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The lessons of Italy's Forrest Gump

When police officers stopped a 48-year-old man who was walking the streets of the Italian town of Fano at 2 a.m. in defiance of lockdown restrictions, they were surprised to find that he was from the town of Como, many miles away. But what was even more surprising was his reason for being in Fano. The man had had an argument with his wife and left Como walking to “clear his head.” The argument was a week and 280 miles ago. Is it possible that this anonymous Italian man, whom social media nicknamed Forrest Gump, appeared on the 25th anniversary of Daniel Goleman’s classic Emotional Intelligence to memorably model the first and second of the four pillars of emotional intelligence? Probably not, but it's worth exploring how Italy's Forrest Gump might have been working on his emotional intelligence. The first pillar is self-awareness: a 280-mile walk is a great opportunity to ponder what you’re feeling and why. The second pillar of emotional intelligence is managing your emotions: rather than saying or doing something you wish you hadn’t, clearing your head is a smart move. But you needn't leave town on foot. With a regular meditation practice, you can find clarity in a moment and amass a wealth of self-awareness. In celebration of the power of emotional intelligence as a skill you can hone to increase your happiness, this week we’ll examine the other two key elements of being intelligent about emotions—see the quote below and idea #3. As always, The 5-Minute Recharge offers you expert advice spanning the wellness spectrum, emotional and physical, so let’s get started! ONE EMOTIONALLY INTELLIGENT QUOTE “The judges felt that the public had been subjected to too many bad things this year to justify exposing it to bad sex as well.” – Tuning into others' emotions, picking up emotional signals, and caring about other people is the third pillar of emotional intelligence. Sensing that 2020 has been bad enough for everybody and not wanting to add to the pain, editors of the Literary Review announced this week that The Bad Sex in Fiction Award has been canceled ONE EDUCATIONAL IMAGE



“I never expected to graduate with Nana...” Melody Ormond and her 75-year-old grandmother Pat Ormond graduated together with degrees from the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga. Bonus: a 104-year-old PhD candidate from Columbia encourages everybody to become lifelong learners. THREE IDEAS #1 Your routine is anything but routine. If you checked out the link to the mind-blowing article, “Your Brain Doesn’t Work the Way You Think it Does” in last week’s newsletter, you would have discovered that the brain’s most important function isn't thinking or feeling or sensing, but running a budget for the body–anticipating the body's needs and meeting them. Therefore the brain is, first and foremost, a prediction machine. Routine has become synonymous with the words dull, repetitive, and boring, but given what we know about the brain, routine is more accurately described as essential, energy-saving and potentially life-affirming. Your routine makes it easier for your brain to predict what will happen. When your brain makes an incorrect prediction, it sets off distress signals designed thousands of years ago when the unexpected appearance of a tiger at a routine visit to a watering hole would be a matter of life or death. Not being able to gather together with friends and family over the holidays doesn't present the same kind of threat as a tiger, but it sets off the same alarms in the brain, signals that we sense as unease or anxiety. The pandemic may have upended your routines, but it’s important to replace what’s missing with new routines that are enjoyable and make you feel good about yourself. Think about your routines as a pacifiers for your predictive brain. “It’s mundane routines that give us structure to help us pare things down and better navigate the world, which helps us make sense of things and feel that life has meaning.” ~ Samantha Heintzelman, Assistant Professor of Psychology, Rutgers University [as quoted in The New York Times] #2 An exercise in futility? Why do most fitness resolutions fail? In a recent episode of The Art of Happiness podcast, personal trainer and co-founder of Mind Pump Media Sal Di Stefano asserts, based on years of first-hand experience, that a whopping 90 percent of people have one of the following bad reasons to start a fitness program: 1. I hate myself and I want to change or 2. I just want to be beautiful. It’s easy to see why self-hatred is not a good foundation for any kind of lasting behavioral change, but it may surprise you to learn that, based on a study out of the University of Texas summarized in The Atlantic, if you jump from the 50th to the 84th percentile in beauty based on a massive fitness and/or cosmetic surgery program, your happiness increases by only 4 percent. And if you’re married, educated, and employed, you cut the happiness boost by half to a measly 2 percent. So what works as a motivation to get fit? “I love myself and I want to take care of myself so that I can enjoy life more” is a good, sustainable reason to start a fitness program in which exercise becomes its own reward. Unfortunately, it’s Sal’s experience that only 10 percent of people, mostly the elderly, begin an exercise program with the healthy rationale of self-love in mind. To gently nudge yourself from bad to good reasons to pursue fitness, ask yourself how you feel after a workout—what’s your energy level, your emotional state, your sleep quality? Choose an activity you enjoy, and never use exercise as a form of self-punishment. “You have to go into it with the right mentality: health and fitness based on self-love and self-mastery.”~ Sal Di Stefano mixed with Arthur Brooks #3 What's your EQ? What’s your emotional intelligence quotient (EQ)? According to Daniel Goleman, emotional intelligence becomes visible in your relationships. Therefore, a quick and easy way to assess your EQ is to examine your connections to other people. If you have good, close relationships with others in which your interactions are almost always positive, chances are you have a high EQ. The three pillars of emotional intelligence—self-awareness, managing emotions, and empathy—come together in the fourth pillar that Goleman calls relationship management. The good news is that, through reflective practices such as meditation that encourage you to explore your emotional landscape, fine-tune your attention, and cultivate compassion for others, you can enhance your relationships, boost your emotional intelligence...and increase your happiness. “Relationships are the key element of a happy life. Therefore, emotional intelligence is a key skill you can develop to have a happy life.” ~ Daniel Goleman, from the Ten Percent Happier Podcast *********************************** THE FAST FIVE 1. Happier Holidays: How to give and receive the perfect gift - The Happiness Lab (30 minutes) (Science tells us gift-giving is a minefield!) 2. The Vampire Test - Austin Kleon (The simple test that will tell you what...and whom to avoid.) 3. To Lose Weight, Aim for 300 Minutes a Week - Gretchen Reynolds, The New York Times (Attempt this weight-loss method only if you love yourself–recall Idea #2.) 4. Bonus: A Happier Christmas - The Happiness Lab (9 minutes) (Does it get any better than two Happiness Labs in your fast five?) 5. Advice and Inspiration for Well-being in the Year Ahead - LinkedIn (The 5-Minute Recharge is happy to have been selected as one of LinkedIn's Top Pick newsletters, inspiring readers to prioritize wellness in 2021 and beyond. ) *********************************** YOUR 5-MINUTE RECHARGE CHALLENGE YOUR EQ BOOST This week’s 5-Minute Recharge challenge comes from–you guessed it!–the study of emotional intelligence. The pandemic presents a challenge for emotional intelligence because it’s much harder to read subtle emotional cues over video where you can't make eye contact, and it’s especially difficult to connect with another person when you’re stressed out and disconnected from yourself. Emotional intelligence guru Daniel Goleman recommends the following simple exercise to shift from fight-or-flight mode to a relaxed state of mind in which it’s easier to tune-in to yourself and others: Take a deep breath. Hold it for as long as is comfortable. Exhale slowly. Repeat 6-9 times. You can do this breathing exercise to boost your EQ, clear your mind when you switch between tasks, and as a quick and simple way to recharge. Or you can go for a 280-mile walk. “Emotional intelligence helps us deal with the inner turmoil of Covid, let it go, and be more empathetic.” ~ Daniel Goleman Wishing you health, happiness and a high EQ, The 5-Minute Recharge

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