In recent years, Mindfulness has been incorporated into every nook of psychology. Easy to see why, with overwhelming research support for its physical and mental benefits. In addition, it has been found that individuals who practice mindfulness report greater relationship satisfaction!
Here are 4 examples of mindfulness techniques that can help you to connect and grow within your relationships!
While Mindfulness is associated with Buddhist traditions, the practice of mindfulness can be found within many faiths and spiritual practices. Most definitions of Mindfulness include:
1. Acceptance of one's inner experience
2. The strengthening of the observing part of your self/your awareness
3. The beginners mind
4. A present moment awareness
1. Acceptance of one's inner experience
Mindfulness techniques encourage us to relate to our inner experience with compassion instead of judgement.
However, before we can apply this skill in an emotionally-charged relationship conflict situation, we have to first practice it within ourselves!
Exercise: Strive to remind yourself that your feelings are a pathway towards growth. That they are there to support you, alerting your attention to: unmet needs, emotional patterns, ways of thinking and interpretations... offering valuable insight, as long as you approach them with a welcoming attitude and reflection.
2. The strengthening of the observing part of your self
Strengthening the observing part of ourselves (our compassionate awareness of our inner experience) is a reminder to also relate to another person beyond the context of our particular discussion or our fleeting thoughts and feelings. What that means for you depends on your view of what is the founding aspect of the human identity.
I relate to John Kabat-ZIn’s the well-known mindfulness analogy, of our self being likened to a mountain, and our thoughts and feeling to the weather around the mountain. Or, I like to share with clients an analogy that an interaction between two people is like a visit to the Eiffel tower-regardless of the weather that surrounds it, it does not lose its worth and wonder.
Exercise: Consider taking a few slow, deep breaths, and remind yourself of who you are, beyond the content of your temporary thoughts and feelings. Perhaps represent this as a drawing (e.g. of a personal coat of armor), or as a journaling reflection.
3. Beginners Mind
According to Professor Ellen Langer, the opposite of Mindfulness, Mindlessness, means engaging in an "automatic pilot" manner, where past perceptions and/or emotional patterns are dominating our behavior.
Can you think of situations/behaviors in your relationship where you may be limited by mindlessness? Where you feel "trapped" in repetitive, past related ways of thinking or doing things? On the other hand, creativity is the essence of mindfulness.
Exercise: Next time you are having an interaction, especially a challenging one, consider what can support you in brainstorming a creative response? Such as:
Asking the miracle question: "If a miracle happened and the problem was resolved, what would I experience, how would I relate to myself and another?"
Making a note of the past techniques and arguments that did not work and looking for new angles and ways of approaching an interaction
Making use of a vision board and post-it-notes while engaging in a problem solving dialogue
At times, getting stuck in a blaming response can dampen creativity and induce hopelessness, whereas taking responsibility for our wellbeing and emotions can help us to inspire creative solitons. "What qualities do I need to draw on to support me in a situation?"
Present moment awareness
Mindfulness helps to contain our inner experience within the boundaries of the here and now, so that we are not overwhelmed by past conditioning, past ways of thinking and feeling, or by thoughts relating to what can go “wrong” in the future.
Exercise: chose an activity (or several) during the day where you can practice re-directing the focus of your attention to your sensory experience in the here and now. This can be around to self-care (having a shower, eating); or a chore (doing the dishes, vacuuming); or social (playing with your children, even supervising homework!).
I hope you found these helpful, they are written with my best wishes for a mindful week, filled with here and now enjoyment, and reflection,