Like every part of our lives, our loving relationships are subject to the ebb and flow of life. And in that process, there’s always room for stronger, deeper experiences. Some partners are open and eager to grow in sync, while other partnerships find their need for growth at odds. In either case, where love, respect, and life goals are stable, it could be our approach that helps with long-lasting mutual satisfaction. Read more about mindfulness in relationships and how mindfulness can affect every other area of your life.
Despite the diluted household meaning of mindfulness, the fuller extent is significant to our relationships. Being mindful of the time or the money we spend are common references to awareness. But being mindful of the people that we often take for granted can have lasting positive results.
Mindfulness is the practice of purposely focusing your attention, on the present moment, without judgment.
Meaning that, just like the exercise of spin class that builds muscle and stamina, mindfulness builds awareness and compassion. In the same way that we can run faster to catch a bus when we are fit, we can respond better when we are more aware and more caring. Our capacity for responding to life is greater.
Some people are more naturally aware, while others must learn or develop awareness. Regardless of the dispositional and learned types of mindfulness, everyone can develop it.
Mindfulness is not paying attention to every little detail that occurs to you as if it is significant—and then reacting to it. Don’t sweat the small stuff is relevant here.
A similar misunderstanding is that mindfulness goes hand in hand with meditation. This is not entirely true, according to Joshua Schultz, Psy.D. who explains, “While mindfulness and meditation are interrelated, they are not the same. Mindfulness is a quality; meditation is a practice”.
So then, meditation is the tool, and mindfulness the result.
According to the Harvard Health Article, it has become popular for mainstream medicine and psychotherapy to combine mindfulness meditation with regular practices.
Mindfulness practice at the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, founded by Jon Kabat-Zinn PhD., demonstrated improvements in general wellbeing, physical health, and mental health of its participants.
Our general wellbeing impacts everything we do. Our moods, regrets, and worries are always with us. Mindfulness offers some relief from their hold on us and allows for more meaningful relationships and better peace of mind.
The connection between stress and conditions such as heart disease, chronic pain, and sleep quality is medically documented. Physicians regularly “prescribe” mindfulness meditation as part of regular treatment because of the improved results in health.
Mental health problems such as depression, eating and anxiety disorders, substance abuse, and couples’ conflicts have reported improvement with mindfulness techniques. Accepting our experiences, (the without judgment part of the practice), including painful emotions—helps us deal with them. Gaining perspective on irrational and self-defeating thoughts has a direct impact on relationships.
Overall, and according to Elizabeth Dorrance Hall, Ph.D., says “people who experience mindfulness are better able to remember to be mindful in the moment in a wide variety of situations.” This suggests we have more options available to us in all sorts of affairs—including the ones of the heart.
So how can we access that experience?
The origins of mindfulness date back to ancient Indian Buddhist references to awareness and Chinese and Japanese references to the heart and mind. It is useful then to remember that even in our western culture, mindfulness is rooted in both heart and mind: A good thing to remember when looking for a technique to suit you.
There are various ways to practice mindfulness. Try some or all of them to find what works for you. Whichever one you choose, give it time to develop. That said, different circumstances in your life may dictate the most appropriate type for your situation. It is better to practice something than not at all.
In each type of practice, the focus can be on different things for different purposes.
Some focus on the breath, while others focus on bodily sensations and senses. Exercises can include mental body scans, depth of breath, noticing smells, and sounds.
Other practices purposely aim at specific issues like anger, anxiety, or substance abuse.
Many of these techniques are done in a controlled environment or at the recommendation of a counselor. Although you may find many exercises online, it is advisable to consult a professional to find the best practice to suit your needs.
Other techniques include partner sessions called Relational mindfulness. This is a humanistic practice of compassionate communication that requires both partners to agree and participate freely. It may not be suitable for couples with only one partner being on board and the other reluctant to be so immediately vulnerable. Mindful listening may be more appropriate in that case.
Although often done as a group exercise, mindful listening is also useful as a one-on-one activity with your partner. Of late, I have heard this referred to as deep listening. Whatever we call it, the focus shift from ourselves to another person helps establish a deeper connection while learning valuable communication skills.
You may find mindfulness meditation classes in your community. Otherwise, if you choose to start on your own, you can find so much help online.
Regardless of our motivations or methods toward a better loving relationship, developing our mindfulness affects all parts of our lives. Ultimately, happiness and peace of mind are what we live for. And who better to do that with than our loving partner?
Related Article: Officially added to the Oxford dictionary in 2018, the term “gaslighting” is relatively new to our lexicon. And at the time it was added, it was sadly labeled one of the most popular words of the year. While the term may be new, the practice has no doubt been around, probably forever. But what does gaslighting in relationships actually look like? Learning to recognize the signs of gaslighting and false guilt can help you stay in control and quickly and safely exit a toxic relationship.