Emotional intelligence is a skill that can help change the way you view yourself and how well you communicate with others. Emotional intelligence (EI) is based on intrapersonal and interpersonal components. It considers your personal and social competence.

First, it involves simply being aware of your emotions and then having the ability to self regulate your emotions so that you can deal with them in appropriate and helpful ways.

Second, it involves recognizing emotions in others and the empathy you are able to experience as a result. When you are able to recognize the emotions of others, you are more equipped to adapt how you communicate and garner better relationships and outcomes.

Unlike IQ, which is basically inborn or crystallized, Emotional Intelligence is malleable — you can improve it. How is that possible? In a nutshell, when you experience an emotion and chances are you experience up to 400 per day, the brain senses the emotion at the base of the brain. Neurons travel across your brain through your limbic system, the ancient part of your brain, and then onto your prefrontal cortex, or the thinking/rational part of your brain.

The more you’re able to create a strong pathway between your amygdala in the limbic system and your prefrontal cortex, the better you will be able to master your emotions. When you’re able to master an emotion, you make better decisions in every aspect of your life because you don’t let emotions determine unhealthy and unwelcome reactions.

Emotional intelligence is a foundational skill. We experience emotions first and then react based on how well the neural-pathways are connecting between the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex. 

Dr. Travis Bradberry, an expert on Emotional Intelligence, writes that there are 3 silver bullets to improve EI:

  1. Get your stress under control. Research shows that intermittent stress can be beneficial to peak performance, but prolonged stress can result in the degeneration of self control. Keep your stress level intermittent and consider practicing an attitude of gratitude to avoid chronic stress. Take a walk, take frequent breaks and journal daily what comes to mind that makes you grateful.

  2. Clean up your sleep regime. When we are awake, toxic proteins build up in our brain. We need the necessary stages of sleep in order for the brain to remove these toxic proteins. Limit or avoid screen time (blue wavelength light) because it confuses the brain and halts melatonin production.
  3. Limit your caffeine intake. Caffeine stays in your system for up to 6 hours so avoid drinking caffeinated products in the afternoon so that you give your body a chance to metabolically move into the stage of sleep readiness naturally.

There is much yet to discover about the brain, and while the research on EI has been around for a few decades, I believe there is much more we can learn about neuroplasticity. Dr. Bradberry’s 3 ‘silver bullet’ suggestions have proven helpful for me and I hope you will test them out to see if they make a positive difference in your life too.