You may be familiar with the healing properties of practicing mindfulness. Thirty years of research has shown that it increases our ability to relax, reduces pain, increases energy, improves self-esteem and helps us cope more effectively with stress. But how often do we practice mindfulness in our relationships?
Mindfulness is giving full attention to the present moment, non-judgmentally. Imagine if you could be non-judgmental when hearing another person’s opinion, or concern, even if it feels like criticism or anger to you.
The same skills that you use in solitary mindfulness, can be used in conversation, but instead of focusing on your breath, or an object, you focus on the other person. Put away distractions: mental and physical. Put away your phone, to-do-list, judgment, personal feelings, and impatience. If you find yourself quickly becoming emotional, you may be in the grip of reactivity. Breathing slowly can help relax the emotional center of your brain and increase your sense of calm, allowing freedom to truly see the other person. Letting go of your own personal thoughts and emotions allows you to “cross the imaginary bridge” into the other person’s world.
When you make eye contact using this calm, focused posture and frame of mind, the other person will naturally feel heard and understood. The mirror neurons in your gaze will help calm your partner.
Imagine that you are stepping into their shoes. You can begin to guess what the other person might be feeling: “I imagine you might be feeling…. “Is it possible you feel…”. Using words will help the other to manage strong emotions. If you “name it, you can tame it”. Simply by putting words to our emotions, we are able to move from reactivity to intentionality.
This practice of relational mindfulness and empathy can heal relationships. It can also put you in the position of greater influence in the lives of others. They will see that you care, understand, and see how they feel. People only care what you think, when they think that you care. We are relational beings, and we heal best in relationship. By learning to share another person’s world, we all learn and grow from the experience. Be mindful in your relationships and they will grow.