Emotional health is an important quality for those of any age. Studies show that investing in your emotional health is especially valuable for senior adults. Life's stresses are sometimes magnified with age. For example, we may experience the loss of a loved one, loneliness from children moving away, depression, or stress. This is why emotional intelligence is so important to develop.
Investing in your emotional health promotes physical health and wellbeing, a positive mindset, and strong relationships at any age, especially as we get older. This article examines some of the ways emotional intelligence benefits senior adults and why it’s important to encourage healthy relationships with others.
What is Emotional Intelligence?
Emotional intelligence is the ability to accept the emotions we feel, understand them, and manage them with grace and wisdom. It involves interacting with ourselves and with others while learning how to respond in different situations.
Emotional intelligence has a few defining characteristics:
- The ability to communicate well with others, even if there is tension or negative emotions
- The ability to handle negative and positive emotions and respond in a healthy manner
- The ability to respond with empathy when others around them are hurting
- The ability to understand different perspectives from their own and put themselves in other people’s shoes
- The ability to be good friends and for others to feel comfortable confiding in them
Emotional intelligence plays a role in overall mental health and wellness. It affects things like job performance, leadership abilities, and having healthy relationships with others. Highly emotionally intelligent people are often more satisfied with their careers and relationships, and feel more able to confront conflict.
While it is important to encourage all adults to invest in their emotional health and reflect on their lives, research has shown that older adults are more likely to have high emotional intelligence compared to other age groups thanks to the wealth of experiences they’ve collected through the years.
The more experiences you have and the more people you encounter, the better you understand others’ perspectives and how to put yourself in their shoes. With this increased empathy comes increased emotional intelligence—and with increased emotional intelligence comes increased emotional health.
Emotional Health and Quality of Life
No matter your age, emotional health is a vital part of life and can be the difference between a positive mindset and mental health or a negative mindset and poor mental health. For seniors, however, these benefits are magnified. Investing in your emotional health through emotional intelligence promotes a better quality of life for seniors in myriad ways.
Below are some of the ways emotional health is particularly important as we get older.
Helps You Manage Stress
Those who have high emotional intelligence are less affected by the stress of life, especially the stresses that come with older adulthood like moving away from children, losing loved ones, and experiencing various physical obstacles.
The ability to manage and reduce these stressors begins with emotional intelligence! By understanding other people’s perspectives and emotions, we can have empathy. When we invest in our emotional health, we become better at regulating and managing stress levels.
The benefits of emotional health for stress repeat in a cycle. When stress is regulated more efficiently, our ability to relate to others also increases, as does our emotional intelligence.
Helpful tip: If you often deal with stress and have a tough time managing it, try a hemp extract gummy or tincture! These help to support stress relief naturally from the inside out by promoting feelings of calm and relaxation during your day to day (and all without making you feel drowsy or out of it, too!). You can also try these yoga poses to promote peace while helping to sneak in some more exercise.
Keeps You in a More Positive Mood
Studies have shown that emotional intelligence can help you manage your mood. Some forms of depression are caused by burnout and being overworked. Investing in your emotional health may help reduce these feelings.
From mental health to physical health risks, depression affects every aspect of life. By encouraging emotional health and intelligence, adults of any age will be better equipped to deal with feelings of depression!
Improves Social Skills
Investing in emotional health has been linked to increased social skills and relationships in senior adults. In fact, studies show that emotionally healthy people also show more advanced social skills. These skills offer more empathy and help people engage in relationships without fear.
For older adults, social interactions can feel like a lost skill, especially if you’ve retired, moved out of your home, or lost a loved one or friend. Having the ability to empathize, listen well, and communicate well leads to better relationships!
Increases Life Expectancy
Not only does emotional health increase quality of life, it increases the length of life too! According to Mayo Clinic, when you constantly feel stressed by life’s challenges, it can actually take years off your life.
Life has stressors at every turn, so learning how to deal with them by investing in your emotional health is a great way to increase your life expectancy and enjoy each moment.
Four Ways To Invest In Your Emotional Health
1. Cultivating self-awareness.
Self-awareness is the ability to recognize your emotions, feelings, and desires. It involves being in touch with yourself and your mind. It also requires honesty and vulnerability with yourself, and often involves resting and giving yourself the time to understand and become aware of these aspects.
By cultivating self-awareness, you can also invest in your emotional health by promoting emotional intelligence.
Here are some ways to increase your self-awareness:
- Get the opinion of someone close to you and ask them how they think you manage emotions, stress, and negativity
- Examine your relationships with those around you and how you communicate with others
- Ask yourself how you cope with negativity and anger and if this area needs improvement
- Examine how well you take responsibility for your actions
2. Improving self-regulation.
Self-regulation is one step further than self-awareness. After we understand our emotions and feelings, we must learn to control or “regulate” them! Here are some ways to improve self-regulation.
- Examine how you respond to emotions and situations. Those who are self-aware respond after thinking carefully about the situation, while those who are not self-aware may act impulsively or react to a situation rashly
- Ask yourself if you have trouble feeling out of control. If yes, ask yourself why this is. End by reminding yourself that you aren’t supposed to be in control of everything
- If you react quickly and impulsively during frustrating situations, try to stop next time and ask yourself if there is a more thoughtful decision you can make
3. Practicing social skills.
Emotional health finds its foundation in social skills! How we interact with others, how we communicate with others, and how we care for others are important factors in our emotional health! In turn, this creates empathy and promotes emotional intelligence through emotional health.
Here are some ways to improve social skills and empathy.
- Try to put yourself in other people’s shoes and see situations from their point of view.
- Become a good listener before becoming a good speaker! One of the best ways to understand your loved one’s point of view is to simply listen to it
- Find someone to support! Whether this is another family member, a friend, or even an animal, taking care of something and supporting a loved one is a large part of empathy
- Join a support group. Even if you haven’t had a loss, joining a support group lets you hear other people’s stories about life and provides new perspectives
4. Staying motivated.
Motivation is the last step in promoting emotional health. When we are motivated, we are committed and optimistic. Those with higher emotional intelligence often have better job performance and school performance. Even if you’re no longer in school or have retired from work, there are plenty of ways to stay motivated!
Here are a few:
- Join an exercise class or create an exercise routine
- Start journaling or meditating to rest and focus
- Pursue a hobby! Hobbies have many benefits, such as giving people a sense of purpose and cultivating creativity and motivation (if you aren’t sure where to start, here are some ways to maintain hobbies as a senior)
Investing in emotional health is important for everyone, especially seniors. It helps reduce and manage stress, quell feelings of depression, improve social skills, and increase life expectancy. By encouraging emotional health, we can experience brighter, more fulfilling relationships. We may also increase motivation, even for the less exciting aspects of life.
Once we invest in our emotional health, we can work on ways to promote our emotional intelligence and brighten our lives.