Why Your Diet is so Important For Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is one of those character traits that is widely believed to be crucial to our success in life, not least professionally. It is especially believed to be crucial to our success in leadership roles. Some of the factors that underpin our emotional intelligence are less well known, however. For instance, how is our EI impacted if we’re tired or hungry?

See Also: Emotional Intelligence Indicates Job Success. Do you Have it?

A new study from researchers at the University of Florida set out to discover the role our lifestyle and diet has on our emotional intelligence.

"We know that prior research separately links the food we eat and exercise (or the lack thereof) with the brain, triggering neurogenesis and affecting moods," the authors say. "But this study is the first of its kind that ties diet, exercise and emotional intelligence together. Emotional intelligence is about knowing one’s true self and using awareness to best respond and relate to others ─ vital for a trusted and effective leader."

The focus of the study was a group of directors in the Florida area.  Previous studies have highlighted the importance of training such people in the importance of emotional intelligence, as the role requires an awful lot of time and effort spent on relationship building among employees, stakeholders, administrators and the general public.

The study explored the role our lifestyle plays in our emotional intelligence, and especially whether a healthier lifestyle makes us more emotionally intelligent.

The Role Lifestyle Plays in Emotional Intelligence

The group of directors were assessed for their level of physical activity, both whilst at work and during their personal time. Each director was also required to keep a food diary for the last month to assess their diet.  In addition to having this data from the directors themselves, the researchers also surveyed the teams working under each director to understand their levels of emotional intelligence. The hope was to determine if there was any link between the two.

The data was analyzed and revealed that there did indeed appear to be a correlation between a healthy lifestyle and the level of emotional intelligence shown by each director, with those directors who led a healthier lifestyle nearly always displaying higher levels of emotional intelligence also.

This was especially the case with regards to diet, with leaders who consumed more fruit and vegetables being perceived as having high EI.  Their peers who had a high sugar based diet however nearly always scored lowly for EI.

"That is what makes this study novel," the researcher says. "Prior research tells us many organizations need emotional intelligence training, but never has it been investigated and published with a nutrition and exercise component."

See Also: How to Know if You Are Emotionally Intelligent

There are an increasing number of wellness programs in place inside our organisations that are designed to improve the health of employees.  This research underlines the crucial role a healthy lifestyle can play in success in the workplace, both for those in leadership positions but also for those of us spread throughout the organisation.

Would this finding be enough to encourage you to lead a healthier lifestyle? Your thoughts and comments below please...

Research shows emotional intelligence critical for leaders