How meditation can boost your emotional intelligence

Woman meditating

As people try to move toward an overall wellbeing instead of thinking of health as purely physical, mindfulness and meditation are becoming more and more popular for their holistic benefits.

Woman meditating in the lotus position closeupAside from reducing stress, and improving memory and focus, it can also boost your emotional intelligence.

What is emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence has to do with how aware you are of your emotions, your ability to control them, and how you communicate them to others. It also involves identifying others’ emotions and acting with compassion and empathy.

How can meditation help me learn to be more emotionally intelligent?

Although it’s a bit uncertain how meditation increases emotional intelligence, the American Psychological Association explains some of the ways it might help:

During meditation, you practise focusing your attention. If you learn to focus, you can stop dwelling on other things in your life or your past, so it is less likely to cloud your judgment.

Many people react badly when they’re stressed. Your emotions can get the better of you. However, numerous studies show meditation reduces stress and anxiety. By practising calmness through meditation, you train your body and mind to maintain that sense of peacefulness, so when truly stressful situations arise, you’re better able to handle them.

Meditation activates brain regions that help people recover from stressful situations more quickly so they can get back to an emotional equilibrium.

There are many distractions in life – for beginners, even the sounds in your surroundings can distract you during meditation. Over time, however, you learn to let those outside influences, and even your wandering thoughts, pass without judging them. This can help develop empathy since you’re essentially training yourself not to pass judgment.

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Types of meditation

There are many types of meditation, so it can be hard to know which one to choose. Luckily, they all aim to direct your attention and focus your thoughts on the present. This means any one of these meditation methods will help you achieve greater emotional intelligence.

Vipassana meditationSometimes called insight meditation, Vipassana meditation helps people see things in the true reality. To better understand reality, you need to practice mindfulness. In this type of meditation, most practitioners focus on the breath first, noticing how your abdomen moves with each breath and your lungs fill.

As sensations, feelings and thoughts arise, notice them and let them go without dwelling on them or judging yourself. You can also start to identify them with certain senses – if you hear a noise, think “hearing” instead of focusing on the object that caused the sound. Similarly, if thoughts arise you can identify them as “thinking” and move your attention back to your breath.

Loving Kindness or Metta meditation. This type of meditation strives to develop empathy and understanding. As the name implies, practitioners focus their energy on cultivating love. Although there are variations, meditation follows a progressive cycle:

  • Meditate on love for yourself
  • Someone you love, such as a close friend or family member
  • An acquaintance or more neutral person
  • Someone you do not particularly like or may even dislike
  • All living and non-living things – the universe

Mantra meditation. Instead of focusing on breathing or people, mantra meditation draws your attention to a specific phrase, which you can think of again and again or speak. Spoken, vibrations, and sound become very important, helping to disengage from distractions and connect to the universe.

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Kundalini meditationKundalini meditation is an eclectic and often complex practice that involves chanting, breathing techniques, mantras, and certain hand movements or placements called mudras. The idea behind all of these practices is to tap into energy located in your spine. Once you access the energy, you gain enlightenment.

Guided meditationAlthough a broad category, guided meditation appeals to many beginners who have trouble focusing on their own. Trying to meditate for the first time sometimes seems impossible. Guided meditation can directly help remind you to draw your focus to your breathing, coax you into a calm state, or ask you to recognise certain sensations in your body. This can help set a positive pattern before you start delving into the meditation on your own.

To increase emotional intelligence, the most important thing is to cultivate a sense of present awareness free from distractions and practise regularly. There isn’t necessarily a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way. Just try out the different types of meditation to see which one works best for you.

About Annie Lizstan

I work as a health and beauty consultant for online websites and am an independent researcher by profession. I studied at the University of Arizona and live in Wasilla, Alaska. I always like to explore ideas about health, fitness and beauty, and have recently had the opportunity to explore joint pain relief.