Emotional Intelligence and Mental Health

Human intelligence is complex and multifaceted. When we look at intelligence in ourselves and others, we recognize there are many different types. 

Depending on the model being used to frame human intelligence, be it in psychology or in pop culture, many different categories of intelligence come up. Such as logical-mathematical intelligence, linguistic intelligence, spatial Intelligence, and so on.

In the late 90s, American psychologists Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer brought forward the concept of emotional intelligence (EI) in a psychological context. Mayer and Salovey’s 1997 model defined it originally as the ability to process emotional information and use it in cognitive activities, such as reasoning and decision-making.

They also defined four abilities—or components—that outline EI.

The Four Components of Emotional Intelligence

According to Mayer and Salovey, emotional intelligence involves the ability to:

  • Perceive and appraise emotions accurately
  • Access and evoke emotions when they facilitate cognition
  • Comprehend emotional language and make use of emotional information
  • Regulate one’s own and others’ emotions to promote growth and well-being

These ideas around emotional intelligence went on to inspire the best-selling book Emotional Intelligence – Why it Can Matter More Than IQ (1995), written by U.S. psychologist and science journalist Daniel J. Goleman. Since then, many different psychologists and thinkers have gone on to question and explore the concept of emotional intelligence (EI), also known as Emotional Quotient (EQ). But what does EI or EQ look like in our day-to-day?

Emotional Intelligence in Practice

In practice, emotional intelligence recognizes, understands, and influences our emotions and those of others.

For example, emotional intelligence can mean being aware of how certain emotions influence our behaviour, like how feeling hungry or tired can lead to impulsive substance use.

EI is also relevant in interpersonal situations where things like giving or receiving feedback are involved, as emotions can run high and distract from common goals on a team. Having ideas criticized can feel harsh. EI means acknowledging your emotions when receiving feedback from an outside standpoint. It also means being able to give feedback in a way that is constructive and well-received, such as using the feedback sandwich method. 

man discussing emotions

You might do these things already, and not even think anything of it… maybe it’s because you have high EI already! But even if EI is not one of your strong suits, fear not—there’s plenty of opportunity to grow, and we’ll cover that in a future blog post. For now, we want to talk about the way EI supports mental health, treatment, and recovery.

Emotional Intelligence Supports Mental Health

Research shows an intricate connection between emotions and mental health, with EI serving as a mitigating factor for many emotional challenges.

In fact, emotional intelligence is tied to resilience—the ability to do well in the face of adversity. For example, we can use emotional intelligence to mitigate stress in certain situations, like managing emotions under pressure.

People with high emotional intelligence generally do well when it comes to things like dealing with challenging relationships, navigating change, and working through setbacks and failure. If all of these sound familiar, it’s because those are all common threads in the fields of mental health, addiction treatment, and recovery.

Facing Emotions in Addiction Treatment and Recovery

When it comes to addiction, emotions are no small player. Many people use substances or adopt certain behaviours to avoid feeling emotions. What’s more, the journey of addiction treatment and recovery can run high with emotions, such as anger, guilt, or shame.

Through EI, we rise to the challenges posed by facing difficult emotions and become better equipped to partake in the collaborative nature of recovery. We learn to manage the emotions that run through families experiencing addiction and are better able to lean into things like peer support and group therapies.

In summary, emotional intelligence is a powerful ally both for mental health and addiction treatment recovery. 

men discussing emotional intelligence

Support with Mental Health and Addiction Recovery

At Sunshine Coast Health Centre and Georgia Strait Women’s Clinic, we pride ourselves on having a world-class team of professionals who support individuals struggling with substance use and mental health. If you or someone you know is struggling with substance use and/or mental health, give us a call today.

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