For a good half of my professional life I was in preventative medicine as a community health nurse, educating people about their health and teaching them how to live in a healthy way and to avoid ill-health.

But a preventative model can also be applied to psychological and emotional problems as we all seem very good at getting ourselves into difficult situations regarding relationships. Then we have a distinct possibility of developing physical symptoms when the stress hormones mount up when we get anxious and depressed.

Much of our distress is preventable just by using our heads, or in particular, our brains and our minds. Most of us go about our lives in a fairly distracted and mindless way, doing and saying things which can be thoughtless and which can get us into trouble with others. So when we are introduced to the concept of actually thinking about our own thinking it seems strange. We think about others, we think about work, about leisure, but we don’t actually think about our thinking and this is what we have to learn to do.

But it’s too hard!

I’m not asking you to do intellectual thinking as you might do at a university, or even the type of thinking you may do at work, but just observing your own thoughts – that’s not too hard. Many people who are very clever can be quite stupid when it comes to relating to others on a personal level. It often happens that they cannot imagine or think that what they have said or done actually impacts on another person. In other words they have little or no Emotional Intelligence or EQ. In the workplace EQ is considered to be just as important if not more important than IQ, or Intelligence Level.

People have to get on with others at work, at school, university, on the sporting field or at home, and the ones who have the most EQ do this better, and are likely to get further in their careers than the ones who are just smart but can’t hit it off with the others around them. Their lack of Emotional Intelligence can hold them back in their careers. Daniel Goleman in his book on Emotional Intelligence states that EQ has qualities that help make us more “fully human”.

We can all learn to be independent in our thinking in not just observing our thoughts but noticing how our mind works and doing some serious work in learning new and more positive thinking skills. We can notice if we notice, and what we notice about others. Do we really see them and hear them or just not take very much notice of them until we have to.

We can be lazy in this respect and miss out on really getting to know someone at a deeper level because we don’t think responsibly. If we are at work and in a team, knowledge and understanding about others in the team is a valuable start when working together on a project. We can notice if we are emotionally intelligent, or just trying to be smart to impress others.

Thinking responsibly may be a new concept for us

Thinking responsibly can involve contemplating how another may be feeling, what impact our choices and behaviours may have on others, and being responsible for your own health and welfare. How we think (whether we are aware of this or not) has an effect on how we act, and how we feel. A logical consequence of thinking responsibly would be that we also act responsibly, and are aware of our emotions and are responsible for them.

Thinking responsibly is a conscious choice, and one which we need to make much more often than we do.