Emotional Intelligence and Physical Fitness: The Links to my Happiness Scale

For myself, physical wellness has been a lifelong journey directly contributing to my personal well-being and happiness. Fitness and movement are a consistent “go to” in my world for stress management, and simple soul-filling experiences.

When I first learned about the Well-Being Indicator, and specifically, the concept of Happiness in the EQ-i 2.0 model, I made instant connections to keeping myself physically healthy. Fitness not only supports me in being healthy of body, but also feeds positivity into my emotional and mental wellness.

And, of course, it’s not just me. I encourage you to reflect on how your personal fitness practice might contribute to your happiness.  A quick search of “Happiness and Exercise” confirms that mental health researchers and practitioners alike agree it is important an important contributor to overall well being.

To make a more direct connection, let me break it down into the four subscales related to Happiness (Self-Regard, Optimism, Interpersonal Relationships, and Self-Actualization).

Self-Regard: The Grit

Self-admittedly I have times when I doubt myself, which can undermine my well-being and feelings of happiness. However; fitness is one area in my life where I feel consistently competent.  

I don’t mean I am an Olympic level or elite performance athlete, but that when I am engaging in fitness – whether it is teaching classes, lifting weights or enjoying a swim, run or ride with friends – I am not second guessing my performance, or on the rare occasion that I do,  it’s just a fleeting thought.

One way of developing self-regard is by reflecting on past accomplishments and identifying previous successes.  With that in mind, I can look back at the many fitness related achievements that I never thought I could ever contemplate, let alone complete.

While I might not be standing on any podiums, I can certainly reflect and find feelings of pride for many of the things I have tackled – things that were made possible by my determination,and my willingness to put in the necessary work. Maybe I am just stubborn, but if you can cite “grit” as a skill I would say I have it.

Optimism: The Journey, not the Race

As a naturally optimistic person, I find it easy to stay positive in the face of setbacks, and my attention to physical fitness is a great contributor to my optimism.

I have a passion for movement, and being outdoors always fills my heart.  I truly enjoy the “process” of fitness and it is much more about the training that it is any single event that might mark a milestone.  

I remember at the end of one off-road Triathlon where I came off the mountain bike portion (the second of the three disciplines) dead last. A photographer was there so I smiled the biggest smile I could muster even though I was feeling defeated, frustrated with my performance, and a bit embarrassed. We had a conversation about the smile and he commented that he doesn’t always see it in races (I am sure he was too polite to add “when you are last”). I replied that it isn’t about that moment, but about why I do this.

I want any picture I see to remind me of the joy I got from being out there; performance stats will be forgotten but that feeling will not. Joy feeds optimism and it is about the journey, not the race.

Interpersonal Relationships: The Connection

As the saying goes, “birds of a feather stick together”. Fitness is the glue or at least the foundational spark of many of my significant relationships; indeed, I met my now husband at the gym!  

My dear friends and I share life, laughter, and sometimes tears as we conquer new personal best achievements on barbells or as we cover miles together on wheels or feet.  

Quality time is so important to nurture relationship, and like anything, physical fitness requires some committed time in the craziness of daily life.  The people I train with have become the people I want to spend time with not just being fit, but in sharing meals, vacations, and other life experiences.  

I am filled with admiration of those I choose to spend my time with –  they support me to complete fitness goals, and also provide sage advice, smiles, encouragement, and a listening ear when needed.  I have found love with family and friendships through fitness. It has become a source of cherished connection.

Self-Actualization: The Challenge

If you haven’t yet guessed, I score pretty high in the realm of setting big goals and a willingness to learn and grow. I tend to be motivated towards big goals in many areas of my life and fitness is no exception.

From Ironman to BodyBuilding to CrossFit inspired events, I am motivated to challenge myself and I am energized by the feeling of challenge, and learning, even if it is painful (physically, mentally, and emotionally) at times. The feeling of setting a tough, yet achievable goal, in alignment with my personal values is energizing. If anything, I could likely benefit from leaning towards decreasing my proficiency in this area and looking to create more space for recovery, rest and gentler self-care.

I find it easy to “go hard”, less so to slow down. Perhaps this is my next challenge!

In Closing

Fitness has contributed greatly to my sense of well-being. Viewed through  the lens of Emotional Intelligence, and in particular the Well-Being Indicator, I am able to see where I can grow (Self-Regard, Self-Actualization) and also what supports me (Optimism, Interpersonal Relationships) in continuing my commitment maintain physical well-being.

To sum it up I would say this: move more (for health), love more (yourself and others), and strive more (for balance)!


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