woman doing yoga post

In today’s fast-paced world, we’ve started to see a major focus on health and wellness in the last few years. That makes sense, since many people sit at a desk for eight hours a day—or longer.

Work-life balance is a struggle for many people in our 24/7 work culture and the stress of constantly focusing on our professional lives is leading to burnout, health problems, and other issues.

So what can be done? Some people turn to yoga and meditation, fitting in sessions before they head into the office. Others turn off electronic devices at night, or keep to a strict sleep schedule.

While all these efforts are admirable, they don’t always produce the results we’re looking for. Many people have trouble seeing where they need to make changes, or simply don’t follow through.

In order to make meaningful changes for our health and well-being, we may need to turn to an unexpected facet of our personality: our emotional intelligence.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Introduced as a concept in the 1990s, the idea of emotional intelligence is a counterpoint to the traditional IQ measurement of intelligence. While IQ is based on logic and analytical problem-solving, emotional intelligence or EQ is about one’s ability to self-regulate, empathize, and work with other.

A person’s EQ is extremely important in all areas of their professional and personal lives, and has been shown to be more important than IQ in determining workplace success.

When it comes to wellness, however, emotional intelligence is more helpful in our ability to relate to ourselves, rather than in relating to others. In motivating ourselves to create healthy habits, our emotional intelligence could be a key factor.

Self-Awareness and Self-Regulation: Key for Long-Term Wellness

One of the reasons that emotional intelligence plays a role in wellness is stress management. One of the pillars of emotional intelligence is the ability to self-regulate.

When you get stressed or angry, how do you deal with it? Do you lash out at your colleagues? Eat an entire pint of ice cream in front of the couch? Or do you recognize the destructive nature of those feelings and direct them into something productive, like yoga, boxing, or journaling?

Over time, those habits and tendencies have a direct impact on our health and wellness.

Emotional intelligence is key for long-term wellness because getting into the habit of choosing more productive outlets prevents the loop of stress and unhealthy stress-relievers.

By being able to recognize when you’re upset or about to make a poor choice, you have a better chance of pulling back and looking at the situation from a more logical point of view. Emotional intelligence helps us control our emotions, rather than letting our emotions control us, which is key to developing healthy habits.

How Emotional Intelligence Can Promote Healthy Balance

Emotional intelligence can tell you when you need to step back and take a break, but it can also help you maintain healthy habits like “unplugging” every night and control stress at work. Studies show that high levels of EQ have a relationship to wellness in the nursing work environment, and many people intuitively use these skills to improve their well-being both at work and at home.

In the workplace, wellness initiatives like mindfulness practices, mental health breaks, and encouraging employees to unplug are helping people to live more balanced lives. However, employees need to have the EQ to recognize when they need to make their wellness a priority.

Employers can offer encouragement and resources, but ultimately each person needs to recognize what they need and figure out how best to regulate their mood and emotions.

At work, for instance, that might involve taking a walk during the day or closing the door to interruptions for a predetermined amount of time. At home it might be leaving the cell phone outside the bedroom or not answering emails after 10 PM. Each person has different needs and different practices that work.

Building Better Emotional Intelligence

Not sure your emotional intelligence is helping to reinforce your health and wellness? Good news: it is possible to improve your EQ. It’s not an easy process, but deliberate practice can help you to become more aware and better able to relate to yourself and others. In fact, some of the practices that can help build better emotional intelligence—like mindfulness practices—can help improve your well-being simultaneously.

Everyone has the ability to lead a healthier, more balanced life. You just might have to start by looking inward and checking in on your EQ levels.