Here's How You Can Use Mindfulness To Make Your Relationships Stronger
The nutshell definition of mindfulness is: giving your attention to what you're doing. You don't need a meditation cushion, a two minute plank pose, or candles blessed by the Dalai Lama to be mindful. Even better, you don't need to become a new version of yourself to use mindfulness — you already possess the only tool required: the ability to focus on the here and now. The reason so many people feel like mindfulness is difficult to achieve is because keeping your attention on the present moment is super hard.
But even when distractions are popping around like a 4th of July fireworks extravaganza, mindfulness is always chilling out nearby. Do you think when your mind starts to wander that mindfulness is like, "Well, that's it. Your focus sucks, so peace out." Nope. Mindfulness does not play those silly games. Mindfulness is like, "Hey, your thoughts went to something else for a hot minute, it's cool. It happens. But I still want to hang out, OK? Cool." Mindfulness is like the boyfriend you always wished you had in college.
In general, mindfulness has a fat heap of golden nugget benefits. According to the American Psychological Association, people who are more mindful report feeling less stressed and less emotionally reactive, as well as more focused and insightful. Want to take these juicy rewards of presentness and leverage them to supercharge your relationships? Here's how.
Raise Your Self-Awareness
It's easy to act on impulse in your daily interactions with coworkers, family members, and romantic partners, but calling on a mindful attitude can help you check yourself before you come in like a wrecking ball. When you feel your face catching fire from anger, make this your cue to stop and bring your attention to your emotions before acting or speaking. Observe your impulse and then ask yourself if it is aligned with who you want to be and how you want to behave. Usually, when you take a beat to stop and evaluate, you realize you're not about that #ragelife and the anger subsides, allowing you to make a more clear-headed decision.
Use Your Best Listening Ears
Attention spans these days ain't what they used to be — but that doesn't mean you can't train yourself to be the Michael Jordan of listeners. The key to being a good listener is keeping your yapper on lock down. This doesn't mean you should cease all speaking, the point is to push the thought of responding out of your head when you're in conversation with another. A simple tool I use to stay focused when someone else is talking is to act as if the other person is telling me the most interesting thing I've ever heard. When I do this, I typically end up learning something about my friend or myself that actually does turn out to be super interesting. And better yet, it quiets my mind so I'm not thinking about what I'm going to say when they're done talking.
Stop, Drop, and Slow Your Roll
When overwhelming emotions start to carry you away, bring yourself back to the present moment with a small time out. In other words, gather yourself. To be mindful in any situation, you have to be clear about what's shaking down in the moment. When a relationship is struggling or suffering, allow yourself some space to observe before tossing out blame, insults, or hurtful accusations. Ask yourself, What's really going on here?, because it could help you see the situation with new eyes. Or, What would make the other person act this way?, because it can help build empathy and compassion. Mindfully taking a step back helps to provide a new perspective.
Extra Sauce: Tips For Being More Mindful
The trick to nurturing your relationship with mindfulness is the consistent choice to bring yourself back to the present moment and activate your awareness of what you're experiencing in that moment. But how do you cultivate this habit? Use these tips to get started.
1. Pick A Trigger
Choose a word or phrase that will snap you out of your meandering thoughts and transport you back to your conversation. Common colloquialisms like, "right?" "ya know?" and "you know what I'm saying?" are easy to remember as signs that you need to give the other person your undivided attention.
2. Use Your Breath
If mindfulness is a candy bar, your breath is the ooey-gooey center. A surefire way to bring yourself back to the now is by concentrating on your breathing. Slow, deliberate breaths in and out shift your attention to the rhythm of your lungs and gently grounds you in the moment. Whenever you feel your focus slipping, return to your mindful state by fixating on your breathing.
3. No Judgment
No one is going to nail mindfulness 100 percent of the time. It's normal to have to put in a lot of effort before this concept feels easy and natural. You'll never achieve a more mindful way of life if you give up on yourself after a few tries. Instead of judging yourself for getting it wrong at times, congratulate yourself for even trying in the first place.