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Emotional Intelligence Hobbies

Emotional intelligence and hobbies

As emotional creatures, our emotional intelligence is essential. Hobbies can help us practice our emotional intelligence, and enhance it through mindfulness.

What is emotional intelligence?

Emotional intelligence is defined as the ability to understand and manage your emotions, as well as recognize and influence the emotions of those around you.

Emotional Intelligence in Leadership: Why It’s Important | Harvard Business School

Can emotional intelligence be improved?

An article in Scientific American titled ‘Can Adults Improve Their Emotional Intelligence?’ quotes John D. Mayer, professor of psychology at the University of New Hampshire, who concludes:

A cautious answer is that psychologists still are not sure whether adults can enhance their emotional intelligence.

Mayer explains:

Psychologists view intelligence as mental capacities. Demonstrating an increase in a person’s potential to learn something is very difficult, which is why we do not know whether emotional intelligence can improve.

Can Adults Improve Their Emotional Intelligence? – Scientific American

The efforts Mayer describes might be misguided.

First of all, Mayer describes an attempt to assess one type of intelligence – emotional – with tools made by and for another type of intelligence – logical-mathematical.

No wonder the effort is fruitless.

Mayers also assumes the only way of improving a skill is by learning it. This might not be the case.

Is it worth improving our emotional functioning?

Mayer also asks “Is it worth improving our emotional functioning?”.

His answer is:

Individuals can find success in many ways and may not feel the need to improve emotional intelligence.

In other words, according to Mayer, “No, it isn’t necessarily worth improving emotional functioning”.

Mayer continues:

Rather we have uncovered more modest benefits, namely that greater emotional intelligence can improve relationships and happiness over time.

Can Adults Improve Their Emotional Intelligence? – Scientific American

When someone describes ‘improved happiness over time’ as a modest, non-essential benefit, some might claim that this person is misdirected. Some might also find it disturbing when that person happens to be a psychologist.

It’s not Mayer’s fault though, that’s only a symptom of a much greater Western catastrophe: we tend to perceive ourselves first of all as logical, rational creatures, and assess ourselves by materialistic success, derived from our logic and reason.

This perspective is wrong.

Human beings are first and foremost emotional creatures

By nature, human beings are first and foremost emotional creatures. We are motivated and activated by emotions. Emotions are the drivers of our behaviours as they automatically tell us what is important or unimportant. Our value system is made up of a hierarchy of emotionally created sensations that rank what is important to us.

Human Beings Are First and Foremost Emotional Creatures | Psychreg

Consciously or not, everything we do, everything we are, is emotional.

If we feel nothing towards something, we have no reason to engage with it.

Asking again: is it worth improving our emotional functioning?

When asking again, from this new “humans are emotional creatures” perspective, “Is it worth improving our emotional functioning?” the answer is a resounding ‘YES’.

In fact, it’s the first thing worth doing, as through improving our emotional intelligence we can improve any other aspect of our lives.

Asking again: can we improve our emotional intelligence?

As mentioned before, Mayer concludes that “psychologists still are not sure whether adults can enhance their emotional intelligence”.

There are, in fact, studies that show that emotional intelligence can be improved with practice. But anyway, Mayer might be approaching the question from the wrong angle.

Mayer assumes improvement comes from learning or, more generally put, from an addition of something. But, in fact, improvement can also be the result of subtraction. And this might be the case with emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence and mindfulness

As emotional intelligence is about effectively dealing with emotions, ours and others, it requires emotional availability.

Unfortunately, most of us, most of the time, whether we are aware of it or not, are at emotional capacity. Our minds are too occupied to effectively deal with our own emotions, let alone those of others. We just don’t have the emotional resources available.

In this state, most of our emotional reactions are reflexive. This involuntary, automatic behavior often leads to suboptimal results.

Our minds are full. In order to better deal with emotions we need to free up headspace, and that’s what mindfulness is about.

Emotional intelligence in general was shown to increase significantly after practicing mindfulness, as did the perception and expression of emotions, and emotional regulation.

The Relationship between Mindfulness and Emotional Intelligence as a Protective Factor for Healthcare Professionals: Systematic Review | MDPI

For this reason, the Harvard Business Review has dedicated a whole book to mindfulness in its Emotional Intelligence Series.

Hobbies can help us become more mindful, and improve our emotional intelligence

Pursuing a new hobby is a great way to improve our emotional intelligence.

Most, if not all, hobbies can help us become more mindful, as they can help us relax, get a sense of meaning, and improve self-confidence.

This page lists hobbies that especially require emotional intelligence to be pursued successfully and enjoyably.

Explore all hobbies →