30 Days of Gratitude – Day #6, Emotions


Continuing with my 30 Days of Gratitude, I am thankful for something that has taken me years to come to grips with – an ability to know and understand my emotions.

Day #6 – I KNOW How I Fell About That!

As I wrote about a few months ago, your ability to know and manage your emotions can have a huge impact on everything in your life. Conversely, an inability to perceive and manage emotions can also have a big impact … generally negative.

For many years, Lisa would ask ‘how do you feel about that’ and I wouldn’t know. We used to joke that I grew up in a loving but incredibly emotionally constipated environment, and looking at stuff my siblings and extended family have experienced … it is very true. Amongst the things Lisa and I have worked on through the years is my ability to appreciate how I am actually feeling and truly OWN those emotions.

Yes it is very true and possible to have ‘mixed feelings’, but generally I can identify and talk through my feelings on things going on. There are a few examples I can think of immediately, including one fairly recently where I felt annoyed (which really isn’t a pure emotion but a reaction to other emotions, in my experience) and realized it was a matter of stress, anger, inconvenience, feeling like a secondary priority, and some other stuff.

My ability to truly OWN my emotions has made me a much stronger person, and also a much happier person. I believe it has strengthened my marriage and allowed for deeper relationships with friends.

How do you deal with your emotions?strong>

And of course, the Bee Gees have something to say about Emotions (which really has nothing to do with the post, but hey … whatevs):

Habits ‘Emotionally Intelligent’ People Use To Maximize Happiness

Diagram of emotional intelligence

My happiness is one of the core items in my life, and something I work hard to maintain. I do it in my marriage, family life, relationships with others, job, and my personal interests such as music, running and healthy eating. And it seems that since my anniversary I have been reflecting on the good fortunes in my life.

Have you ever heard the term ’emotional intelligence’? It refers to the ability to perceive, control and evaluate emotions. There was a cool article last week about things successful people will NOT do, and it all ties into emotional intelligence. How do you build your emotional intelligence? Here are four key ways:

1.Perceiving Emotions: For some this is simple, for others a lifelong struggle.
2.Reasoning With Emotions: We all have emotional responses to things, but using those reactions to prioritize our decisions is another thing.
3.Understanding Emotions: just knowing that someone is frustrated isn’t enough, we need to place those feelings into context, to determine WHY someone is feeling that way.
4.Managing Emotions: I have talked about my ‘response tree’ approach before – (a) does it merit an emotional reaction (b) is anger the correct response and (c) is your response in proportion to the action.

So what does this have to do with running and healthy living? Everything and nothing – because it has to do with life, and running is very much a part of our lives. So here we go – I have adapted the list to fit into what I see as its application to running.

Emotionally Intelligent People Won’t Let Anyone Limit Their Joy

When I talked about running this past weekend, it was like a declaration of independence – my joy for running is purely due to my love for the sport; my joy of a mostly Paleo & Vegan diet is based on my enjoyment of those foods.

If your joy is based on where you place in a race or how you compare to others, you are no longer in control of your own happiness. It is SO important to remember that no matter what others think of you or how they are doing, self-worth ALWAYS comes from within.

Emotionally Intelligent People Won’t Forget

I had what I should view as a pretty decent summer of running last year – I was regularly topping 60 miles per week, hitting doubles at least once a week, came within 2 minutes of a PR in a marathon in the pouring rain where the path turned to mud and there was more than 6000ft of elevation change, then hit a nearly 10 minute PR in my next marathon. I mean, why shouldn’t I be happy?!?

But I wasn’t happy because my pace control was atrocious! So I took my November half-marathon, and dedicated it to maintaining a flat pace – and not only did it work, I STILL got a PR! During 2014 one of my continued goals is pace control – running by feel, running flat, knowing what my easy, moderate and hard paces feel like, and so on.

The context around this in the business article was more about forgiving but not forgetting. It is important that we do that with ourselves – learn from mistakes, but forgive ourselves for making them.

Emotionally Intelligent People Won’t Die in the Fight

‘Live to fight another day’ is the saying, or in our case ‘live to run another day’! How does this apply? Be smart in your runs – don’t push yourself to injury, don’t get dangerously dehydrated or under-fueled.

I have long said that we need to approach all of our running like a marathon: know when to push, and when to back off, when to keep running and when to rest and recover?

One of my biggest ‘do something stupid’ moments was dieting and restricting while heading into my first half marathon … and totally crashing near the end and finishing in rough shape. I made it – and have never forgotten and never made that mistake again! That one race changed my ‘food is fuel’ view forever!

Emotionally Intelligent People Won’t Prioritize Perfection

When you read most race reports, or run summaries, or how people are doing with their eating – you will hear that things are ‘solid’ or ‘really good’ or things like that. Seldom do you hear people talk about ‘perfection’ – because as runners we’ve had enough ups and downs to realize that it doesn’t exist.

Yet when we look at others (back to the first item on the list, right?) we often see a ‘perfect form’ or a perfect runner … WRONG! They are no more perfect than the rest of us! They might be after, have more endurance, be more agile, or whatever … but perfect? No.

Emotionally Intelligent People Won’t Live in the Past

I have mentioned several races where I didn’t meet my expectations – and in each case I set up a way to take the power away from those events so I could remember them fondly. I learned from those mistakes, and they are in the past now.

If you let your past mistakes and failures dictate your reality, you will be limiting what you can do and where you can do in life. Don’t let that happen – leave your mistakes behind.

Emotionally Intelligent People Won’t Dwell on Problems

You only have so much focus and mental energy to go around, so if you are dwelling on the past you have no time for the present or future. Sure we need to learn, but lessons are small and easy to carry through life. Let the past teach us things about how to shape our future, but then leave it behind.

Emotionally Intelligent People Won’t Hang Around Negative People

There is a distinct difference between frustrated but motivated people, and negative people. One set will voice frustrations at people or situations but ultimately want to move on to a more positive place … negative people find solace in the swamp of negativity.

There are negative people everywhere, and they will destroy you – your running, your eating, your life. Sure you want people around you to provide reality checks and keep you grounded, but not a self-serving complainer.

Emotionally Intelligent People Won’t Hold Grudges

Did you know that holding grudges is a stress response, so recalling the grudge actually causes the stress to resurface. That is just not good for you no matter how you look at things.

So what grudges do you have? Relationships are a clear one, but also races, foods that are triggers, other runners who beat you before, touchy subjects with people close to you and so on. While you shouldn’t forget things we learn, it is important to let go of the stress and regain control.

Emotionally Intelligent People Won’t Say Yes Unless They Really Want To

In business and in life, inability to say no leads to stress and burnout – with eating it causes failure to maintain goals, and with running it gets your hurt. I look at the example of the Corning Glassfest 8k run compared to the Catharine Valley Half Marathon – I knew I wouldn’t run either, but didn’t want to give up the 8K. That caused me to be stressed and irritable. With the half-marathon, I decided long before and as a result was totally open to enjoy the day.

So whether it is saying no to a race, saying yes to a rest day, or no to some food you’d rather not eat – be polite, but firm. You will thank yourself!

Emotional Intelligence and Eating Disorders, Running, and Dealing With It All

One of the reasons I decided to post about this was that there has been study in recent years (a couple are here and here) about the relationship between Emotional Intelligence and things like body dissatisfaction show that as dissatisfaction increases, emotional intelligence decreases.

A great article looks at translating Emotional Intelligence back into actions, and the quote: “We don’t see things as they are. We see things as we are.”

As for runners, according to a study from the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport “Findings lend support to the notion that trait emotional intelligence associates with adaptive psychological states, suggesting that it may be a key individual difference that explains why some athletes respond to repeated bouts of hard exercise better than others.”

In other words, the better you can deal with the emotional aspects of your life, the better you can handle the ups and downs of being a runner.

How is YOUR Emotional Intelligence?