Emotional intelligence and mental well-being Suppressed emotions are often the cause of some mental and physical health problems.

Dr Chido Rwafa-Madzvamutse

Mental Health

As discussed in previous articles, mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which an individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a meaningful contribution to their community. 

Emotional strength, emotional maturity, emotional insight, emotional intelligence are key aspects of maintaining mental well-being.

What is emotional intelligence and how does it impact our mental health?

The ability to recognise and regulate our own emotions as well as to be empathetic to the emotions of others is a key part of mental well-being. 

Emotional intelligence is a term coined by John Mayer and Peter Salovey in the 1990s and further popularised by Daniel Goleman. 

It has been defined as the ability to process information about our emotions and the emotions of other people and to be able to use this information about the emotions of others and our own to guide our thoughts and then our behaviour. 

The benefits of emotional intelligence include:

· Greater self-awareness, self-acceptance and a healthier self esteem

· Self-control and the ability to self-regulate our emotions leading to a sense of self efficacy and self confidence

· The ability to be empathetic to others, feel for and accommodate others

· Stronger ability to form and maintain relationships with others

Low emotional intelligence will result in poor emotional awareness, difficulties managing our emotions and we may express our emotions in detrimental ways. 

Low emotional intelligence will make it difficult to identify challenging mental health problems and seek help early. Low emotional intelligence will make us less aware of the emotions of others and can damage our relationships and limit our capacity to form strong bonds with others.

Certain mental health conditions can affect our emotional resilience and emotional insight. With anxiety disorders, we may struggle to regulate our emotions, with depression, we may find it difficult to connect with others emotionally, with alcohol and substance use problems we may be using alcohol and substances to avoid our emotions. 

Psychological trauma can make it difficult to understand our own emotions and to accommodate the emotions of others.

How can I improve my emotional intelligence?

Emotional intelligence unlike intellectual intelligence can be developed and improved. It is an adaptive skill that can help us with our mental health and with our ability to form and maintain strong relationships. Some ways in which we can try to improve our emotional intelligence include:

· Learning to recognise and acknowledge our emotions. Understand what emotion we are experiencing and why we are feeling that way will help us identify challenging emotions and mental health challenges early and get appropriate help. Recognising challenging emotions will also help us to find ways to express these emotions in ways that will not harm ourselves or others.

Finding healthy ways to express these emotions 

The destiny of an emotion is to be felt and we should not suppress our emotions. However, if we are destructive in the way we express our difficult emotions we will alienate ourselves from others and find ourselves with limited support.

· Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable to others so that we can share our difficult emotions. We cannot get support from others if we are unwilling to be open about our challenges

· Learning to regulate our emotions and self soothe rather than insisting that others make us feel better when we are upset.

· As we live our lives, interact with others, make decisions, becoming more conscious of other people in our lives, our spouses, children, families, colleagues and what they may be feeling and the challenges they may be having can be beneficial. 

This is known as social emotional awareness and will allow us to be more empathetic in our thoughts and behaviours towards others. As human beings we are prone to selfishness and self-centredness, often taking care of our own needs before the needs of others and often asking ‘what is in this for me’, seeking to receive more than to give. 

Becoming more emotionally intelligent means confronting this selfish nature and being considerate of others in order to build strong authentic relationships that will help us maintain our mental well-being. 

If you think that you or someone that you know may be struggling to maintain a sense of mental well-being, please contact your nearest health service provider and get help.

λ Feedback: Dr. Chido Rwafa-Madzvamutse +263714987729 (AHFoZ www.ahfoz.org ; [email protected])

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