How can mindfulness help you to be more emotionally intelligent?
Jon Kabat-Zinn describes Mindfulness as ‘the psychological process of bringing one’s attention to the internal and external experiences occurring in the present moment.’
This often requires practice as most of us are wired to do the opposite, our attention is all over the place; our mind is either racing off into the future or stuck in the memories of the past.
Mindfulness and the senses
Mindfulness involves the use of all of your senses in the moment, you smell the rain, see the rain, feel the rain, hear the rain and touch the rain and all of your attention is with the experience of the rain.
Dr Buathon Thiennarom Ph.D, in her article ‘Discover mindfulness techniques that you can use right now‘, shared her thoughts on how being mindful requires living from the inside out with an awareness of yourself and your current needs and feelings as well as being present and aware of what is going on around you- all without judgement or criticism.
Most of us live from the outside in. We look outside ourselves for validation and approval; we live in our heads and are constantly judging or criticising. When someone is talking to us, we are thinking about an answer or checking our phones, we are rarely with our own inner experience or the experience unfolding in front of us. This way of living means that we have limited emotional intelligence and we are disconnected – both from ourselves and from others.
The benefits of Mindfulness on Emotional Intelligence
The practice of mindfulness helps to develop our emotional intelligence – this is the ability to feel your feelings, recognise them, to know why you are feeling those feelings and to recognise the impact your feelings have on those around you. Emotional intelligence also means that you are able to understand others and their emotions, you are able to read other people’s verbal and non-verbal cues and respond to these accordingly. Through emotional intelligence, entrepreneurs, managers and leaders are able to inspire confidence and motivate others to follow in their footsteps. And, just like any other skill, it can be practised and learned.
Charoensukmongkol (2014) found that mindfulness can significantly facilitate the development of emotional intelligence in three specific ways:
- The practice of mindfulness can help us to understand our own emotions
- People who regularly practice mindful meditation are able to detect and understand the emotions of others – being mindful helps you to notice how others are feeling and decipher emotional cues more accurately. It also increases your feelings of closeness and relatedness to those around you
- Being mindful and aware of how you feel can help you to regulate, control and use your emotions in a beneficial way.
Increased emotional intelligence helps enhance all of our relationships and our ability to handle stressful and difficult situations.
Emotional intelligence is enhanced through the practice of mindfulness – being in touch with your inner world and noticing how the outer world impacts and influences you and vice versa.
Techniques for daily mindfulness
Some mindfulness techniques that you can incorporate into every day include:
- Do one thing at a time, and give that task all of your attention;
- Practice tuning into your body and noticing how you feel;
- Practice checking in with your own feelings and bodily sensations before you check in with other people;
- Stay present with what is happening without judging or wanting it to be different, try to accept yourself and your situation and look for the learning or the benefits;
- Practice taking a break, especially when you feel anxious or up tight and taking 5 deep slow breaths, follow the inhale and the exhale and keep your mind gently focused on feeling your breath;
- Practice really observing what is around you, take a deep look at a flower or a tree, notice the bark, the leaves, the colours- involve all of your senses;
- Choose one activity that you do every day and commit to practicing mindfulness while you do that activity, it could be having fun with your kids – allow yourself to be totally absorbed by the task or activity.
It is not until we apply mindfulness and choose to become aware of ourselves that we can grow and develop emotional intelligence. It requires risking feeling uncomfortable feelings and owning parts of ourselves that we don’t like. It requires really being alive and trusting in the process of life.
Developing and using Mindfulness and Emotional Intelligence are key topics learned in the Australasian Sustainable Wellness Academy’s Diploma of Wellness Leadership Program.