How Mindfulness Helps Relationships - dummies

How Mindfulness Helps Relationships

By Shamash Alidina, Joelle Jane Marshall

Mindfulness helps improve the quality (and perhaps quantity!) of your relationships in three different ways. Dr Marsha Lucas, the author of Rewire Your Brain for Love (Hay House) explains the following ways in which mindfulness improves relationships:

  • Mindfulness reduces stress. If you and your partner are feeling stressed out, you’re more likely to be reactive to small problems. Tiny issues can get blown out of proportion, and before you know it, you’re both in the midst of a full-blown argument and saying horrible things to each other, which you don’t really mean to do.

    Regular practice of mindfulness meditation reduces your stress levels so unnecessary arguing is less likely to take place.

  • Mindfulness integrates your emotions with your intellect. Researchers are discovering that the regular practice of mindfulness activates and strengthens the connections between your prefrontal cortex (your intellectual brain) with areas like the amygdala (your more emotional brain). You can therefore deal with your emotions in a more integrated way.

    For example, imagine your partner calls, sounding cold and controlling, and asks you to go to the shops to get some food and start cooking dinner. Two different scenarios can occur:

    You react emotionally. Without thinking, you shout back on the phone explaining how many times you’ve had to do the shopping and cooking this week and how tired you feel. Your emotional brain immediately reacts out of anger.

    You feel the sensation of anger rising in your chest but think, ‘This is just a feeling that’s arising’. You take a few mindful breaths and feel back in control. You ask your partner about her day, and she explains that her boss has been putting too much pressure on her and apologizes for all the late nights she’s been coming home. You both agree to have a light meal tonight and make sure that you relax and eat well at the weekend.

    Mindfulness is the difference!

  • Mindfulness builds your empathy. As you become more mindful, you spend less time on automatic pilot and more time being conscious and aware of your own state of mind. This enables you to attune to your feelings and feel a sense of empathy for yourself when things aren’t going so well.

    And more empathy for yourself has a great side effect — it generates more empathy for your partner too. Empathy is all about a sense of caring, kindness and understanding — the heart of relationships.

Cast your mind back to the last time you reacted towards someone in a negative way, with an emotion like anger or fear. Then, answer the following questions:

  • What was the emotion you felt?

  • Was there space between your emotion and your reaction, or was it automatic?

  • Where did you feel the emotion in your body?

  • How did you feel just before your emotional reaction? (For example, tired? Hungry? Frustrated? Happy?)

  • How did you deal with the situation in the end?

  • What will you try next time? (For example, mini meditation, go for a walk, mindful breathing as you’re listening to the other person.)