“If we learn to open our hearts, anyone, including the people who drive us crazy, can be our teacher” – Pema Chodron
Mindfulness has been proven to improve pretty much every aspect of life. Our relationships are no exception to this rule. Whether your relationship is awesome and running smoothly, or it could do with a revamp and a spring-clean, bringing mindfulness into the mix will undoubtedly improve its quality.
What Mindfulness Practices Can We Apply to Our Relationships?
Very often in conversation, or even conflict, misunderstandings are the cause of the breakdown in communication. We assume, because we know what we are talking about in our own heads, that the person on the other side of the exchange will also understand. We must be clear with each other. This can be achieved easily. Instead of speaking reactively, simply take the time to choose your words carefully when retorting to others.
There is a behavioural trap that pretty much everyone falls into when conversing with others, from time to time. Often, instead of listening attentively, we are thinking about what it is we would like to say next. This is especially true in an argument, as, instead of trying to understand the other person’s position, we are more focussed on winning the argument. Make a conscious effort to focus on the other person and what they are saying; especially as this will certainly be what you will be are hoping for from them.
Mindfulness meditation offers us an opportunity to consider our own thoughts and behaviours and how they effect the people around us. Understanding yourself is a huge part of understanding your relationships. Mindfulness meditation also gives us a stronger sense of self-acceptance, and the courage to tackle our own shortcomings.
How Does Mindfulness Improve a Relationship?
Adopting mindfulness into your life improves your relationships with people, as well as your relationship with yourself and with the rest of the world. Bit how, specifically, does it improve our relationships with people?
Present and Attentive
Mindfulness helps us to discard modern day distractions. Have you ever been trying to connect with someone whose attention is split, unevenly, between you and their technology, whether that be phone, computer or television? When we are more mindful of these things, we automatically become better listeners; more present, more focused and more attentive.
Mindfulness has been proven to strengthen the parts of the brain that deal with emotional self-regulation. We are able to better recognise how certain emotions feel. We learn to see what our triggers are and when we are behaving in a way that is unhelpful or damaging to others. This helps us to manually adjust our emotional settings and ensure that we are not expressing unnecessary behaviours.
Mindfulness also makes us less reactive, less brash. In a conflict you will be far less prone to ‘attack’ and more likely to react in a productive way. This has been proven to be the case for those who have practiced mindfulness regularly for 2 months or more.
The part of the brain that deals with empathy is also improved by mindfulness. This means that we will approach our partners with more compassion and less animosity. Conflicts are settled much more effectively and efficiently if you are both working towards seeing the other person’s point of view.
Perhaps the biggest effect of mindfulness is an increased sense of knowing yourself. Not only are your more aware of your preferences, behaviours and emotions, but you are also more accepting of them. This sense of self, and calm attitude towards our potential faults helps us to improve our behaviour. This quest for improvement comes from a place of knowledge and hope, as opposed to a place of anger and frustration.
By Chris Thomson
As well as improving relationships with our nearest and dearest, we would also do well to improve how we relate to the other people in our lives; friends, acquaintances, colleagues, even strangers. One of the best ways to address this is through conscious listening: How Can We Listen Better?
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