Emotional intelligence has become a buzz-phrase in recent times. In fact, it’s been so thoroughly transitioned into pop-culture pseudo-science that you can easily find shelves of books on the subject. Some books will claim emotional intelligence can easily be developed, and will automatically make you more charming, successful, and happy.

However, the true definition of emotional intelligence is both more and less simple than that. Emotional intelligence is the capacity of an individual to recognize, manage, and problem-solve with emotions. It’s our ability to recognize how someone else is feeling and how we’re feeling ourselves. It’s understanding the associated physical and mental effects of emotions, and how they impact our actions.

When you put it like that, emotional intelligence doesn’t really seem very glamorous. However, it’s strongly connected with how healthy our relationships are. It’s also something that fortifies us against the negative aspects of mental distress, such as addiction, rage, and depression.

Positive Aspects of Emotional Intelligence

When we have high emotional intelligence, we’re able to do several essential things:

  • Regulate emotions and gain control over them instead of allowing them to take control of us.
  • Correctly interpret others’ feelings, which keeps us from negative internal narratives that lead to a cycle of miscommunication and defensiveness.
  • Be proactive in problems, and effectively find strategies to overcome frustration, instead of simply reacting. Emotionally intelligent people are able to express themselves in constructive ways that lead to more beneficial interactions.

How Are Kids Today Doing?

At first glance, most of us would think that modern media, increased mental health resources, and scientific research would give kids today a better emotional intelligence than what’s been present in the past. However, most psychologists are seeing evidence to the contrary.

The APA (American Psychological Association) recently released a study that showed that stress levels in teens is equal to (or higher than) stress levels in adults. Psychopathology in teens continues to rise. One study of college students found that half of them feel intense anxiety during the school year, and a third suffer severe bouts of depression.

The danger here is that this psychological and emotional distress manifests itself in dangerous behaviors like binge-drinking, self-harm, attempted suicide, and violence, all of which are higher in the United States than in most other countries.

What can you do to counter these problems in your own family? Look out for our next blog about developing emotional intelligence.