Researchers continue to make advances in their understanding of positive thinking and its affect on a wide range of psychological, emotional, and social factors. At the same time, Emotional Intelligence continues to gain ground as a popular skill set to boost one’s effectiveness in relationships. The latest research on how the brain functions at a physiological level shows that our brains are much more adaptable than previously thought. We now know that we can actually change the way our brains function by putting intentional patterns of behavior into practice in our daily lives.
The human brain has developed over millenia to adapt to opportunities and adversity in the natural world and human society. Things like a psychological negativity bias or the tendency to “catastrophize” simple adversity have evolved to help us to survive the pressures and threats of life. However, in many ways these automatic responses do not lend themselves to the environments of modern civilization. Our brains are still wired to protect us from physical threats to our survival, and they put ancient patterns of behavior to work against the emotional threats of modern relationships. Obviously, then, we need to find ways to adapt our natural neurological responses to respond to modern types of adversity in more appropriate and productive ways.
Traditionally, it has been thought that the key to changing our outward behavior is to change our mentality–our knowledge and understanding. New research reveals that the opposite can hold true, as well. By intentionally changing our outward behavior, we can actually change the way we think and process adversity in the first place.
Understanding our emotions and the driving factors of our mindset is certainly an important first step in changing our behavioral habits, but putting new habits into practice can also be a solid first step in changing these driving factors for good. The keys to encouraging mental and emotional adaptability lie in first understanding and identifying what is happening with our minds and behavior in moments of adversity, as it happens, then developing practicable strategies to curb and control our reactions over time. The end result is the replacement of old, counterproductive habits with new and effective habits that we choose ourselves.
At first glance, the skills of maintaining a positive mindset and the competencies of Emotional Intelligence can be compartmentalized as different concepts or models, but a closer look reveals that the two can actually reinforce each other with complimentary skills. Making a breakthrough in one mental or social skill can lead to further breakthroughs in other areas, and this comes into play often between Emotional Intelligence and positive thinking.
Self-Talk and Emotional Intelligence
The ability to identify negative self-talk and turn it to a positive direction is a hallmark trait of people with a positive mindset and a healthy optimism. However, self-talk can be challenging to spot or controls in the moment. More often than not, we only realize the extent of our negative self-talk when we look back at a past situation. The Emotional Intelligence competency of self-focused emotion awareness can enhance one’s ability to recognize and respond to different emotions as they arise, which develops the same kind of inner-listening skills needed to recognize and control self-talk.
Those who possess a strong awareness of their own emotions have already mastered half of the self-talk battle. Instantaneous emotional reactions can influence people’s inner narrative over time, focusing it more towards a positive or negative bias. The ability to identify a conflict- or stress-induced emotion in oneself can help to predict and catch negative self talk before it leads to counterproductive behavior. Turning negative self-talk into realistic and encouraging thoughts can have a positive influence on your emotions, as well, creating a virtuous cycle of reinforcement.
The EQ competency of emotion regulation can also help people in the battle to control self-talk. The same skills used to balance emotions in oneself can be used to balance inner dialogues for a healthier outlook. Again, controlling one’s self-talk can assist in emotion regulation, just as emotion regulation helps control negative self-talk. Through these connections we can see just how intertwined Emotional Intelligence, resiliency and positive thinking truly are. Positive-thinking habits can aid one in mastering other Emotional Intelligence skills, as well. Consider empathy. A positive mindset can free a person from self-focused negative thoughts, allowing him to pay more attention to the needs and perspectives of others. One must have control over his own emotional impulses before he is able to effectively recognize and respond to others.
EQ, Positive Thinking, and Your Health
Recent studies from The Mayo Clinic suggest that the habits of positive thinkers directly lead to better health, longer life, and a higher quality of life. The findings revolve around what scientists already understand about the negative health consequences of high stress. Positive thinking can be a large factor in reducing stress in daily life, which in turn can bring about numerous health benefits. If mastering EQ skills can aid in the pursuit of a positive mindset, and a positive mindset can reduce stress, then it can be said that learning about Emotional Intelligence is a first step on a path to a longer, happier life.
Emotional Intelligence is about more than the self — cultivating enduring relationships is at the core of any EQ learning program. People with high EQ are able to forge deeper connections with others while building relationships centered around trust. Mayo Clinic researchers cite the quality of one’s relationships as another prime factor in stress-related health conditions. Social support is crucial to those seeking to turn negative self-talk into a positive mindset, and a high EQ can ensure that one always has all the support he or she needs. This is another example of the reinforcing relationship between Emotional Intelligence and positive thinking — higher EQ and resiliency can help to form lasting relationships, and strong relationships can help to balance emotions and reduce negative thinking habits.
How does one go about strengthening EQ skills and building positive thinking habits? The Mayo Clinic advises that just like any other skill, practice makes perfect. Taking intentional action to learn the skills of positive thinkers and taking time to practice those skills every day is the key to mastering the competencies that reduce stress and lead to a longer, happier life.