Mindfulness in Relationships
Welcome to part 2 of this 4 part Mindfulness for Beginners series! Last week we looked at actionable steps to bring mindfulness into your eating habits, and today I will cover 4 ways to bring mindfulness into your relationships.
There are a wide variety of relationship levels to practice these concepts; from spouse to coworker, how you participate in each relationship has great effect on how satisfying they are.
How often do you react to a question or situation the way you think you should respond and not how you truly feel? I’m guilty of this, it’s easy to do! Sometimes it’s because we want to spare someone’s feelings and sometimes it’s to protect our own, either way, it creates a barrier.
For example, I had been training for a race a few years ago and my husband asked if he needed to go. It would have been easy to tell him he didn’t have to, after all, it would be early and it wasn’t like he hadn’t been to my races before, and this wasn’t a new distance for me. But I had trained hard and knew I would love to see his face at the finish line. Instead of brushing it off, I simply said what I felt; that I had trained really hard and was a little nervous and it would be fun to have him there.
This is a pretty small fish in the scope of our marriage, but getting into the practice of stating what you’re thinking and feeling will saves loads of frustration and hurt feelings down the road!
Of course this doesn’t give you free rein to air all your pent up grievances or harshly state your opinions when they aren’t asked for! To communicate honestly is to be open with your feelings instead of sweeping things under the rug. To be transparent instead of closed off.
Communicating is a two way street and often the side of listening gets roadblocked. We’re in our own head forming our next point or question, even when the other person is answering our last question! Being mindful while listening is called active listening, where you are fully immersed in what the other person is saying.
Practice listening to their tone. The emotional words they use. How they feel. Instead of jumping into giving advice or telling them your take on their story, ask them more. Instead of replying with how you would feel, ask how it makes them feel. Simply allowing someone to be fully heard and understood can strengthen a relationship more than any advice you could wish to give.
Relationships don’t continue without care, and they certainly don’t deepen without work. Closeness doesn’t equal proximity, as you can feel deeply connected with your best friend who lives across the country, and disconnected from the friend who lives 5 miles away.Relationships don't continue without care, and they certainly don't deepen without work. Click To Tweet
Here’s a great exercise from Elephant Journal: Draw a circle and write the names of relationships you consider your core people, your inner circle. Next draw a larger circle around that, listing those you consider close, but do not know the details that your inner circle does of your life. Draw another circle listing acquaintances and friends/family you perhaps have fallen out of touch with.
Now, look at these names one circle at a time. Think of what you actively do to nurture these relationships. What’s working? What’s lacking? What can you do to keep these relationships nourished and top of mind?
When we’re in the day-to-day we forget how simple touch points can strengthen relationships, that it doesn’t take sweeping gestures or plans.
For example, if I’m going to work out of a coffee shop for the day, I’ll shoot a text to a few friends nearby who also work from home. You may think, “oh, they probably won’t be able to go.”, or, “It’s nothing exciting, just working and coffee.” Instead, think of this as a touch point. Even if they can’t go, you’ve connected and they know you’re thinking of them. If they can and you’re only sitting quietly working together, you’re spending time with each other.
Another idea, my family (I think I owe the credit to my mom!) came up with a couple of years ago. We created a Facebook group for the whole family, where we can share little snippets of our days. It’s usually stuff that isn’t going to be mass emailed or talked about during the holidays, instead it keeps us all in touch with the minutiae of everyones life. I love it!
See Past Yourself
Similar to listening actively, your relationships aren’t just about you. Begin thinking of how you can serve other people in your life. If they are struggling, how can you be there for them? When they come to you for support, ask what would help and refrain from talking about you. If there is an area they are frustrated; marriage, kids, career, health, etc., be mindful of talking about successes you’ve had in those areas.
For example, if a friend is going to physical therapy and limited in what they can do, it’s probably not the best time to talk about how your marathon training is going, or how you stubbed your toe and that yoga has been hard for you that week. Or, if a friends’ spouse is out of town for an extended time, try to include them in more of your plans.
Simply pausing for a moment and thinking how you can best contribute can greatly strengthen any relationship.
Stay tuned next week for Mindfulness in Movement!