By Ashima Sharma, Clinical Psychologist
In this week’s blog post, Ashima has some great tips for incorporating Mindfulness into your intimate relationships. We’d love to hear what you think – if you try some (or all) of Ashima’s tips, comment to let us know how they work for you and your partner…or maybe you have other ways of practicing mindfulness with your partner.
Mindfulness practice has been scientifically proven to improve our mental and physical health, enhance our individual well-being and have a positive impact on interpersonal relationships. The effects of using mindfulness to enhance relationships is miraculous, according to research done in the University of North Carolina. It was seen that couples who practiced mindfulness in their relationships had a higher “relationship happiness” score, as compared to those who did not. In addition, these Mindful couples experienced healthier levels of “relationship stress, stress coping efficacy, and overall stress.” This goes to show that Mindfulness is the key to turn marital distress into Eustress, also known as positive stress.
Here are some tips for practicing Mindfulness together:
1) Morning Medley: Make it a point to spend 5-10 minutes together every day, to engage in breathing meditation together. You could guide yourself using and audio, or just be silent, as you may like it. Doing this before the start of the day is like a magic wand which can have a positive effect on your day, as well as your relationship. You will get that powerful gap between stressors and reactions, which leads to mindful responding.
2) Mindful Gratitude Routine: Make it a habit to keep a Gratitude Jar for each other. Keeping it visual helps with adherence. Every day take a Mindful breather and write down 3 reasons you are grateful to be with your partner. This helps you appreciate each other more and keeps negativity out of bounds. Do this every day on a regular basis – this practice makes the other person feel valued and helps you to be more compassionate and loving. It’s a win-win practice.
3) Keep Calm and Meditate Together: Developing a formal 15 minute meditation routine is a great way to stir things up for the better. This can be done on a daily basis, or you may wish to indulge in weekend retreat dates for longer meditations. Meditation is an extremely effective way to get to know our thoughts by slowing down and paying attention. It helps us become familiar with our mind. This also helps generate compassion and understanding towards our partner. It elevates mood and helps us drop the extra baggage we carry within our marriages for no useful reason. If we stay in the moment with our partner, we are far less likely to build a case against them, to catalogue their flaws or turn against them in times of conflict or stress.
4) Mindful Music Matters: Music can be a powerful way to experience the present moment. Even if we listen to music all the time, we really just hear it and do not go deep into it. At the end of the day just tuning in to a piece of music is a great way to unwind. It only takes about 3-4 minutes, but it helps us to drop our unnecessary daily hassles from work, kids, home, marketing, etc and we are able to dissolve them away, instead of putting them on each other. All you have to do is find a song. I usually recommend instrumental pieces, since I feel words add a whole other layer, but it’s up to you. Pay full attention to the music. The idea is to be fully aware of the music, and not to get swayed by it. Keep noticing the beats. Notice any thoughts or feelings that come up. Notice the melodies in the music, or the sound of each instrument, or the speed of the piece. You might find you need different music each day, or that repeating the same piece is a sort of touchstone to a quiet, calm place inside yourself. You may practice this together or separately. It transforms one’s mind space rapidly.
5) Mindful Nature Time: Spending time in nature, is well known for its benefits. Make it a habit to hit the park whenever you can, take a weekend away at the nearest beach, or just sit and observe a leaf together. Spending time with nature helps to release stress and improves happiness and health. Mindful walking, Mindful observation, Mindful yoga, or any other activity, when done within nature’s bounty has very nurturing effects. You may try putting it in your to do list as once a week bonding activity.
The practice of mindfulness helps you develop a greater love toward others. When you think about the interest of your spouse and their emotions, it automatically becomes so much easier to make the necessary adjustments in your own behaviour to enhance their happiness and enjoyment.