Happy October! I hope you are enjoying the transition into the fall. This month, I am noticing an emerging theme in my life and the lives of others I support – relationships.
Relationships can be such a valuable and vulnerable space in our lives – whether it is with a spouse, co-worker, friend, or family member – they can bring us great joy and also bring a multitude of painful emotions to the surface (fear, anger, sadness, hurt).
So this month I want to share how mindfulness practice can improve your relationships and thus your overall quality of life. Here’s 5 ways that mindfulness can be applied to your relationships.
1. Being Present with Others
When most people think of mindfulness, they think of being in the present moment. And this is true when we are intending for mindful relationships.
Imagine one conversation you are having – the person across from you is checking their phone or distracted by their worries for the future. They are fidgeting and only giving you half of their attention at the most.
Now imagine another person who is giving you full eye contact, open body language, facing you, no distractions, and asking you questions.
Who would you rather connect with?
When we apply our mindfulness practice to our relationships we are making the conscious effort to really be with what is in the interaction.
We are noticing ourselves, the other person, and the energy created between us. The interaction is at the forefront of our attention and stays there.
How would the simple intention – to be present – change your interactions with people?
2. Take a New Perspective
One of the most common reasons negative feelings and misunderstandings happen is that we have a hard time seeing a situation from another person’s point of view.
With mindfulness practice, we learn to take a step back from our own thoughts and feelings and just observe.
We can apply this to relationships by learning to take the perspective of another person or take an outsider’s perspective.
If you are with someone else, it might be as simple as asking: “What is your perspective on this difficult situation?” And listening.
A meditation you might try is to close your eyes and try to visualize your consciousness floating into the other person’s body. See how it feels to be that person and what their perspective is like.
This is the practice of empathy. And from empathy- compassion can naturally arise.
Our anger or hurt might simply resolve when we see things from the other’s point of view.
3. Choose how you want to Respond
One of the most important aspects of mindfulness is that it gives us more choice in our lives. We begin to cultivate more space between when something triggers us and how we respond to it.
Say, for example, your partner starts to get upset at you because there are unclean dishes lying around the kitchen.
Your first reaction might be to get defensive and start arguing. You might want to put the blame back on your partner. It could start to escalate into a bigger fight.
With mindfulness, we practice slowing down and choosing.
You might notice the anger in your body first and your urge to respond defensively.
You might notice the thoughts “how could he/she accuse me of such a thing!” and choose to let that thought go.
You could come back to your values – the kind of partner you want to be – and respond with more understanding and care.
The point is, with mindfulness, you get to choose your response, rather than automatically responding.
4. Know yourself Better
As you continue to practice mindfulness, you may notice patterns within yourself.
For example, you might notice that situations where you feel rejected or left out bring up a lot of sadness and hurt.
Or you might notice that when people do not reciprocate your offers of kindness, you turn to anger and resentment.
With mindfulness practice, we can get to know ourselves and what typically triggers or hooks us in relationships.
We can also begin to find out what helps us in these difficult situations when strong negative emotions show up.
Does it help to take a walk? Be in nature? Call a friend? Talk to a therapist? Meditate? Do art? Exercise? How can we best take care of ourselves?
This self-knowledge is invaluable and shows us what a healthy relationship with ourselves and with others looks like.
5. Open up and be Vulnerable
Lastly, and since, it is the month of Halloween, mindfulness practice and can help us take down our masks with those we trust.
When we are with someone we feel comfortable with and have developed some level of self-knowledge and self-awareness, we can then choose to share our less-than-perfect selves with another.
This can be a healing experience for both parties, as it helps the other understand you on a deeper level and allows them too to open up to you.
It can create a much more honest and fulfilling relationship when we can share our vulnerabilities with others that we trust.
So there you have it – 5 ways mindfulness can improve your relationships.
Thanks for reading and let me know your thoughts on how mindfulness can improve the relationships in your life.
Until next time,
Ellis Edmunds, Psy.D.
If you, or someone you know, is struggling with anxiety and could use the support of a professional, it would be an honor to be of service. I offer Therapy for Anxiety and Mindfulness Workshops in Oakland, California.