This Is How A Diary Helped Me Develop Better Emotional Intelligence
Give it a go! You'll be pleasantly surprised (you trust me, right?)
Emotional intelligence is something that nowadays sounds like a superpower, like a superhuman ability. I imagine a character with a cape with a name like EmotionsMan standing next to Captain America and Iron Man in the Avengers, the superhero capable of controlling and understanding his emotions. Coming soon in theaters.
Now seriously, emotional intelligence is very important to stable mental health, and we sometimes underestimate it. Sometimes it may seem like the obvious, “I have emotions and I'm not dumb, therefore I have emotional intelligence, duh!” I'm sorry to be the one to tell you, but having emotions is not the same as being able to identify and understand them in their entirety, so no, just being aware of feelings is enough.
I've even seen courses on the internet to develop emotional intelligence, and although I can't really talk about any since I haven't taken them, I don't know how effective they can be. But what I can do is tell you about some advice a therapist gave me once, and how it has worked for me so far. It's as easy as writing something every day in a notebook. Like a diary? *DING DING DING DING* Exactly like a diary.
Of all the types of intelligence, the most sentimental
The concept of emotional intelligence is relatively new. Until just a few decades ago it was believed that intelligence was only one and this was only measured with an IQ test or how good you were with math. Luckily, many studies and much research was done and it was shown that there really are various types of intelligence. Luckily for me, since I suck at math. Among these different types of intelligence is visual, which painters, photographers and sculptors have in abundance. Musical intelligence, which explains why Beethoven and Mozart were geniuses. The well-known logical-mathematical intelligence that I was not lucky enough to possess, And besides others: intrapersonal or emotional intelligence.
This ability consists of being able to analyze, in-depth, the reason for our actions, our reactions, our way of thinking and how we feel. Emotional intelligence is asking myself if it is better to ration the pieces of the extra-large pizza I bought to eat for several days and not swallow it all at once because I have no self-control and I hate myself. Or as I call it: a usual Thursday night.
As with the rest of the emotions, we can be very skilled in one area and not so much in others. Thankfully no-one has an innate intelligence, so we can develop any of them.
My Emotional Diary
This technique consists of having a written record of each time an emotion, positive or negative, has been very relevant in our day. It's like when we had a diary when we were teens. Only instead of writing “Dear Diary, today Heather had the same skirt as me, it was so embarrassing!” I would write down how I felt at certain times of the day, every day.
This technique is generally used by psychotherapists, only they use it in a more profound way. Hence the classic question “and how do you feel about that?” during therapy sessions.
The mood is like the weather, it can change from day to day, from moment to moment. It can dawn on a sunny and hot day and in the afternoon it is raining like hell, this is how our emotions fluctuate and it’s normal. There are thousands of external factors that affect our psyche, the people around us, situations in which we find ourselves, even a Tweet from Donald Trump! Before all this, we respond with emotions, and the way to do it can be more or less healthy.
Having these emotional manifestations written will help us to have a view of how we respond to everyday situations. It is not so easy to analyze and identify an emotion at the same time that we are living it. When I feel furious I don't stop to think about my emotions and the source of them. Therefore, by having a record of them, I can interpret them in moments of calm and introspection.
How I Use The Emotional Diary
There are no specific rules of how to write in an emotional diary, it is completely free. You can use a notebook, sheets of paper or the notes app on your phone. I personally enjoy writing by hand and having everything in one place, which is why I use a white-page notebook.
What should you write? In general, how did you feel each day? If you experienced a strong emotion, write it down. If during the day you experienced different emotions, write each one of them, be it happiness, euphoria or anger, anguish. Negative or positive, you must write it. The most important thing of all is that you write every day, it makes little sense to have records weeks apart.
The important thing is that you are able to understand what you write so that in the long run you can find patterns. I like to use small drawings and colors, but at times I can only write briefly about how I felt. You can use lists, charts, anything that makes it easier for you to have perspective on the flow of daily emotions.
Here are some tips that have worked for me:
Have everything in one place. As I mentioned, I like to write everything in a small notebook, because if I use pieces of paper, I can lose them during the day.
Pick a time to write. Sometimes I'm outside or working and I can't stop to write in the diary, so at the end of the day before going to bed, I like to recall the most relevant moments and write them down.
Keep everything in order. Artistic expression is very good and even therapeutic, but it won't do you any good to have a lot of unintelligible scribbles. Be as organized as possible to be able to read everything with ease.
Be as specific as you can. Simply writing “I'm upset” isn't going to help you much. Write down all the details you can, what was the situation that triggered everything, what went through your head when you lived it, how you felt and how you reacted to the situation.
The Advantages Of Having Your Emotions Written Down
Keeping a record of my emotions has helped me understand on a deeper level how I usually respond to all day-to-day experiences. I realized that I respond with anxiety and concern whenever I have a lot to do at work, but in the long run, I always manage to get them done in time. So it doesn't make much sense to wreck my nerves every time it happens. Also, just writing helps me relieve stress, while I'm writing how I responded to something, I realize how I could have done better and keep it in mind for the future.
Imagine the emotional journal as creating an instruction manual for yourself. When you understand your emotions better, you understand yourself better and learn to react in a more controlled way to life. You make better decisions and stop turning every family-sized pizza into a personal pizza every Thursday night (I AM NOT PROJECTING!)
We would love to hear from you if you already use a diary for your mental health, or if you're deciding to use one in future.
Until next time!
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