence is also more in tune with the emotions of others. They can recognize the emotional experiences of those close to them and are more apt to know what people need in a given moment. These types of people generally have better social health in their relationships.

If this doesn’t sound like you, have no fear. Emotional intelligence is a skill that can be worked on. Start by simply taking a step out of yourself and actively noticing the emotions and moods of people you are around. Next, practice actively applying emotional intelligence in your life. If a friend seems distant or stressed, send them a quick text. If you notice someone feeling insecure while others dominate a group conversation, ask them a personal question to let them have the floor. Start recognizing nonverbal communication, which is 55% of what people communicate. 38% of what you communicate is tone, and only 7% is actually content. Emotionally intelligent people learn to read below the surface.

 It’s noticing moments and signs like these that help build emotional intelligence around others, and keep your relationships and mental health in mint condition.