We are hearing a lot about mindfulness these days.
“Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment.”
It also means that we accept our thoughts and feelings without judging them. We don’t focus on a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a given moment. When we are being mindful, we tune into what is happening in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future.
Many of the couples I see in my counseling practice come in to the session with a litany of grievances and these complaints are mostly about things that happened in the past. Now I urge any of you reading this to tell me if you have a way of changing the past, because if you do I certainly need to hear about it. As far as I know, we cannot change what has already happened. In order to design a better future for your relationship, it means getting over the past. It means creating visions and goals for all aspects of your relationship and creating strategies to support these goals and visions.
“Research suggests mindfulness training makes couples more satisfied with their relationship, makes each partner feel more optimistic and relaxed, and makes them feel more accepting of and closer to one another.”
Here is how to begin.
1. Pay close attention to your partner’s appearance. Notice how he or she looks, what colors and what clothing is being worn that day. Tell her or him what you like.
2. Notice—really notice—what you’re sensing in a given moment, when near your partner. Maybe you smell the perfume, or cologne, or the shampoo of newly washed hair. Often these sights and smells might ordinarily slip by without reaching your conscious awareness.
3. Recognize the sounds and tones of the voice that you hear. The words that you hear every day often get lost due to sensory overload of personal emotions and feelings.
4. Tune into your body’s physical sensations. Maybe you want to touch your partner, and maybe you want to just feel the warmth of his or her body near yours.
This is something that may seem strange at first. Often life gets so hurried that our attention is short.
So what does this mean for relationships? According to Marsha Lucas, Ph.D, a psychologist, neuropsychologist, and author of Rewire Your Brain for Love: Creating Vibrant Relationships Using the Science of Mindfulness, mindfulness—paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and without judgment—can help us break out of the negative knee-jerk reactions we bring into our relationships. Specifically, she said, mindfulness helps to better manage the body’s reactions, regulate emotions, and calm fears and anxieties—all key ingredients for healthy relationships.
Living a mindful life can make the time you spend with each other more meaningful and your communication more effective. When your quality time together focuses on the here and now, it is not even so much what you say to each other that is important. The two of you can spend time not talking, but just being with each other. Sometimes in the silences between the words, is when we communicate the most significantly.