“Mindfulness” has become a buzzword in today’s mainstream media, with everyone wanting you to “practice it”, whether while shopping for food or exercising. But the directive to simply “be mindful” isn’t always that helpful. What does it mean exactly? And how does it look in your day-to-day life?
While by no means a deep dive into mindfulness, a good place to start is understanding that “mindfulness” is very much an attitude, a way of living. Mindfulness is the practice of being receptive so that you can be more compassionate and aware, of both yourself and others. In other words, mindfulness is choosing not to turn on “autopilot” and, instead, being very much aware of everything that is happening, both the positive and the negative.
This practice, while all-encompassing, plays a major role in the overall health of your romantic relationships. In short, the more mindful you are, the happier you and your partner will be.
But rather than leave you with a “be mindful” mantra to help improve your relationship, here are five actionable ways that you can really become more mindful so that you and your significant other can benefit.
5 Ways to Practice Relationship Mindfulness
1. Be present and attentive. Mindfulness in a relationship looks a lot like focusing on one thing on a time, specifically your partner. While so many of us have become accustomed to having conversations while texting, scrolling, or checking emails, these behaviors are anything but mindful — and they definitely don’t signal to your partner that you really care. Practice being mindful by giving your partner all of your attention, making eye contact, and really engaging in conversations.
2. Check your emotions and reactions. Emotions are a natural part of being human. But, they don’t have to dictate how you act. Rather than being reactive to how you’re feeling, give yourself space to feel your emotions without needing to do anything. Not only does choosing not to act based on your emotions actually lower stress, but it helps you avoid unnecessary confrontations and arguments with your partner, too. By practicing mindfulness techniques, such as breathing exercises and meditation, you can actually decrease the volume of your brain’s amygdala, which means you can avoid feeling threatened and, therefore, like you must react.
3. Disengage when necessary. Part of being mindful is having the capacity to be aware of yourself and your surroundings. This awareness gives you the ability disengage from situations, including arguments, that aren’t getting you or your partner anywhere. Rather than just arguing to win, being mindful gives you the advantage of hitting pause and then returning to the conversation when you’re both in a better state.
4. Pay attention to how (and what) you’re communicating. Another aspect of becoming more self-aware is recognizing what you’re saying — and how you’re saying it. Communication is such a crucial role to maintaining a healthy relationship, that this is reason enough to start practicing mindfulness. The more you understand how the words you’re saying (and how you’re saying them) impact the health of your relationship, the more motivated you’ll be to start paying attention.
5. Put yourself in their shoes. The more you’re able to empathize with your partner, the more mindful you’re being. In fact, mindfulness is directly linked to both empathy and compassion. Practicing feeling what your partner is feeling, seeing things from their perspective, and doing your best to understand can help you develop more relational and emotional intimacy. This empathy also helps you better convey what you’re feeling to your partner, which can lead to an increased amount of happiness and satisfaction in your relationship, too.
Practicing mindfulness isn’t difficult, but it does require real practice. After all, being mindful is significantly different than most of us operate in our day-to-day lives. When you can, focus on actively listening and being mindful when you talk. Try incorporating a meditation practice, yoga, or breathing techniques into your daily routine to help you on your path to becoming more mindful — and a better partner, too.