Mindfulness is Associated with Higher Emotional Intelligence

Mindfulness is Associated with Higher Emotional Intelligence


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


Mindful emotion regulation represents the capacity to remain mindfully aware at all times, irrespective of the apparent valence or magnitude of any emotion that is experienced. It does not entail suppression of the emotional experience, nor any specific attempts to reappraise or alter it in any way. Instead, MM involves a systematic retraining of awareness and nonreactivity, leading to defusion from whatever is experienced, and allowing the individual to more consciously choose those thoughts, emotions and sensations they will identify with, rather than habitually reacting to them. In this way, it erodes the automatic process of appraisal that gives rise to disturbing emotions in the first place” – Richard Chambers


Mindfulness practice has been shown to improve emotion regulation. Practitioners demonstrate the ability to fully sense and experience emotions, but respond to them in more appropriate and adaptive ways. In other words, mindful people are better able to experience yet control their responses to emotions. This is a very important consequence of mindfulness. Humans are very emotional creatures and these emotions can be very pleasant, providing the spice of life. But when they get extreme, they can produce misery and even mental illness. The ability of mindfulness training to improve emotion regulation is thought to be the basis for a wide variety of benefits that mindfulness provides to mental health and the treatment of mental illness especially depression and anxiety disorders.


Adolescence should be a time of mental, physical, social, and emotional growth. But adolescence can be a difficult time, fraught with challenges. During this time the child transitions to young adulthood; including the development of intellectual, psychological, emotional, physical, and social abilities and characteristics. There are so many changes occurring during this time that the child can feel overwhelmed and unable to cope with all that is required. Making these profound changes successfully requires a good deal or flexibility, adapting and changing with the physical, psychological, and social changes of adolescence and particularly to regulating the extreme fluctuations of emotions occurring during this time.


Hence, developing mindfulness and emotional regulation is important especially during adolescence. In today’s Research News article “Emotional Intelligence and Mindfulness: Relation and Enhancement in the Classroom With Adolescents.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02162/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_830687_69_Psycho_20181120_arts_A ), Rodríguez-Ledo and colleagues examine the relationship between emotional intelligence and mindfulness in adolescent school students, aged 11 to 14 years. They were randomly assigned to receive either 9 months of once a week for 55 minutes mindfulness, attention, and emotional intelligence training or no training. The students were measured before and after training for emotional intelligence, emotional development, socialization, empathy, and mindfulness. The mindfulness measure included scales of kinesthetic, internal, and external mindfulness. Kinesthetic mindfulness was paying attention to movements, internal mindfulness was paying attention to mental and emotional states, while external mindfulness was paying attention to stimuli outside of the individual.


Examining the pretest measures they found that the higher the levels of mindfulness the higher the levels of emotional development, emotional intelligence, empathy, and self-control in social situations. The relationships with emotional development and emotional intelligence were especially strong for kinesthetic and internal mindfulness suggesting that the ability to attend to internal states is particularly important for understand and regulating their own emotions. The relationships with empathy was especially strong for external and internal mindfulness suggesting that the ability to attend to the environment and the internal state are particularly important for understanding others emotions. Finally, they found that the mindfulness training significantly increased kinesthetic and internal mindfulness.


These results are interesting and suggests that mindfulness training is effective in making school children more sensitive to their internal states and not to the external environment. Attention to these internal states appears to be related to emotional intelligence. So, adolescents can be trained in mindfulness of their internal milieu and this is related to their emotional intelligence. This makes sense as emotions are changes in internal states and the first step in regulating them is to become aware of them.


Since adolescence is a time of emotional upheaval, these skills may be particularly important for the navigation of this difficult time of development. It remains for future research to determine if mindfulness training of adolescents can have long lasting effects on their ability to regulate their emotions and successfully transition to adulthood.


“The appearance of things change according to the emotions and thus we see magic and beauty in them, while the magic and beauty are really in ourselves.” – Kahlil Gibran


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


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Study Summary


Rodríguez-Ledo C, Orejudo S, Cardoso MJ, Balaguer Á and Zarza-Alzugaray J (2018) Emotional Intelligence and Mindfulness: Relation and Enhancement in the Classroom With Adolescents. Front. Psychol. 9:2162. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02162


Emotional intelligence (EI) and mindfulness are two constructs that have been separately studied, and the relation between them still remains unclear. Research in this area has not attempted to go further into how enhancing EI and mindfulness together can achieve better improvements in this ability to attend mindfully. To bridge this knowledge gap, our research goal was to study the relationship between EI and the mindfulness competence in our study sample and to assess the impact of implementing EI and a mindfulness competence developmental program (SEA) about participants’ mindfulness competence. The sample consisted of 156 students aged 11–14 years old from a Spanish public high school. One hundred and eight participants were randomly assigned to the experimental condition, and the remaining 48 were to the control condition. The instruments used to evaluate EI were the CDE-SEC, EQi-Youth Version and the General Empathy Scale. Mindfulness on the School Scope Scale was used to assess mindfulness competences. Social adaptation was evaluated by using the social abilities and adjustment questionnaire BAS3. All the instruments where answered by the participants and have been adapted to a sample of youths with such age specifications. The results showed that EI and mindfulness were related to many of the variables measured by the instruments. Showing a good mindfulness competence was particularly related to having a good general level of the EI trait, and to many of the assessed social and emotional variables. The data indicated a significant relation between the mindfulness competence and having better general empathy skills or being better socially adjusted to the school context. The data also indicated a significant effect on participants’ interior and kinesthetic mindfulness competence after implementing the SEA Program. These findings corroborate the relationship between EI and mindfulness, and the possibility of enhancing mindfulness by applying a direct intervention program in the classroom.



One thought on “Mindfulness is Associated with Higher Emotional Intelligence

  1. On Emotion and Mindfulness

    Presented here for your consideration is a new and quite radical explanation of mindfulness from the perspective of affective neuroscience, or more specifically, a neurologically grounded theory of incentive motivation. The explanation is simple, easily falsifiable, and its procedural entailment redefines the practice of mindfulness. Still, it may be wrong. Indeed, a bad theory must not overstay its welcome, and although I provide a granular explanation of my hypothesis in the treatise linked below, sometimes to see the light one must look at the sun.

    In 1984, the psychologist David Holmes published in the journal ‘The American Psychologist’ a review (linked below) of the cumulative research on meditation and concluded that meditative states were merely resting. The article was roundly criticized, as meditation was obviously much more than a simple state of rest. Well, the critics were half right, meditation is rest, but rest is NOT simple. Indeed, rest induces a pleasurable or affective state which can be modulated in turn by the moment to moment expectancies that tell you where you are and where you are going. Indeed, contrary to what mindfulness suggests, being in the moment is impossible, for we must always consciously or non-consciously decide upon the direction or meaning of our actions from moment to moment, and this translates into effective and affective outcomes. These concepts can easily be anchored to the facts of behavior and translated into simple validating procedure, as I argue below.

    In affective neuroscience, incentives embody affective states that reflect attentive arousal as mediated by dopamine systems, and pleasure, as mediated by opioid systems. The nerve cells or nuclei of both systems are proximally located in the mid-brain and can activate each other. For example, looking forward to a pleasure accentuates the pleasure, and a pleasurable experience perks up attentive arousal. In addition, opioid and dopamine release scales with the intensity or salience of the eliciting stimulus, as pleasure rises with tastier foods, and attentive arousal spikes when we view an unexpected vista or challenge.

    Dopamine release can occur as a phasic or intermittent response, as when our attention ebbs and flows as a function or our momentary fluctuating interest and boredom. It also occurs as a tonic or sustained response in order to maintain a baseline level of alertness that allows us to go about our lives. Similarly, opioid release occurs as a phasic response when we sample our daily pleasures, and it also may be a tonic response, but only when the covert musculature is in an inactive or relaxed state. When an individual is tense or anxious, tonic opioid activity is suppressed. This makes evolutionary sense, as resting conserves an animal’s caloric resources, and animals in the wild sustain their survivability through the dual incentive of alertness for predators while at a pleasurable state of rest. (as your lounging cat would attest, if it could speak)

    From these facts, certain predictions about behavior may be made that conform with empiric reality. For example, peak or flow experiences that reflect heightened attentive arousal and pleasure only occur when an individual is both relaxed and is aroused by behavior that entails highly positive moment to moment meaningful outcomes (e.g. creativity, sporting events). Dopamine in turn stimulates opioid activity, and the enhanced dopamine/opioid interaction results in an ecstatic or peak experience.

    This observation can also be practically confirmed (or falsified!). Simply elicit a continuous resting state through a mindfulness procedure and couple it with imminent behavior that has important or meaningful outcomes, and the more meaningful, the greater the affect. The underscores the fact that as a resting protocol, mindfulness will elicit a pleasurable state which will scale with the salience of momentary outcomes that in turn can be easily arranged. Mindfulness in other words is not a steady affective state, but a variable affective state, and can be a mystical or peak experience, or just a mildly pleasant way of chilling out. It all depends upon what you are looking forward to imminently do.

    For a more detailed explanation see pp.47-52, 82-86 on the linked treatise on the psychology of resting states.

    Holmes Article

    The Psychology of Rest


    New Orleans

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