Tip #1: Be Mindful
Each Wednesday I’ll post a different tidbit of relationship advice — culled from academic research, new books on the market and my own experiences.
January 14, 2009
Practicing mindfulness can improve your relationship.
Picture this: You’re staring at the kitchen trash and feel a surge of frustration. You just saw your partner stuff one more thing into the already overflowing bin without making a move to empty it. Ready to pick a fight, you’re about to lash out with an angry indictment of your partner’s overall worth as a human being. Then you stop.
You’ve been taking classes in something called mindfulness, so you take a deep breath and step back. You identify and feel your emotions, and then let them pass. You find the real source of your frustration: It’s not the trash; it’s that you don’t feel appreciated around the house. Instead of an opening volley of obscenities, you consider how to resolve the broader issue.
Sound too New Age-y to work in your household? It might be worth a try: Researchers at major universities are exploring the benefits of Buddhist mindfulness techniques to help families increase feelings of closeness and decrease relationship stress — and the results are promising. Just as the latest Hollywood incarnation of the Incredible Hulk keeps his green-hot anger under control with daily meditations, so are some people learning to manage emotions in their relationships.
In mental health terms, mindfulness is the awareness that emerges from focusing on the present and the ability to perceive — but not judge — your own emotions with detachment; it enables you to choose helpful responses to difficult situations rather than reacting out of habit. While Western thought separates religion and science, Buddhists see mindfulness as both a spiritual and psychological force.
The Next Steps
• Want to read more? Check out my recent piece in The Washington Post.
• Want to to bring mindfulness into your relationship? Check out The Mindful Couple: How Acceptance and Mindfulness Can Lead You to the Love You Want.
• Want to learn about mindfulness-based stress reduction more generally? Find a course offered near you.
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