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HOW ARE YOU FEELING? Using Signals From the Body to Increase Emotional Intelligence

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Our bodies are excellent messengers, constantly sending us clues about our physical well-being (hunger, tiredness, pain..) Not only that, but they also send us tons of information about our mental and emotional states! By putting some intention into listening to what our bodies have to say, we can learn more about ourselves and how we connect with others.

The first step in improving our emotional intelligence (EI) is being able to recognize and name our own emotions. By increasing emotional granularity we can do this with increased accuracy. Emotional granularity is the specificity to which we can describe or name emotions.. for example, a person with high emotional granularity might describe a feeling as joyful, stimulated, excited, satisfied, or delighted, while someone with low emotional granularity would only use the word "happy" for all of those instances. With practice we can notice the slight differences in physical sensations that can be described using different emotion words.. Maybe we notice the slower heart-rate of "satisfied" or the warmth of "delighted." Check in with your body now and see what you notice!

"...emotional granularity can have such an influence on your well-being and health: It gives your brain more precise tools for handling the myriad challenges that life throws at you." -Lisa Feldman Barrett

Having an increased awareness of how our bodies connect to our emotional state can lead to more control over our choices. Have you ever been in a situation where something happened and you just snapped? The type of emotional reaction that felt random or out of nowhere? I bet there were signs! Maybe if we noticed the tension in our neck we would have known that we were stressed or overwhelmed.. Maybe if we had noticed the butterflies in our stomach we would have recognized anxiety or fear building. If we are able to sense these emotions before they become huge, we can make choices to take care of ourselves and avoid the out-of-control explosion.

EI gives us power within ourselves, and it can also connect us to others. By better understanding our own emotions, we can also better understand the emotions of others, building empathy. Imagine hearing a story and the person says "I was worried." Now imagine the person says "I was terrified." There is a huge difference right? The words we use can help us relate to and understand another person's experience.

Our bodies can also give us clues about our relationships with others, especially when it comes to boundaries. Sometimes our body gives us the message that a boundary is being crossed before we have even consciously thought about that boundary. Maybe you notice that you keep getting a sinking feeling in your stomach when a certain person calls you. Maybe your face gets hot, or your palms start to sweat. These could be clues that this person tends to cross your boundaries! Maybe they stay on the phone forever.. maybe they trauma dump.. maybe they consistently ask you for money.. maybe they gossip about others.. Listen to your body, name the emotion, find out where the emotion is coming from, and make a choice. By respecting the message your body is giving you, you have the opportunity to use skills and communicate effectively to create a healthier relationship dynamic.

Though it may be uncomfortable to sit in and notice our emotions, we can learn so much from them. When we allow ourselves to get curious about what our body is telling us, we can move on to deciding what that means and what we want to do about it. Emotional intelligence gives us guidance, power, and connection when we are willing to put in the effort.. So start practicing! How are you feeling?


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