We all know that one person who appears to be upbeat and happy all the time — like that friend who never seems down and always looks on the bright side of life. You might be tempted to resent this friend, but you shouldn’t.
What’s their secret?
Besides being perpetually cheery and having a positive outlook, genuinely happy people are skilled at managing their emotions (reactions) and their thoughts. Their secret is finely honed emotional intelligence, which gives them a strong defense against drama, envy, anxiety and low self-esteem, among other negative emotions. The forever happy also have a behavior code of conduct that insulates them from negative people and situations.
In short, their secret is their inborn or developed ability to manage their emotions and to rise above it all, keeping their head held high and their mind focused.
If any of us want this super power, it’s ours for the taking. Here are four strategies to help develop your emotional intelligence and grow your natural defenses against negativity.
- Self-assess your situation
Do an honest and deep self-appraisal. What makes you stressed or angry? What makes you feel insecure? How do you find yourself in difficult situations?
Emotions tend to manifest themselves in two distinct ways: the psychological component (thoughts, attitudes, beliefs and reactions) and the physical component, which are they body’s sensations that accompany the different emotional states (e.g. flushed face, feeling nervous, frowning, showing anger in our facial expressions, etc.)
Often, being more aware of our emotional states and all their manifestations is sufficient to manage them better. By doing a self-assessment, you get your emotions and accompanying physical reactions into perspective so that next time you experience them, you can step back and observe that emotional manifestation and ask yourself “What is it I’m feeling right now and why? What am I thinking? What physical responses am I feeling or emitting?”
Honest reflection of our emotions can help us to better understand ourselves, as well as help to put us in proactive control of our emotions.
Once you’re more aware of your emotions, the next step is learning how to respond to them better.
Depending on the particular situation, there are different strategies we can utilize to better control our emotions, including:
- Avoid the triggers by avoiding toxic people, situations or environments that are root-causes of your negative emotions. While this one can pose an issue when it comes to certain relationships or work, we can make progress where ever we can and those small steps do help
- Guiding and channeling an emotion in a positive way, such as through writing a journal, reading, painting, exercising, etc.
- Replace the negative with positive. Negative ruts are a common threat, so find something good to replace the bad — e.g. you could listen to upbeat music, watch a motivational podcast, read some positive affirmations, etc.
- Turn your emotions around and do the opposite. When you recognize that your emotions are negative and counter-productive, try to do the opposite of how you feel. For example, if you’re feeling sad and you don’t want get out of bed, get up and do something fun instead. If you’re angry with a friend and would like to yell at them, forgive them and do something nice for them.
They’re our emotions to control, so why not turn the negative into the positive?
- Have empathy
Understanding our own emotions is vital to having strong emotional intelligence, but so is having an understanding of other’s emotions.
Empathy is the ability to see things from another person’s perspective and to consider those emotions/reactions to a particular experience.
While we can’t fully understand another person’s mind completely, we can get insight into their inner thoughts and feelings by paying attention to what they’re communicating verbally and non-verbally.
If we want people to better understand us, we have to take the time to better understand them — once we know why we’re feeling/reacting the way we are, we should try to understand their reactions as well.
- Make a list of unresolved issues
Back to “what’s bothering you.” It’s important to take control of our emotions by understanding what unresolved issues may be lurking in our mind. Write down the things that you need closure on, as well as why, how it will help and what you can possibly do to close it. We can’t bring closure to every open issue, but we can at least assess it and ask ourselves “is this really the big issue I thought it was?”
Emotional intelligence is kind of like a superhero’s powers — once finely honed, they help us to be more in control of our thoughts, feelings, actions and reactions. The more emotionally intelligent we become, the better we are at deciding on the best way to respond to an emotion. It takes awareness, effort and practice, but it’s well-worth it.