When I first heard about mindfulness, I was a bit skeptical. But through much reading and hands-on learning, I have felt the benefits firsthand and I want to share them with you. Mindfulness is commonly defined as “a state of heightened awareness and attention to the present moment while taking a nonjudgmental and non-evaluative approach to one’s experience.” There are many different types of exercises that encompass mindfulness. What is most important to remember is that mindfulness is a practice, not perfect. It is not necessary to complete your mindfulness exercise “perfectly” every time, it is only essential to be in the moment and choose to follow through with the exercise. As long as you are practicing, you are reaping the benefits.
What does it mean to be mindful? When you are mindful you are in a place where you are non-judging, have patience, keep a beginner’s mind, have trust, are non-striving, maintain acceptance, and are willing to let go. These core attitudes are so important and can be further investigated in Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book, Full Catastrophe Living.
Now that we have covered a little bit of a background to mindfulness, I want to discuss its effect on your relationship. Mindfulness not only increases your awareness of care for self, it increases your awareness of your connection with your partner. When you are in a mindful state, you are able to better navigate your relationship. There are a few ways in which mindfulness specifically benefits your relationship, which I will discuss below.
Mindfulness and Cultivating Empathy
Techniques practiced in mindfulness allow an individual to develop a perspective on thoughts and feelings. Although the focus of mindfulness is not solely empathy, growing the ability to empathize through practice is majorly helpful in life and in your relationships. Mindfulness may cultivate this compassion by the practice of suspending judgment, or non-judging. Often, the feeling of non-judgment lasts after the mindfulness practice, informing the participants of their feelings toward themselves and others.
Another benefit to relationships: this practice fosters your ability to take a healthier response to interpersonal reactions, keeping you from reacting without thinking. We discuss this as turning towards your partner in a moment of frustration instead of turning away from them. This type of thinking process may help to promote greater empathy and acceptance within relationships by fostering better communication and perspective taking. Mindfulness is positively correlated with many individual benefits that also contribute to healthier relationships. Some of these are increases in positive affect, self-esteem, and life satisfaction and reductions in negative affect, anxiety, hostility, depressive symptoms, and reactivity to stress. These are just more ways that your relationship may benefit from mindfulness practices.
Mindfulness and Emotion Skillfulness
Mindfulness allows for a cultivation of more adept skills for relational emotion communication. This growth in ways to recognize one’s own feelings and emotions and to then be able to clearly communicate them is a huge benefit to relationships.
Mindfulness and Relationship Stress Response
It has been found that mindfulness practices are positively related to measures of self-control and relationship satisfaction. When we become stressed or frustrated it is so easy to lash out at our partners. Mindfulness allows for us to stop ourselves and to communicate in more healthy ways. Mindfulness can assist in skillfulness with anger expression and also give one an ability to identify emotions within oneself and in turn communicate those feelings to one’s partner. Mindfulness practices help you to have a greater ability to manage the stresses experienced by many in romantic relationships.
We want to remind you that mindfulness practices are backed by research. Similar to the other findings above, in a research setting mindfulness significantly enhances couples’ reported relationship satisfaction, autonomy, relatedness, closeness, and partner acceptance. In one study, these positive findings were maintained three months after participating in the class. It is also important to note that those who followed through and practiced mindfulness more often reported a more positive impact on themselves and their relationships.
In conclusion, higher levels of mindfulness are consistently related to greater relationship satisfaction. What an exciting find! It does not take much each day to increase our health and our relationship’s health as well! If you are wondering how to gain some of these skills, look no further! We offer a six week mindfulness course throughout the year and would love to teach you ways to re-energize yourself and strengthen your relationship satisfaction! Our next class begins April 1st. Come and see the benefits of mindfulness first hand, just like I did!
Thanks for reading,
Kozlowski, A. (2013). Mindful mating: exploring the connection between mindfulness and relationship satisfaction. Sexual & Relationship Therapy 28(1), 92-104.