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Published on April 5, 2021

6 Most Important Emotional Intelligence Skills To Have

6 Most Important Emotional Intelligence Skills To Have

Have you ever considered whether you are an emotionally intelligent person or not? Emotional intelligence is defined as the ability to recognize our emotions and those of others and respond to them thoughtfully and effectively.[1] Having emotional intelligence skills is key to connecting with others and forming lasting relationships.

If you are struggling with improving your emotional intelligence or assessing your level of understanding, here are the 6 most important emotional intelligence skills that you should develop.

1. Strong Inner Confidence

Emotionally intelligent people can act and speak without second-guessing themselves. This stems from them being self-aware and trusting their intuitions. Being emotionally intelligent means that you are confident and can “talk the talk” and “walk the walk.”

You might say that you want to work out or start eating healthily, but to actually take the action and go to the gym requires a higher level of emotional intelligence. The next time you are thinking that you want to learn a new skill or maybe go to therapy, take a moment to consider what you need to make that jump from thought to action. It might be finding an accountability partner who will call you out when you are slacking, or perhaps using an exercise app to track your process.

Being proactive allows you to feel more self-assured, which gives you increased confidence in assessing the risks and rewards of your decisions. When you understand your emotions, you will find it easier to have conviction in your actions.

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2. Ability to Go With the Flow

Having the skill to adapt to different situations shows that you have a high level of emotional intelligence. If you can adjust your game plan without getting frustrated when a project doesn’t go as planned, it means you are in tune with your emotions.

Being able to go with the flow also means that you don’t get stuck in trying to fulfill checklists. If you plan your career or relationship goals and attempt to achieve them in a strict time frame, you may end up feeling disappointed and exhausted. Someone with good emotional intelligence skills understands when they have given it their all and allowed themselves to move on—even if the project is incomplete.

There will be times when calls take longer than expected or when technology doesn’t work as planned. Being flexible will give you more space for adjustments. To be more emotionally intelligent, remind yourself that life is fluid and that you only have control over your own decisions. You can be in charge of how much you allow outside factors, like people and unexpected circumstances, to impact your life. Emotionally intelligent people will not get rattled. Instead, they re-evaluate and push forward.

3. Selective Reacting

Another notable emotional intelligence skill is the capability to only react when it is necessary, effective, and thoughtful. It is easy to get caught up in your emotions and respond defensively when a friend tells you something that makes you feel angry or small. An emotionally intelligent person will have control over their energy and the power to listen, process, and then take action.

Whenever you receive an unnerving email or harsh criticism from someone, take the time to determine if there is any truth to what they are saying. From there, you can choose how you will react. Maybe a colleague’s words can shine a light on an area where you can improve, which allows you to grow. You can go back to that person with a new perspective and willingness to hear their feedback.

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On the other hand, you can also brush off what someone says if you know it is inaccurate. Being able to understand your emotions deeply and choosing when to react will guide you in elevating your emotional intelligence.

4. Recognizing Unhealthy Thoughts

This is a truly valuable emotional intelligence skill—identifying negative and unproductive thought patterns. An emotionally intelligent person recognizes when they are falling into a cycle of putting themselves down and can quickly switch gears.

For example, instead of dwelling on the thought that you may have made a bad impression on a new friend or overshared on a first date, stop your head from spinning out of control. If you let your imagination run away with you, then you will constantly be full of worry and despair.

Consider using a journal to become mindful of the harmful stream of words you repeat in your mind. What you say internally might be completely different than how you act and are perceived in the world. An emotionally intelligent person tries to align their inner reasonings with their external actions.

Along with putting your feelings into words, venting to someone and hearing the detrimental thoughts out loud can be a way of recognizing destructive patterns. Purging negativity will result in more joy and allow you to have control over your emotions.

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5. Seeing the Bigger Picture

Emotional intelligence also means being able to see beyond the present moment and visualizing the bigger picture. People with high emotional intelligence think through life adjustments and look down the line at how decisions might affect the future.

There are many ways to practice this skill in our daily lives. Before leaving a job, consider the risks and benefits. You might go online to explore other positions that are more in alignment with your purpose, or consider the salary and whether you will need additional schooling. If you are in a relationship and feel like it is no longer a good fit, then reflect on the bigger picture. Start by jotting down qualities you would love to have in your ideal partner. Moving on from that connection can lead to finding the person of your dreams.

Emotionally intelligent people can make life changes with confidence because they think through their actions. They are not as concerned with whether the grass will immediately be greener on the other side, but they recognize the value of carefully moving towards greater happiness and prosperity. Maintaining a broad perspective is an important emotional intelligence skill that will allow you to live a more fulfilling life.

6. Quick Processing Speed

Another important emotional intelligence skill is being able to not only quickly access your own emotions but other people’s emotions as well. This is essential because it helps you act effectively and with empathy towards others.

When someone shares their opinions, rather than blurting out the first thing that comes to mind, an emotionally intelligent person will make a rapid assessment of the other person’s perspective. To practice this skill, the next time you are speaking with someone, take a brief moment to consider who your audience is, any stress they might be under, and the purpose of the conversation. You will then be able to carry out a thoughtful discussion where you know what you say is landing on the other person in the right way.

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An emotionally intelligent person also figures out the best communication method. Sometimes, writing an email is more effective than talking about it in person. This will also strengthen your relationship with coworkers, friends, and family because you take time to quickly put yourself in their shoes before speaking. Quick processing speed will assist you in communicating more effectively.

Final Thoughts

Emotional intelligence is a concept that we can all work on for our entire lives. It allows you to lead a life that aligns with your true values. Once you begin the process of becoming more in tune with your emotions and thoughts, you will also find you are living at a higher vibration and carry out actions with intention. Challenge yourself to develop 2 or 3 of these skills in the coming months, and you will be proud of the personal growth that manifests.

More About Emotional Intelligence Skills

Featured photo credit: Caroline Veronez via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Positive Psychology: The Importance of Emotional Intelligence

More by this author

Nancy Solari

Nancy Solari is an accomplished CEO, life coach, and motivational speaker.

6 Most Important Emotional Intelligence Skills To Have 7 Ways To Expand Your Horizon And Push For New Frontiers How to Start Journaling for Self- Development (6 Simple Ways) How To Take Back Your Life When Things Get Out of Control How to Commit to Self-Development for Continuous Growth

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Published on April 9, 2021

What Is Mindfulness And How It Helps Your Mental Wellness

What Is Mindfulness And How It Helps Your Mental Wellness

Mindfulness has become a popular buzzword in the health and wellness industry. However, few people truly understand what it is. My aim here is to teach you what mindfulness is and how it helps your mental wellness. By the end of this article, you will understand the meaning and benefits of mindfulness. Additionally, you will develop the ability to integrate mindfulness into your daily life.

What Is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is approximately 2500-years-old with deep roots in the Eastern world as a spiritual, ethical, and philosophical practice. These roots are intimately connected to the Buddhist practice of vipassana meditation.[1]

Mindfulness continues to be practiced as a cultural and spiritual tradition in many parts of the world. For Buddhists, it offers an ethical and moral code of conduct. For many, mindfulness is more than a practice—it is a way of life.[2]

However, mindfulness has evolved in the Western world and has become a non-religious practice for wellbeing. The evolution began around 1979 when Jon-Kabat Zinn developed Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).[3] Since then, mindfulness has emerged in the health and wellness industry and continues to evolve.

It is important to recognize the distinctions between mindfulness as a clinical practice and mindfulness as a cultural practice. The focus of this article is on the clinical model of mindfulness developed in the West.

Many researchers have integrated aspects of Buddhism and mindfulness into clinical psychiatry and psychology. Buddhism has helped to inform many mental health theories and therapies. However, the ethical and moral codes of conduct that drive Buddhist practices are no longer integrated into the mindfulness practices most-often taught in the Western world.[4] Therefore, Western mindfulness is often a non-spiritual practice for mental wellness.

Mindfulness aims to cultivate present moment awareness both within the body and the environment.[5] However, awareness is only the first element. Non-judgmental acceptance of the present moment is essential for true mindfulness to occur. Thoughts and feelings are explored without an emphasis on right, wrong, past, or future.

The only necessary condition for mindfulness to occur is non-judgmental acceptance and awareness of the present moment. Mindfulness can be practiced by anyone, anywhere, and at any time. It does not need to be complex even though structured programs exist.

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How Mindfulness Helps Your Mental Wellness

Along with MBSR, other models have been developed and adapted for use by clinical counselors, psychologists, and therapists. These include Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT).[6]

Structured models of mindfulness allow researchers to study its benefits. Research has uncovered an abundance of benefits including mental, physical, cognitive, and spiritual. The following is not a comprehensive list of all its benefits, but it will begin to uncover how mindfulness helps mental wellness.

Benefits on Your Mental Health

Practicing mindfulness can have positive impacts on mental health. It has been positively associated with desirable traits, such as:

  • Autonomy
  • Agreeableness
  • Conscientiousness
  • Competence
  • Empathy
  • Optimism

Mindfulness helps to improve self-esteem, increase life satisfaction and enhance self-compassion. It is associated with pleasant emotions and mood. Overall, people who practice this appear to be happier and experience more joy in life. Not only does it increase happiness but it may also ward off negativity.

Mindfulness helps individuals to let go of negative thoughts and regulate emotions. For example, it may decrease fear, stress, worry, anger, and anxiety. It also helps to reduce rumination, which is a repetition of negative thoughts in the mind.

MBSR was originally designed to treat chronic pain. It has since evolved to include the treatment of anxiety and depression. Clinical studies have shown that MBSR is linked with:

  • Reduced chronic pain and improved quality of life
  • Decreased risk of relapse in depression
  • Reduced negative thinking in anxiety disorders
  • Prevention of major depressive disorders
  • Reducing substance-use frequency and cravings

However, more research is needed before these clinical studies can be generalized to the public. Nevertheless, there is promising evidence to suggest MBSR may be beneficial for mental health.[7]

Benefits on Your Cognitive Health

Mindfulness has many important benefits for cognitive health as well. In a study of college students, mindfulness increased performance in attention and persistence. Another study found that individuals who practice it have increased cognitive flexibility. A brain scan found increased thickness in areas of the brain related to attention, interception, and sensory processing.[8]

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To explain this another way, practicing mindfulness can improve the ability to shift from one task to the next, increase attention span and increase awareness of bodily sensations and the environment. Therefore, it has the potential to literally change your brain for the better.

Harvard researchers are also interested in studies of the brain and mindfulness. One researcher studied how brain changes are sustained even when individuals are not engaged in mindfulness. Their research suggests that its benefits extend beyond the moments of mindfulness.[9]

Another study found that the benefits of mindfulness training lasted up to five years. In this particular case, individuals participating in mindfulness activities showed increased attention-span. Mindfulness has also been shown to increase problem-solving and decrease mind wandering.[10]

What Is Mindfulness Meditation?

Mindfulness can be practiced in many different ways. However, most practices include these elements:

  • An object to focus awareness on (breath, body, thoughts, sounds)
  • Awareness of the present moment
  • Openness to experience whatever comes up
  • Acceptance that the mind will wander
  • The intention to return awareness to the object of focus whenever the mind wanders

A practice that encompasses these elements is typically called mindfulness meditation. Most mindfulness meditations will be practiced between 5 to 50 minutes, per day.[11]

There is truly no right or wrong way to practice mindfulness. Most mindfulness meditations are done seated with an object of focus related to the breath, body, thoughts, emotions, or sounds. However, daily activities such as walking or eating can be practiced as a form of mindfulness meditation, as long as the aforementioned elements are in place.

Four Mindfulness Meditations and Their Benefits

Not all forms of mindfulness are created equal. Each practice has unique goals, structure, and benefits. The following four mindfulness meditations are linked with improved mental wellness related to vitality, happiness, and attention.

The results come from a study designed to explore the benefits of these four practices. All of these stem from traditional Buddhist practices.[12]

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1. Loving-Kindness Meditation

Loving-kindness is a form of meditation that focuses on sending love and compassion to others. It may begin with kindness for the self and extend outward towards close family and friends, communities, nations, and the world. Loving-kindness may even involve sending love and compassion towards enemies.

The study found that eight-weeks of loving-kindness meditation increased feelings of closeness to others. However, it did not reduce negative feelings towards enemies. Additionally, one week of loving-kindness mixed with compassion training increased the amount of positive feelings participants experienced.[13]

2. Breathing Meditation

Breathing meditation is a practice where the focus remains on the breath. Whenever the mind begins to wander, the attention is brought back to the breath.

In many different mindfulness and yoga practices, specific breathing (pranayama) practices are taught. However, for beginners, simple diaphragmatic breathing that focuses on each inhale and exhale is sufficient.

The effects of breathing meditation relate to attention. Breathing meditation is linked to changes in the way information is processed. Buddhist monks who practiced breathing meditation were able to process a greater amount of information than monks who practiced compassion meditation.

3. Body Scan Meditation

A body scan is as simple as it sounds. Attention is brought to each part of the body. Participants can choose to start from the top of the head or the bottom of the feet. It can be helpful to imagine a warmth or a color spreading from one body part to the next as each part begins to relax.

When body scan and breathing are combined, there are many benefits. Interoceptive sensitivity is the mind’s ability to focus on bodily cues. It is strengthened by body scanning. Body scanning also helps with attention and focus.[14]

4. Observing Thoughts Meditation

In observing thoughts meditation, the focus is on the thoughts. This is an opportunity to practice non-judgmental observation. It is also a practice of non-attachment.

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Within the study, participants practiced structured observation of thoughts. First, they brought their attention to their thoughts and labeled them within several categories: past, present, future, self, or others. Then, they practiced observing their thoughts without an emotional reaction.[15]

The benefits of this practice were robust. First, participants showed great improvement in the ability to observe their thoughts without judgment. Second, the practice greatly reduced rumination. As a result, participants had fewer emotional reactions to their thoughts and developed greater self-awareness around their thinking patterns.

In summary, there are many different ways to practice mindfulness meditation. The choice may be determined by the benefits each practice offers. For example, body scanning can increase bodily awareness. Thought-observation can increase self-awareness and decrease rumination. Regardless, every practice may increase positivity, energy, and focus.[16]

Considerations Before You Begin Practicing Mindfulness

Mindfulness is still a relatively new concept in clinical research. Critics worry that its benefits have been overstated. There is also concern that the Western world has changed it into something most Buddhists would not recognize.[17]

Mindfulness is a state of mind that builds self-awareness. As a result, it may force individuals to face difficult emotions, memories, and thoughts. In a study of long-term, intense mindfulness practices, 60% of participants reported at least one negative outcome. Some cases are related to depression, anxiety, and psychosis.[18]

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to mental wellness. Mindfulness offering promising results but there are also risks involved. Working with a therapist may be a great way to start a mindfulness practice while monitoring for risk.

Final Thoughts

Mindfulness is a powerful practice that has deep roots in Buddhism. It is a practice of present-moment awareness, acceptance of the present moment, and non-judgment of thoughts, emotions, or circumstances.

It has many benefits that may increase mental wellness. However, there are also some risks to consider. Overall, you should consider your unique profile before beginning a practice or consider working with a therapist at the start.

More About Practicing Mindfulness

Featured photo credit: Simon Migaj via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] NCBI: A Perspective on the Similarities and Differences Between Mindfulness and Relaxation
[2] Sage Journals: Mindfulness in Cultural Context
[3] Greater Good Magazine: What is Mindfulness?
[4] Sage Journals: Mindfulness in Cultural Context
[5] Greater Good Magazine: The State of Mindfulness Science
[6] NCBI: Effects of Mindfulness on Psychological Health: A Review of Empirical Studies
[7] NCBI: Mindfulness Meditation and Psychopathology
[8] NCBI: Effects of Mindfulness on Psychological Health: A Review of Empirical Studies
[9] The Harvard Gazette: When Science Meets Mindfulness
[10] Greater Good Magazine: The State of Mindfulness Science
[11] NCBI: A Perspective on the Similarities and Differences Between Mindfulness and Relaxation
[12] ResearchGate: Phenomenological Fingerprints of Four Meditations: Differential State Changes in Affect, Mind-Wandering, Meta-Cognition, and Interoception Before and After Daily Practice Across Nine Months of Training
[13] ResearchGate: Phenomenological Fingerprints of Four Meditations: Differential State Changes in Affect, Mind-Wandering, Meta-Cognition, and Interoception Before and After Daily Practice Across Nine Months of Training
[14] ResearchGate: Phenomenological Fingerprints of Four Meditations: Differential State Changes in Affect, Mind-Wandering, Meta-Cognition, and Interoception Before and After Daily Practice Across Nine Months of Training
[15] ResearchGate: Phenomenological Fingerprints of Four Meditations: Differential State Changes in Affect, Mind-Wandering, Meta-Cognition, and Interoception Before and After Daily Practice Across Nine Months of Training
[16] Greater Good Magazine: How to Choose a Type of Mindfulness Meditation
[17] NCBI: Has the Science of Mindfulness Lost Its Mind?
[18] NCBI: Has the Science of Mindfulness Lost Its Mind?

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