How Mindfulness Can Grow Emotional Intelligence

mindfulness and emotional intelligence

One cannot be emotionally intelligent without mindfulness of one’s emotions. Without consistent emotional intelligence, happiness is a mirage in the desert, seen but never reached.

Like many skillsets, emotional intelligence (EI) can be cultivated. In the same way that intellectual intelligence is manifested through reading and learning, emotional intelligence can be fostered through a mindful existence.

If you want to extend your knowledge on how to professionally teach, coach, and increase emotional intelligence, be sure to check out the Emotional Intelligence Masterclass©.

What if emotions were resources instead of burdens? To dig into this, we first need to understand the three elements of EI.


The 3 Elements of Emotional Intelligence

Mayer, Roberts, and Barsade (2008) define emotional intelligence as “… the ability to carry out accurate reasoning about emotions and the ability to use emotions and emotional knowledge to enhance thought.”

In particular, emotional intelligence incorporates emotional awareness, emotional application, and emotional management. All three of these elements are essential to a foundation of emotional intelligence.


1. Emotional Awareness

Emotional awareness means being perceptive of the emotions you are experiencing, as well as those of people around you. It is the ability to notice these emotions without judgment or alteration (The Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations, 2015).

Emotionally aware individuals accept who they are because they understand that each person is different. Everyone handles their emotions uniquely. This kind of awareness leads to greater love and compassion for the self as well as the other (Di Fabio & Saklofske, 2021; Heffernan, Quinn Griffin, McNulty, & Fitzpatrick, 2010).

This is much more useful than reacting to anger or frustration with added anger.


2. Emotional application

Emotion Wheel
Emotion Wheel. Property of Creative Commons 2.0.

Emotional application implies that you utilize your emotions for your own benefit or to assist others. Rather than clogging your ability to think, maybe you apply your emotions to help you (Mayer & Salovey, 1997).

For example, perhaps you can identify rumination, self-loathing, and fear as negative thought patterns that contribute to stress and despair. Rather than wallowing or dismissing negative emotions like anger, you can acknowledge the negative emotion.

Maybe you can even “master” the emotion by figuring out the source.


3. Emotional management

Emotional management is the ability to regulate your emotions (Gross, 2015). This could mean that you reflect on how you are feeling throughout the day. Or maybe you try to be positive when possible, but you are not naïve to the fact that negative emotions are important sources of information too.

Overall, emotional management helps define an internal locus of control, especially when making decisions during stressful times (Hope, Wakefield, Northey, & Chapman, 2018).

In combination, the three elements are core parts of emotional intelligence.


Benefits of Emotional Intelligence

What if, instead of reacting to emotional impulses or letting your feelings govern your interactions, you could articulate and express yourself better? Or clarify your needs during times of stress, rather than snap at people trying to help?

“Why me?” could transform into the more helpful question, “Why I am experiencing this particular emotion now and what does it mean?”

Emotionally intelligent individuals experience more trust in their relationships. Trust is the reward that emotionally intelligent individuals earn for the time they spend observing, listening, and communicating mindfully with others.

They aim to understand others’ emotional reactions without judgment. Because of this,  people tend to see them as reliable because of their honest values (Christie, Jordan, & Troth, 2015).

People with EI are also skilled at detecting emotional distress in a partner, friend, colleague, child, parent, etc. They often possess high levels of resilience (Schneider, Lyons, & Khazonsee, 2013; see our article on EI for kids).

This makes sense: when situations get challenging, emotionally intelligent individuals remain steady because they value their emotions as sources of information that helps overcome adversity.

If assisting those around you, try not to force your own ideologies on them. Instead, foster a compassionate understanding of their emotional experience. Maybe you can empathize with others because you have experienced your own emotional pain; your pain and history can become a source of wisdom and strength to others.

Emotional intelligence takes time to develop. It is worth the time and can help you improve your most important relationships, as well as impact even the briefest daily interactions with the people around you.


How Mindfulness Breeds Emotional Intelligence

According to Peerayuth Charoensukmongkol (2014) in his paper Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation on Emotional Intelligence, General Self-Efficacy, and Perceived Stress, mindfulness meditation helps manifest emotional intelligence in three major ways:

  1. It improves your ability to comprehend your own emotions.
  2. It helps you learn how to recognize the emotions of other people around you.
  3. It strengthens your ability to govern and control your emotions.

He also notes that mindfulness improves a person’s ability to use their emotions effectively because it helps them determine which emotions are beneficial for certain activities.

Positive emotions might be valuable in many scenarios however there are some situations where negative emotions are more reliable (Charoensukmongkol, 2014).  If you have certain tasks you need to perform, utilizing mindfulness techniques can help you properly approach a task with the right frame of mind.


Applying Mindful Emotional Intelligence: A Short Example

Say you notice that you are experiencing negative emotions at a time when you need to be productive. Practicing mindfulness can help at that moment by making you aware of your current emotional state.

Perhaps at that moment being productive isn’t possible for you: your emotions are chaotic and you feel rattled. If you attempt to be productive at this time, your work output will most likely suffer and you might feel even more stressed.

Instead, you could pause from work (even briefly) and do an informal mindfulness practice to acknowledge your emotions. After a few mindful moments, you are more likely to apply and manage your emotions effectively, which will improve your productivity when you return to work.

Next time you notice your emotions causing havoc in your daily activities or disrupting your interactions with others, give mindfulness a chance.

You may be surprised at your responses, increased self-awareness, and a new sense of control.


A Take-Home Message

Emotional intelligence is a resourceful skill to develop in your life. It can help to ease relationships and provide a grounding element to emotional impulses.

The three elements of EI include emotional awareness, emotional application, and emotional management. Each one of these elements can elevate you to a new level of competence when dealing with your own and other’s emotional reactions.

Mindfulness is a powerful tool that creates space between an action and your reaction.

These practices develop EI by bringing awareness to your emotions and those of people around you. It can also help you to learn to apply and manage your emotions effectively through mindful thought and action.

Have you used mindfulness to regulate your own emotions before? Does your work environment offer any trainings on emotional management, and how so? We would love to hear from you in our comments section below.


Want to Know More?

We have several articles exploring emotional intelligence on our website. The following articles are a great place to start if you want more tangible practices:


  • Charoensukmongkol, P. (2014). Benefits of mindfulness meditation on emotional intelligence, general self-efficacy, and perceived stress: Evidence from Thailand. Journal of Spirituality in Mental Health16(3), 171-192.
  • Christie, A. M., Jordan, P. J., & Troth, A. C. (2015). Trust antecedents: Emotional intelligence and perceptions of others. International Journal of Organizational Analysis, 23(1), 89-101.
  • Di Fabio, A., & Saklofske, D. H. (2021). The relationship of compassion and self-compassion with personality and emotional intelligence. Personality and Individual Differences169, 1-9.
  • Gross, J. J. (2015). Emotion regulation: Current status and future prospects. Psychological Inquiry26(1), 1-26.
  • Heffernan, M., Quinn Griffin, M. T., McNulty, S. R., & Fitzpatrick, J. J. (2010). Self‐compassion and emotional intelligence in nurses. International Journal of Nursing Practice16(4), 366-373.
  • Hope, N. H., Wakefield, M. A., Northey, L., & Chapman, A. L. (2018). The association between locus of control, emotion regulation and borderline personality disorder features. Personality and Mental Health, 12(3), 241-251.
  • Mayer, J. D., Roberts, R. D., & Barsade, S. G. (2008). Human abilities: Emotional intelligence. Annual Review of Psychology59, 507-536.
  • Mayer, J. D., & Salovey, P. (1997). What is emotional intelligence? In P. Salovey & D. Sluyter (Eds.), Emotional development and emotional intelligence educational implications (pp. 3-31). Basic Books.
  • Schneider, T. R., Lyons, J. B., & Khazon, S. (2013). Emotional intelligence and resilience. Personality and Individual Differences55(8), 909-914.
  • The Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations. (2015). The emotional competence framework. Retrieved from

About the Author

Mike Oppland, BA, MBA, is a professional basketball player, basketball coach, Kindergarten teaching assistant, Physical Education teacher, and English teacher. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Management from Calumet College of Saint Joseph and an MBA in Sports Business from Saint Leo University.


  1. dilipp naik

    eye opening article , highly informative and practicle

  2. Malika

    Can emotional intelligence tool help to improve emotional intelligence?

    • Mike Oppland

      Hi Malika. Thank you for your question. I apologize for my late response. Which emotional intelligence tool are you referring to specifically?

  3. anjali

    This is very helpful! Thanks! I am a very emotional person and I would say I am the type who tries to control/suppress the feeling in order to make the situation less complicated. I didn’t know that there are few ways. All I ever knew was to express it or just control it (well sometimes it’s more of hide it, for me).

    • Mike Oppland

      Hello Anjali. I apologize my reply is so late. I am glad the article inspired you to unveil your bottled up emotions. I’m similarly good at suppressing emotions, but they have to come out at some point. This usually occurs as an explosion of negative emotional reactions towards a loved one. The sooner you deal with these emotions the more equipped you are at making rational decisions instead of negative reactions. Thanks again.

  4. Suzanne Tucker

    Mike, You have important life’s work. Thank you for your insights and the compassion and empathy you modeled in replying to the comment above. For truly, more than with our words…we teach by example. I’ll be following your life-giving work and look forward to checking out your YouTube channel!

    • Mike Oppland

      Hi Suzanne. First and foremost, I apologize my response is so late. I don’t have a good excuse for not responding to your thoughtful comment earlier so I won’t waste your time with that. I hope you are doing well on your life’s journey. Again, thank you so much for taking the time to read. I am very humbled that you enjoyed the article so much. All the best.

  5. Marlene Davie

    I enjoyed this article. I have had my own experience within a marriage of opposites. My spouse had the nerve to hold my life in his grasp by fear induced relations. My spouse’s family of origin are accepting to the stories told to demean my goodness. Having been derailed from living whole my life was chaotic. When growth did occur my spouse continued to pull the rug out from under me and enjoyed shaking up my footing. It took me many years having no system of support befor I recognized the reality of my discomfort. I was on the telephone with suicide prevention and limy despair was magnified. I described the things happening to me to the woman on the hotline. She informed me that I had crazyman disease. I said I have what? She replied honey you have crazy man disease. Oh my God. I had been so naive and trusted this person spouse that I became his projection. Oh. Thanks be to me for as a survivor of this type of extreme trauma that often gives only darkness and death unto the spirit and sense of self. Love is strong. I believe love wins and those who deny what is real in any individual’s personal life are disposed to repeat the trauma and result living life unconsciously devoted to themselves. Thanks for the read. ❤️ Marlene

    • Mike Oppland

      Hi Marlene. Thanks for your comment. I am sorry you had to go through so many issues in your relationship, but it sounds like you have learned from the experience. I hope you are doing well. Thanks again for reading. Glad you enjoyed the article. Have a wonderful day!


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