If you’re guilty of zoning out during conversations or getting absorbed in how you’re going to reply, you might be missing the point. Mindfulness in relationships can help!
When’s the last time you asked somebody, “How was your day?” and actually listened to the answer? We mean really listened. Nodding and smiling until you get to the part where YOU get to talk doesn’t count. Do you ask people questions and make them feel heard?
If you struggle to do these things and it impacts your relationships, you’re not alone. It’s hard to keep your attention in the present moment (and the people in that moment) in a world where email and text mean that work always demands your time, and social media is always begging you to find out what the folks from high school are doing.
You CAN do better by the people in your life and improve your relationships by practicing one simple trick: mindfulness.
Mindfulness is the practice of slowing down and giving awareness to the present moment. It can get you chatting with the person in front of you and feeling a real connection instead of taking just one more look at your work emails.
Here’s what mindfulness can do for your relationships
When you practice mindfulness, it helps you develop openness, compassion, and self-awareness. And these skills are critical for improving relationships by connecting to the moment.
The benefits of mindfulness in relationships include:
1. It can increase presence
It’s frustrating to try to have a conversation with someone who’s always texting or constantly fretting about work at all hours. When your attention is consistently elsewhere, it can become a problem, especially in romantic relationships. Mindfulness in relationships can increase engagement and focus so that you can redirect your attention to your partner's wants and needs.
2. It can break the cycle of emotional distancing
Have you ever jumped into freeze mode after an argument, causing your emotions to shut down? Building an emotional wall is a harmful way to cope with conflict in relationships because it closes the other person out.
The amygdala is the part of the brain that causes the freeze response, and practicing mindfulness can make the amygdala smaller, giving it less power over our emotional response.
3. Mindfulness in relationships can help emotionally regulate when things get tense
Practicing mindfulness makes you really good at noticing what you’re feeling and choosing to react or not. When feelings start to bubble over during a conflict, it’s because we can’t recognize and move past what we’re feeling long enough to respond rationally.
Was it helpful to run out of the room in the middle of a sentence? Nope, it was unhealthy and damaging to your relationship. Did it feel like the right response at the time? Maybe, but you can ID and move past that feeling.
Learning to be mindful can help you call yourself out and reign in feelings when they start to take over and become destructive.
Three steps to practicing mindfulness in relationships
We all want happier and more fulfilling relationships, and we can develop the tools to make it happen.
1. Ask this question
When’s the last time someone asked you, "How was your day?" and truly listened? When's the last time you did that for someone else?
Ask somebody, “How was your day?” regularly and watch how your relationship improves simply from this small show of interest. Ask questions about what they did and who they talked to. It doesn’t take much effort to make someone feel heard in a relationship.
2. Practice mindful communication
Mindful communication means noticing when we’re over-reacting and sending ourselves to the quiet corner. It means knowing when to hold your tongue over something you’ll regret saying later. It means recognizing when the way you’re communicating is unhealthy so you can reign yourself in.
But it’s not just about knowing when to hold back. It’s also about recognizing when communication channels are open so you can share and connect at the right times and in the right ways.
3. Aim to be open, not defensive
Mindfulness will help you learn to see things from a neutral perspective instead of getting stuck on your ego. Ask yourself, “Am I making this about me, or am I hearing the other person?” That simple question can help keep your relationship dynamic open and accepting, not defensive and self-centered.
The way you communicate affects other people. Practicing mindfulness in relationships will help you accept that, so you can interrupt your defensive reactions and replace them with open-minded ones.
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