man with closed eyes

How to Practice Mindfulness in Relationships

This week we’re starting a new series on mindfulness — we’ll explore what mindfulness is at all, how mindfulness can help you have a happier relationship, and how to practice mindfulness in your daily life and relationship. So let's get right at it.

What is mindfulness?

You’ve probably heard of mindfulness, but what exactly is mindfulness? Essentially, you’re mindful when you pay attention to your experiences, and when you do so with an open mind.  Being mindful means experiencing what is going on in the here and now, and doing so without any judgment.

Mindfulness in everyday life

You can be mindful in any situation in your life. For example, instead of rushing to get ready for the workday ahead, you can pay attention to brushing your teeth - how does the water sound when you open the faucet? Do you taste the toothpaste right away or does it take a few moments for your tastebuds to register the taste? Can you feel how the bristles brush around the edges of your teeth when you change the angle of the toothbrush?

When you’re at breakfast, take some time to notice the consistency of the yogurt and granola you eat. The frozen blueberries you heated up may still be warm and contrast with the cold yogurt. The yogurt may feel smooth in your mouth while the granola comes with the crunchiness you so appreciate… You get the idea!

Mindfulness toward your own feelings and situation

But mindfulness can also be used when dealing with your own emotions. When you’re feeling stressed out and anxious, sit still and focus on your feelings and what is going on around you in that very moment. What is happening in this moment? How fast is your heart beating? Are you breathing fast? Just be in the moment and experience what is happening. It is human to be upset or anxious at times, and these feelings will come and go.

Mindfulness in relationships

Mindfulness helps you stay in tune with your loved ones' lives and feelings, increasing the intimacy you experience with them.

You are preparing the family dinner and your 8-year-old daughter is with you. She keeps chatting about her day at school. It seems to have been just a regular day -- the teacher got upset when the class did not quiet down, it was cold and rainy during break so they had to stay inside, and she checked out a new book at the library.

Do you listen carefully to what your daughter has to say? Are you fully with her? Or are your thoughts somewhere else, on prepping the meal or all those other things on your to-do list you haven't been able to check off? Do you think your daughter notices when you're not listening to her attentively and just go "mmmhhh" from time to time?

So obviously you can be mindful of just about any situation in your daily life. But why would you even want to be mindful???

Why mindfulness?

Mindfulness has many benefits for your life. When you’re mindful, you are better able to identify your emotions and to communicate these emotions effectively to your partner.

It also puts you in a position to solve conflicts more effectively because you are less likely to drown in the intense emotions and judgments a situation might bring with it. And you may be less distressed after the conflict. 

Additionally, mindfulness helps you to accept your partner as they are. Yes, no one is perfect, and that’s just fine. We can't expect our partner to change themselves after every annoyance, but we can work toward accepting them as they are and getting less worked up by the behaviors that typically tend to annoy us. So you end up being happier in your relationship. And maybe, over time, if you ask for it enough, they actually will change!

Some people are more mindful by nature than others. But anybody can learn to be mindful by using the techniques we’ll introduce you to over the next weeks. Just try to them out and pick the ones which work best for you.

That said, mindfulness is something that needs to be practiced. So give each technique at least a couple of weeks to see if you like it and if it does something for you. Don’t give up too early!

Let’s try it out!

By now, you might be wondering how to practice mindfulness.

As an introduction, we’ll just start out with being mindful in everyday life.

How about a week of mindful eating?

Here are some guidelines:

  • When you eat, concentrate on eating
  • Pay attention to the texture, temperature, and taste of what you’re eating
  • What are the colors of your food?
  • Are you hungry as you start eating? Or are you eating just because an attractive food happened to cross your way?
  • Do you notice cues that you’re getting fuller?
  • How does eating this food influence the way you’re feeling? What kind of impact will it have on your body?
  • What connections does your food have to the sun, water, fields, and other people?

If you practice mindful eating, another good effect is that you’re less likely to eat too fast or that signs you’re full will remain unnoticed. Slowing down might actually help you to eat healthier or even to lose some weight.

You can also choose to practice mindfulness in other areas of your everyday life. Pay close attention to what your partner or kids are saying, or try to be very present when you’re taking a shower. (I know I am NOT mindful when I am taking showers because half the time I can’t remember if I have already washed my hair or not!)

Give mindfulness a try for a few days to get into the habit of being mindful.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll show you how to

  • integrate mindfulness into your daily life;
  • use mindfulness techniques when you have a conflict with your partner;
  • better keep your negative feelings in check when they arise;
  • mindfully listen to and communicate with your loved ones;
  • and much more!

So stay tuned!

Here are some of the sources that went into writing this article:

Barnes, S., Brown, K. W., Krusemark, E., Campbell, W. K., & Rogge, R. D. (2007). The role of mindfulness in romantic relationship satisfaction and responses to relationship stress. Journal of marital and family therapy, 33(4), 482-500. 

Hertz, R. M., Laurent, H. K., & Laurent, S. M. (2015). Attachment mediates effects of trait mindfulness on stress responses to conflict. Mindfulness, 6(3), 483-489. 

Kappen, G., Karremans, J. C., & Burk, W. J. (2019). Effects of a short online mindfulness intervention on relationship satisfaction and partner acceptance: The moderating role of trait mindfulness. Mindfulness, 10(10), 2186-2199. 

Kappen, G., Karremans, J. C., Burk, W. J., & Buyukcan-Tetik, A. (2018). On the association between mindfulness and romantic relationship satisfaction: The role of partner acceptance. Mindfulness, 9(5), 1543-1556. 

Karremans, J. C., van Schie, H. T., van Dongen, I., Kappen, G., Mori, G., van As, S., . . . van der Wal, R. C. (2019). Is mindfulness associated with interpersonal forgiveness? Emotion. 

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