Enrich your relationships by harnessing the power of mindfulness
Mindfulness has numerous health benefits, from improving productivity to relieving stress. But what’s less well documented is how it can enhance our relationships – it’s not just a tool for meditation or clearing the mind. Consciously turning our attention to the people who cross our path, from our friends and family members, to colleagues and strangers, can help us value those connections and strengthen bonds.
“Mindfulness is a silent celebration of the senses,” says Maggie Richards (maggierichards.co.uk), a meditation teacher and co-author of the meditations that launched the iTunes Calm app. The essence of mindfulness hinges on the possibility that our mind has two ‘aspects’ – the higher, and the lower – and the relationship between these two polarities has a direct effect on the quality of our outer relationships. “While the higher mind is rooted in the eternal now – all that is good, loving, pure and true – the lower mind thrives on negativity,” says Maggie. “It reacts to others’ weaknesses, differences and problems not with compassion but with judgment, blame, and even cruelty. When the higher mind overcomes the lower mind, we naturally manifest more loving connections.” The more we incorporate mindfulness into our relationships, the better we can create the conditions that invite positivity and foster inner harmony.
More honesty, happiness and healing are just the beginning of what’s possible when we’re more present in our relationships. To allow this to impact your relationships, begin by intentionally focusing your mind on the present conversation or connection. Exactly what that involves will vary depending on everything from how hectic your life is, to the quality of your existing relationships. But small shifts, such as making the effort to look people in the eye when talking to them, can yield big results, according to Becky Goddard Hill, author and former psychotherapist. “If we give people our full attention they feel valued, cherished and important, which helps strengthen our connections with them,” she says. “People need our time and focus.”
Scheduling time for a more mindful approach to the people in our lives can also help. That might sound counterintuitive, since we think of mindfulness as something ‘organic’ that shouldn’t require such a structured approach, but it does. “We can help ourselves tremendously with mindfulness by being organised – putting our appointments in our diary so we’re not panicking allows our mind to rest, and scheduling free time where we can just ‘be’ also gives us space to be mindful,” says Becky. “Packing in too much gives us no peace, so we need to keep our to-do lists short and allow time for things like eating, walking, reading and connecting with others.”
Creating enough opportunities in your life for silence is also key to allowing mindfulness to strengthen your bonds with people. “As we learn to rest our minds in the present, we can begin to experience a sense of inner stillness and silence in which the destructive voices of fear, doubt and selfishness become distant and we may begin to hear, instead, the most trustworthy of guides: our inner voice,” adds Maggie. Tuning into this can subdue our compulsion to judge, argue or avoid conflict, and even allow us to see the part we might play in relationship dynamics. From there, we can choose to do things differently. “We might go the extra mile for someone, ask for forgiveness, or make amends. Or we might finally start to express a calm ‘no’ to a situation that’s bringing us down. Calm brings clarity, and with it, we come to know what to give our time and energy to.” But even with the best intentions to apply mindfulness to our relationships, it’s easy to be thrown off course.
From conflicts in relationships to the pressures of daily life impacting our resilience, many things can hinder our efforts to engage the higher mind. “Mindfulness is when you are fully present in the here and now” says Becky. So, what can we do about the things that distract us from being more mindful? “We can clean out our cupboards, literally and metaphorically,” says Maggie. “Distractions tempt the lower mind and build negativity, but mindfulness strengthens our higher mind, which we need to become our best self.” It’s comforting to note that reflecting on what’s stopping us from being present in our relationships, can actually help us develop mindfulness, too.
Use our guide to recharge your interactions with loved ones.
1. In your interactions with people, aim to see the goodness and potential in others.
2. Often, we spend a lot time forward thinking during our conversations. If we’re focusing on what we want to say next, or judging what the other person is saying, we forget to listen properly.
3. An easy way to deepen your connection with someone is to get closer, particularly during important conversations. Placing your hand on their arms, or holding hands, can strengthen your bond.
4. Cut the distractions down. If you’re on your phone while someone is talking, then you’re going to feel disconnected from the conversation. Focus on the moment.
5. Get clear on who and what steals your positivity, confidence or calm. Then take steps to change their influence in your life.
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