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Overcome Challenges with Resilience: Emotional Intelligence

Purpose: Strengthening emotional intelligence may help someone improve their ability to manage their emotions.


Emotional intelligence may help someone to manage their emotions instead of allowing the emotions to dictate the response. Neuroscience research has shown that emotions begin in the body and alert the brain to notice or pay attention to something. Anger may signal a person to protest an injustice, sadness may signal someone to reach out for comfort or support, fear may signal someone to move away from danger, joy may signal an urge to play or be creative, etc. These emotions are the catalysts that steer someone in a direction, which is why understanding how to manage them instead of trying to turn them off or allowing them to hijack a response is an important part of resilience.


The foundation of emotional intelligence practice consists of mindful self-compassion, mindful empathy, positivity, and theory of mind. Mindful self-compassion involves bringing awareness and acceptance to emotional experiences and understanding that it is part of the human experience to lose emotional equilibrium and an inner sense of well-being from time to time. Mindful empathy involves allowing emotions to arise, listening to their message and then using the higher brain to decide how to respond. Positivity involves the cultivation of positive emotions such as kindness, gratitude, and compassion to shift attention away from negative emotions that cause stress and worry. Furthermore, positivity can help someone cope by being more optimistic or creative in dealing with a challenge. Positivity should be used alongside mindful self-compassion and mindful empathy, so that negative emotions are processed and not avoided. Theory of mind involves knowing how to separate oneself from another person and recognizing that someone else's emotional experience is not the same as their own. 


Emotional intelligence is the second subtopic within the WavyFields topic of “Overcome Challenges with Resilience.” Please review the first subtopic, “Somatic Intelligence” before proceeding to the Practice section below. After reviewing this subtopic of “Emotional Intelligence,” then proceed to the subtopics of “Relational Within the Self Intelligence,” “Relational with Others Intelligence,” and “Reflective Intelligence.”

Practice: These practices may help someone to strengthen emotional intelligence.

Labeling an Emotion


Conditioning: Emotional memories from the past can cause powerful emotions in the present. Emotional literacy is the ability to label an emotion as it arises and notice its sensation in the body.

Practice: The next time that an emotion occurs, bring awareness to it and attach a label to it, such as “this is loneliness” or “this is contentment.” The cause of the emotion does not need to be explored during this practice. Next, label the sensation that it causes in the body, such as “shaky” or “tight.” 


Responding to an Emotion


Conditioning: Emotional intelligence can be improved by responding to emotional situations in the present moment or by recalling emotional situations and imagining new ways of responding.

Practice: Recall a small positive or negative emotional situation to practice responding to, such as “winning an award” or “the annoyance of a partner not responding to a text message.” Bring awareness to the emotion and where its sensations are located in the body. Notice what thoughts arise about how to respond to the situation. Pause and reflect on how these possible ways of responding could relieve or amplify the emotion. Now, brainstorm five other ways of responding to the situation that would relieve or amplify the emotion. Imagine the consequences of responding in such a way and whether any of the five responses are especially appealing or repulsive. When experiencing the imagined emotional situation in the present moment, follow one of the planned responses and assess the outcome. 


Cultivating Gratitude


Conditioning: Practicing gratitude (being thankful for the good in life) can shift the brain into an emotionally stable state and bring about positive emotions such as joy, tranquility, and contentment. 

Practice: Allow up to ten minutes to reflect on the people who have been helpful during a difficult time. When reflecting on these people, notice any sensations that arise in the body. Now, expand gratitude to the people who have never been met, but whose efforts make a difference in everyday life. This can include a farmer growing food, a truck driver delivering the food to the local market, etc. End this practice by reflecting on how cultivating a sense of gratitude impacts the emotional state.


Experiencing Awe


Conditioning: Experiencing a sense of awe can soothe the nervous system and bring joy to a day. Moments of awe do not need to be reserved for a beautiful sunset or painting. A sense of awe can be experienced anytime that an ordinary object is viewed with a sense of curiosity.

Practice: Look around the current environment and notice everything as if seeing it for the first time. Be curious about each object that comes into awareness. Think about how it was made, its history, its purpose, notice its small details, etc. Visit an art gallery, concert, or theatrical play and notice the expressions of the people in the audience as they experience awe. Reflect on past memories of awe. Look at old photographs or videos of places that felt magical.  Discover a motivational speech online or read an uplifting book. Be open to experiencing moments of awe when viewing the speech or reading the book. End this practice by reflecting on how experiencing a sense of awe impacts the emotional state.


Cultivating Compassion


Conditioning: People can sometimes find it easier to feel compassion for others than for themselves. Allowing oneself to have genuine compassion for themselves can increase resilience and engagement with the world.

Practice: Reflect on a time when compassion was felt for another person. Feel that compassion in the body and imagine that person being there. Remember that feeling and then reflect on a challenging situation in life. Bring the compassion that was felt for the other person into the self. Hold self-compassion for up to five minutes. When bringing compassion to the self, one hand may be placed over the heart while repeating a phrase such as “may I be kind to myself in this moment.” Notice if being compassionate to the self generates a sense of understanding, forgiveness, or increased engagement with the world.


Remembering Moments of Success


Reconditioning: A person may find self-confidence to do a task when they remember the feeling of doing something successfully in the past. The remembered success can be about something small and does not need to be related to a current task.

Practice: Identify three moments from life when a sense of self-confidence was generated following a success. This success can be about anything. Notice how this memory of success feels in the body. Then, apply this sense of self-confidence to the current task or areas of life where more self-confidence is desired.


Creating a Feeling of Well-Being


Deconditioning: Being able to label emotions of well-being, such as peaceful, tranquil, or calm, may help the brain remember and recreate a feeling of well-being. 

Strengthen: Find a comfortable location where the mind and body can relax for the next ten minutes. Imagine the weight of the body dissipating. Breathe slowly and deeply and allow each exhalation to last slightly longer than each inhalation. Imagine breathing in tranquility and breathing out any worries that are still being carried. Notice any spaciousness inside of the body and any space between thoughts. Focus awareness on the spaciousness and the absence of tensions and thoughts. Focus here for several minutes. Attach a label to the emotion of well-being that is now being felt, such as peaceful, tranquil, or calm. End this practice by committing to memory how the emotion of well-being felt. With each practice, the brain rewires to more easily achieve this state of well-being.

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