Coverage of mental health has increased in both popular press and academic research. There is no doubt that mental health is on the increase and may reach proportions that will stretch services. Whilst there has been much work with the area of mental health nobody should be in doubt that more is required. Mental health can strike anybody and it does not consider age, gender, culture or profession. There are many reasons why mental health can occur and no one case can be considered to be the same.
In this blog, I am proposing the use of emotional intelligence in supporting strategies to help people with mental health. However, this blog post is no substitute for receiving actual medical advice and therapy. Further, this blog is arguably proposing something for people who may believe they are suffering at the lower ends of mental health. The purpose of this blog post outlines how the use of emotional intelligence could help with the onset of mental health. In consideration, emotional intelligence can be modelled with self-awareness, regulating emotion, motivation, empathy and relationship building.
Self-awareness is the ability to assess own emotions and understanding the impact they can have on oneself. Through self-awareness one can identify their own strengths and areas to improve. This alone can provide somebody with mental health issues to appreciate their current position. Self-awareness is a core component of emotional intelligence and has been tested in many fields. Within mental health it is deemed that at the lower levels if one can become aware of their emotions it may allow recognition of issues much earlier. Mental health is an important topic and reality would enable us to deal with issues earlier. In other words, prevention is better than cure. Therefore, the implementation of self-awareness becomes integral for own mind and balance. For example, if I am self-aware of my actions and can identify that these are not helping me control my emotions I have started to develop awareness. Based on this recognition, I am able to develop strategies to control my emotions. For example, I may not take on more tasks as they increase stress leading to poor emotional control. In addition, I can also identify areas that I am performing well and use these to build self-confidence. Indeed, it is through building self-confidence that one creates positivity to enhance mindset and feeling of happiness to facilitate balance.
The ability to regulate emotion could be integral for dealing with mental health. Our emotions can fluctuate throughout the day and their very nature can dictate whether we can control these emotions. When experiencing mental health it can be deemed that minor issues become major due to inability to cope. Regulating emotion is not easy and is something that should be practised consistently. Common strategies to regulate emotion include setting goals, mindfulness, deep breathing, meditation, positive self-talk, listening to music and reflective practice. Through setting goals one can regain focus and direction to complete tasks. Having achieved these goals one can start to regain emotional control. Mindfulness enables us to stay in the present moment. Humans have a tendency to focus on past and future events/possibilities. Crucially we do not spend enough time on the present. In other words the present is in our control and we can do something about it. The past has gone and the future isn’t here. Therefore, with mindfulness it is suggested that people see their current situation and start to set those small goals that can be achieved. Mindfulness can help people to appreciate their current situation and find ways to deal with each aspect. For example, deep breathing enables people to stay in the present and provide more control to regain balance in mind and body. Meditation is a practice that not all people will feel comfortable with but can be effective if used well. Meditation does not have to be religious based but can also relate to other forms of practice. Meditation can help mental health sufferers by offering scope and focus as one can practice deep breathing and bodily movement to provide energy. Indeed, a lack of energy is a common factor associated to mental health. An increase in energy can also be important as some people with mental health lack energy and motivation. Positive self-talk is an ability to replace negative thoughts but must be believed and comes from within. Clearly, somebody with mental health may not feel positive to change their thinking. However, some small changes can lead to positivity and one example could be from ‘I can’t do this’ to ‘I will do this.’ Music is a subjective strategy but one that has been proven within research to help lift mood and emotion. Aligned to all these strategies the use of reflective practice is vital. Reflective practice will facilitate and support processes. Mental health patients require encouragement that they are doing well and reflective practice provides them opportunities to self-assess their own progress.
To enable growth, motivation is a necessity and need that has been proposed by theorists. We all have intrinsic (internal) and extrinsic (external) needs. These needs can be physical, physiological, mental, nutrition and normally a combination of all. Motivation can be more effectively directed through the use of process goals. Within mental health one of the key drivers to support people is the use of motivation as it can create the required energy. Arguably, a lack of motivation can be related to one aspect of mental health. Therefore, the use of motivation strategies (e.g. goal setting and positive self-talk) could reverse this trend.
Empathy is placing one in another person’s shoes. People should practice the art of empathy as it prevents the isolation and seclusion that one can feel. However, there are opportunities with empathy that can be utilised. It is recommended that empathy enables one to assess and examine things from another’s perspective. Somebody with mental health can recognise empathy if they associate with a fellow sufferer. Indeed, joining groups or meeting others can actually be useful to build empathy.
The ability to build relationships can be the cornerstone of developing opportunities to support mental health. Relationship building is an opportunity to meet new people and to perform on tasks that build cohesion. Of course the nature of mental health may render this difficult but within time and space it can be possible. Building new and developing existing friendships can enable people to open up and further achieve coherence of trust. Indeed, a cornerstone of mental health is to open up and talk to people through relationship building.
The key aim of this article was to develop the purpose of how one model of emotional intelligence could support people with mental health. To summarise, one should not substitute this blog article for important medical advice. However, people with lower levels of mental health could benefit with the incorporation of emotional intelligence.
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About Gobinder Gill
Gobinder is a lecturer in Sport Psychology and Research Methods at Birmingham Metropolitan College in the West Midlands.