A Mindful Path to Healthier Relationships
Updated: Dec 15, 2018
People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. Maya Angelou, American Poet
Psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott said that "...when we see that we are being seen, we come to life".
Having strong relationships is a key factor in being happy, successful, and fulfilled in life. Yet we all experience daily challenges in our personal relationships. A strong bond and relationship with our child can turn into a tumultuous relationship once the child is a teenager. Sometimes, all the various relationships in our lives, and the challenges we face with each one, can be overwhelming.
Here is the good news: A recent report of a scientific study that aggregated results from 12 earlier studies, published in the Journal of Human Sciences and Extension (February 2016), concludes that mindfulness is reliably linked with satisfaction in relationships.
All relationships offer us with a wealth of information about our own selves, and they provide us with daily opportunities for deeper relatedness if we are willing to deeply see the other person.
For anyone who wants to improve a relationship, our Vancouver mindfulness classes, workshops and events provide the skills required to enhance partner interactions and other important relationships. In the meantime, the following tips will help you to see for yourself how this works.
Five ways to cultivate mindfulness for healthier relationships
Deep listening, mindful speech, learning to pause, loving kindness and daily mindfulness will improve your relationship to the world, family, friends, and yourself.
1) Mindful listening
When others are talking to us, it's natural for our minds to wander and be distracted part of the time. Other times we lapse into thoughts about what we're going to say next. Mindful listening, however, means we pay attention and have intention to stay present in the moment. This way we really hear what our partner is saying because we are attentive to their body language, facial expressions, gestures, voice and tone.
Of course, mindful listening also means being aware of our own body language and any distractions in the environment (such as that phone!).
Mindful listening means we don't only listen to the words, but also pay attention to the deep, emotional reasons for conflicts. During an argument, for instance, it's tempting to interrupt because we want to be heard; however, this can lead to our partner or loved one feeling that their words are unheard, minimized, or invalidated. But if we are skillful in listening, differences can be transformed into genuine conversations, as mindful listening shows respect, appreciation, and caring.
2) Mindful speech
So many of our relationship conflicts are the result of simple misunderstandings. Though we can't control how others will interpret our words, we can use mindful speech techniques to make it much less likely that we will be misunderstood.
Taking a purposeful pause before responding, and choosing our words with attention and intention, can really change an emotionally charged conversation. We can pause to choose words that are loving, compassionate, and respectful, and to become aware of our tone, voice, gestures, and body language. However, it's important to remember that sometimes non-judgmental silence can be the best response.
3) Learning to pause
Any close relationship will have difficult moments, but imagine the difference if both parties commit to pausing when they sense anger, irritability, or annoyance! If we can commit to practicing pausing before a conversation gets heated, if we can take a deep breath and pay attention to the emotion, we can transform the difficult moments into a deeper awareness of each other.
To learn this technique, try pausing for 6 to 10 seconds periodically throughout the day. Just stop in the middle of whatever you're doing, notice what you’re thinking, and feeling, label that thought, take a deep breath and pause again for 6 to 10 seconds, and now notice what you’re thinking and feeling.
Try pausing at the beginning of every hour, right before eating, whenever you turn on a faucet, or each time you open your car door. Pausing in this way helps us get grounded, and resets our nervous system so we’re more likely to automatically pause instead of reacting while in “auto-pilot mode.”
Our relationships get into difficulties when we are more concerned about our own needs and wants over those of others. A good way to prevent conflict is by practicing a loving-kindness meditation that can quickly transform our attitudes about the significant others in our lives.
A simple practice starts with writing down three positive, loving phrases about one or more significant people in our lives and repeating them during a sitting meditation.
This practice includes send loving kindness to yourself as well. Some examples of loving-kindness phrases could be:
"May I/you walk with grace."
"May I/you be healthy."
"May I/you (be) feel love."
Writing by hand imprints the loving affirmations directly into our subconscious. Interactions will over time become more loving, compassionate, and understanding. This creates the space to act intentionally and kindly, as we cultivate "love without demand."
5) Daily mindfulness meditation
Where do we start when we want to become more mindful of how our thoughts and actions affect our relationships?
Mindfulness meditation helps us better understand all our relationships.
Mindfulness meditation quiets the chatter in our "monkey mind," and this helps to steady our emotions and we become less reactive to the words or actions of our partners and loved ones.
Regular daily mindfulness practice helps us to better understand how we relate with our partners, and eventually leads to a more rewarding and fulfilling life for ourselves and for those around us.
Mindfulness training in Vancouver
For anyone who wants to improve a relationship or if you know someone who would benefit from our Vancouver mindfulness classes, workshops, life-skills coaching, and events please feel free to forward this onto them. Our workshops provide the mindful skills for personal and professional relationships.
Contact me about Vancouver mindfulness programs.