Mindfulness in Relationships

Have you ever had a conversation with someone you love that turned into an argument and wound up spiraling into a screaming match? We may not want to admit it but sometimes our emotions can escalate so quickly, we lose sight of the big picture and don’t respond in the way we would prefer. In those moments, mindfulness skills can feel like a super power. When you get skilled at being mindful you learn how to press pause internally, observe the scene and choose a response instead of reacting mindlessly. Perhaps even opting to remain silent instead of blurting out something you would later regret.

Mindfulness isn’t about denying or burying your emotions. It simply helps you cultivate a different relationship to them. With practice, you choose to observe your feelings and experiences in real time without judgment. Internally, you remain neutral. This creates a space between whatever is happening and your reaction. Mindfulness brings awareness, insight, compassion and choice to your communications. You are more likely to talk things out instead of make matters worse during moments of conflict. Being mindful helps you feel more centered, calm and connected to your internal power. It builds up emotional intelligence which helps you remain steady when situations get challenging,

Being mindful helps build more positive relationships. And good relationships often help us succeed, grow and become better human beings. Whether it is relationships at work, with friends, family members or a spouse, when you know yourself and manage yourself mindfully, you become stronger. You are more able to listen with curiosity and communicate with an open heart and an open mind.

Mindfulness helps relationships thrive.

There are so many ways to be mindful in relationships. Here are a few suggestions.

  • Practice focusing on what you like about the other person. See the good in them and use imagery (visualize it) to strengthen those feelings. Small things count. When you feel appreciation toward another person it fosters a deeper and closer relationship. Being appreciated is a beautiful part of any relationship.
  • Be kind. Kindness is like a magnet. People like to be around others who are kind because they feel cared about and safe with them.
  • Be interested. Use eye contact and small physical touches when appropriate. Giving someone your full attention builds trust and respect. Whenever we feel listened to it creates a stronger connection.
  • Share your gratitude. Research studies have shown that gratitude practiced in intimate relationships increases connection and satisfaction that even extends into the next day for both the giver and the receiver.[1] Humans are motivated by reciprocity. Whenever we receive a compliment we often want to pay it back. And expressing gratitude helps train your mind to see what’s right over what is wrong.
  • Notice new things about the person you care about. It creates newness in your feelings. The more interesting things you notice the more energized you become.
  • Avoid saying, “you always, or you never” when arguing. You will likely be proven wrong and it allows the past to invade the present. Living in the present is a better way to manage your relationships.

Relationships test us in many ways, redefining how we see ourselves and the world around us. Mindful relationships promote an open, accepting attitude that allows us to feel more compassionate toward ourselves and others. Mindfulness even changes the brain. The insula, an area in the brain associated with emotional awareness and empathy gets developed each time you are mindful.[2]

Present moment awareness supports mindfulness.

There is newness in every moment and present moment awareness helps you become alert to it. It’s like having a reset option always available. When you manage the present moment well, life gets better.

You might enjoy rewatching the 1990’s romantic comedy Groundhog Day with an eye toward the story’s subtle, spiritual messages. Bill Murray’s character Phil learns how to be mindful the hard way. Trapped in a time loop and in his own despair, doomed to spend the rest of eternity in the same place he despises, seeing the same people doing the same things over and over again, the cynical and obnoxious weatherman goes crazy, gives up and even commits suicide repeatedly. It is tragic and hilarious. It takes time but eventually, Phil learns how to accept his life as it is. He works hard to fine tune each day and makes the most of each moment. He becomes mindful. With each repeated encounter he moves toward kindness, generosity and connection, appreciating all his relationships as he develops into a better human being. Like in so many fables, Phil learns his spiritual lesson and the cursed time loop lifts. Sonny & Cher’s “I Got you Babe” doesn’t play on his alarm clock radio as he awakens and he and Andie McDowell’s character Rita, live happily ever after in Punxsutawney, PA. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OyBSrBqogPY)

Mindfulness and Meditation

Mindfulness skills can be learned. Meditating is one way to get better at being mindful. Meditating trains you to observe your breath. You notice every time a thought interrupts. Noticing is an important skill for mindfulness. Notice what is going through your mind, what your body is feeling, what is in your surroundings without judging it. Noticing can be extremely powerful. Noticing without judgment leads to awareness and awareness leads to mindfulness.  Meditating improves your focusing skills too. When your relationships need attention the ability to focus is vital. Meditating helps you develop a more accepting attitude towards experiences in general, even toward your own and other people’s shortcomings. When you live mindfully and more fully in all your relationships, life gets better and it becomes easier to appreciate the beauty and blessings you already have in your life.

[1] https://www.researchgate.net/publication/337114460_The_Reciprocal_Relationship_Between_Gratitude_and_Life_Satisfaction_Evidence_From_Two_Longitudinal_Field_Studies

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6753170/