The mind is a tool that should be at our service and not against us, something that can be worked with simple techniques and that may improve our emotional intelligence.
Many people think that mindfulness is about relaxing or just clearing the mind - its purpose is simply about noticing how we are in the moment.
The times we live in are marked by a great paradox. If, on the one hand, we have an immensity of information available on how to take better care of our health and live consciously, on the other hand, we have the hustle and bustle of everyday life and our schedules are always too full.
More and more people know or have read about mindfulness and its benefits, and the same goes for emotional intelligence. However, finding the time or energy to put this knowledge into practice is a whole other challenge.
The truth, and what all mindfulness practitioners verify, is that making these practices a part of our routine brings us more energy, better time management and greater life satisfaction.
How, then, can one get to this and put it into practice? This post will encourage this move through simple tips and intuitive tools. But first, let's recap a few concepts.
Emotional Intelligence and Self-regulation
Starting with emotional intelligence – what's it about and how can it be useful to us?
Our intelligence is composed of several abilities, from processing the information around us to making decisions, allowing us to be in balance and live life to the fullest.
Emotional intelligence is the set of abilities that allow us to be aware of our emotions, understand and regulate them. It also helps us understand others' emotions and the impact that our way of expressing has on them, thus contributing to the well-being of our relationships.
“The emotional brain responds to an event more quickly than the thinking brain." Daniel Goleman
We are primarily emotional beings, and our brains show it. Emotions are like an inner compass that tells us where the balance is and what's good or bad for us.
They're our first way of regulating ourselves, since we're babies, preceding thought and language. Therefore, they play a leading role in our brains, with an entire central region dedicated to their processing, connected to all other brain regions.
Emotions encourage us to act through impulses that move our bodies and influence our behavior. Sometimes they're uncomfortable and therefore considered unwelcome. However, they're crucial for us to get back to our balance.
Therefore, it is important to be aware of them and what they may be trying to tell us. The ability to pause and observe what is going on inside us is what allows us to regulate ourselves, and this leads us to mindfulness.
An increasingly common word in our communication – what does it actually mean?
The word “mindfulness” means complete awareness, a conscious presence, a way of being that translates into a knowledge of oneself. In practice, it consists of a meditation technique developed by the ancient Eastern that invites us to look within and become aware of how we are.
“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally." Jon Kabat-Zinn
Regardless of its origin, mindfulness has no esoteric or religious roots. In fact, it is currently the Eastern discipline that is most studied by Western science, having demonstrated numerous benefits for our health and well-being.
Its set of practices allows us to strengthen the mind through the ability to manage attention. After all, attention is like a muscle and, like any muscle, it needs to be trained.
Our mind tends to wander, it's in its nature to jump from one thought to another, helping us to process what is going on around us. However, when it takes on an uncontrollable rhythm or a negative disposition, it doesn't help us at all. In these moments, becoming aware of the flow of thought and redirecting attention can make a difference.
The mind is a tool that must be at our service and not against us, a function that we must know how to use wisely – which implies being aware of both its rhythm and content and whether it is helping us or, on the contrary, draining us.
Then, the invitation of this practice is precisely a conscious pause to look inside and observe how we are, at that very moment, without judging what is happening within. If the mind wanders, we bring our attention back to the present, to our body, to our breath, to our emotions.
Putting the Peaces Together
What happens if you close your eyes and ask yourself how you are, right now? Observe the present sensations, without labeling them as good or bad, just feeling them as they are.
How is it to feel your body, from the sensations in your feet touching the floor or the inside of your shoes, to your hands, to your facial muscles? What about the way you're breathing, from the sensation of the air passing through your nostrils, filling your chest and abdominal area?
Allow yourself to feel for a moment.
The same quality of attention can be directed to emotions: what do you feel right now? Joy, frustration, enthusiasm, agitation... And being able to observe how emotions succeed each other, each giving way to another other, influencing our entire body.
Every time we experience an emotional change, at least 1400 biochemical reactions occur within the body instantly – influencing heart rate, digestion, immunity, posture and even motivation, among many other aspects.
What if this change is conscious?
By taking breaks like this throughout the day, you will find that there is a feeling for every moment, from the moment we wake up, and that every event of the day generates an emotional state.
You will then be able to notice the impact of these emotional reactions on your life and well-being. Further, you can shift your attention and consciously influence your overall state – of spirit, mind and body.
“Mindful meditation has been discovered to foster the ability to inhibit those very quick emotional impulses." Daniel Goleman
Paying attention to this continuous experience nourishes a conscious posture. The wisdom that generates from this posture allows us to know where our emotions come from, how they manifest in our bodies, what thoughts are associated with them and in what way they encourage us to act.
Research has shown that mindfulness practice contributes to a higher index of emotional intelligence. Specific components of this practice such as acting with awareness and non-judging are the base of this relationship.
Acting with awareness seems simple, though only regular practice shows us how often we act on autopilot or on impulse - and it's exactly the practice that brings us more awareness and intentionality over our impulses.
Non-judgment also requires disciplined practice, going against the current in the deep waters that are our core beliefs. There's a lot to unlearn so that we can develop positive and healthy perspectives about ourselves and others.
Research also tells us about the "quiet ego", a self-concept based on balance and growth, which is positively correlated with emotional intelligence, and is sustained by a mindful posture.
This level of consciousness offers us a moment between feeling and acting, a moment in which we learn more about ourselves. This can give us the freedom to choose how we react to something, or to work towards that choice. It also allows us to look for more balanced ways of expressing ourselves or regulating ourselves – responses chosen by us, according to our internal compass.
If you're interested in bringing awareness to your daily life or integrating mindfulness practice into your therapeutic process, please get in touch.
Check other posts related to mindfulness on Instagram and learn a bit more:
Goleman, D. (1995). Emotional Intelligence. Bantam Books.
Goleman, D. (2019). The Emotionally Intelligent Leader. Harvard Business Review Press.
Kabat-Zin, J. (2004). Wherever You Go, There You Are. Piatkus Books.
Williams, M. & Penman, D. (2014). Mindfulness – An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World. Rodale Incorporated.
Jacobs, I., Wollny, A., Sim, C., & Horsch, A. (2016). Mindfulness facets, trait emotional intelligence, emotional distress, and multiple health behaviors: A serial two-mediator model. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 57, 207–214.
Liu, G., Isbell, L., & Lender, B. (2020). Quiet Ego and Subjective Well‑Being: The Role of Emotional Intelligence and Mindfulness. Journal of Happiness Studies, 22, 2599–2619.