Have you heard about emotional intelligence? Whether you know the definition or not, it’s probably something you strive for. But it’s not exactly easy to attain – unless you’re in the practice of meditating.
That’s not to say that you must meditate to achieve emotional intelligence, but it certainly does help.
What is Emotional Intelligence?
When you think of emotional intelligence, you might instantly think of empathy. And while the two are closely related, they are not one and the same.
You can have empathy and not emotional intelligence. But you cannot have emotional intelligence without empathy.
Emotional intelligence includes three skills:
- Emotional Awareness – In order to achieve emotional intelligence, you must understand your own emotions. This is a skill that many people lack. You also must understand the emotions of other people. If you are emotionally intelligent, you may even be able to anticipate someone else’s emotions. In a simplified example, if you show up late to a date and your partner seems frustrated, you won’t be surprised. You will recognize the emotion and understand why the other person may feel that way. You are aware of your own emotions and the emotions of others.
- Emotional Strength – Emotional strength relates to how you harness emotions and apply them to your everyday life. Someone who has emotional strength can make decisions that are good for everyone’s emotional well-being.
- Emotional Management – If you’re in the habit of crying uncontrollably or laughing at inappropriate times, you haven’t yet mastered this skill. When you effectively manage your emotions, you are in control at all times. You may feel happy, sad or angry, but you don’t let these things rule your life.
How To Achieve Emotional Intelligence
When you want to strengthen your muscles, you might lift weights. When you want to strengthen your mind, you might meditate. Weightlifting isn’t the only way to build muscle, and meditating isn’t the only way to strengthen your mind, but these are both proven and effective methods for the desired result.
Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years, and it has been shown to improve symptoms of anxiety and depression. Meditation is also beneficial for recovering addicts. And it’s instrumental in improving emotional intelligence.
How Meditation Increases Emotional Intelligence
Because meditation happens within the mind, some people mistakenly think of it as some sort of intangible mumbo jumbo. Fortunately, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Experience may show you that meditation has a relaxing and grounding effect, but modern science shows us that it also changes the physical structure of the brain. Imagine that – you can actually change the size and shape of your brain by meditating. Make no mistake about it, meditation is extremely powerful.
Research from Harvard Medical School shows us exactly how meditation can change the brain in areas responsible for emotional intelligence.
- Emotional Awareness – The Harvard research shows us that meditation strengthens connections in two areas of the brain that relate to empathy. These areas of the brain are the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex and the insula. The dorsomedial prefrontal cortex is responsible for managing your perspective, and the insula helps you infer someone else’s state of mind.
- Emotional Management – While strengthening connections to help improve rational thought and logic, meditation also weakens connections that trigger fear and anger. Combined, these things can help you manage your own emotions.
- Emotional Strength – By nature, meditation helps you to become more mindful. This helps bring you into the present moment, so you can be more focused on your current situation. Someone who does not have emotional intelligence is more likely to get caught up in the past or worry about the future, which can interfere with sound decision making.
As you embark on your journey, remember that you’re not working towards a destination.
If you’re new to meditation, start with 5 minutes and increase by 5-minute increments until you reach 30 minutes daily. You may see results within the first few weeks, and your emotional intelligence will only get stronger with time.