Mindfulness is receiving a lot of attention as of late. While this practice has roots in Buddhist traditions, researchers are now examining its benefits through a scientific lens. Mindfulness is defined as “…the state of being attentive to and aware of what is taking place in the present” (Brown & Ryan, 2003, p. 822). It is not deliberate in nature, meaning that we don’t consciously make a decision to analyze our experiences, but rather mindfulness involves simple observation. It can be developed and improved upon through meditation.
Mindfulness has been shown to lead to benefits such as stress reduction and increased emotional well-being. There are clearly beneficial outcomes to this conscious awareness, but what implication does mindfulness have for our romantic relationships?
Becoming A Better Partner
Barnes, Brown, Krusemark, Campbell, and Rogge (2007) have found that mindfulness is related to relationship satisfaction and romantic well-being. Other research has failed to find a direct link between mindfulness and relationships, and instead focuses on the benefits it affords us, which in turn may make us more skilled partners.
Mindfulness can be acquired as it is a skilled practice that allows us to be aware of what we are experiencing.
- Improves our own psychological well-being, and as a result, can help enhance our relationships (Brown & Ryan, 2003).
- Makes us better at listening, and thus helps with communication (Bavelas, Coates, & Johnson, 2002).
- Lowers our stress, and as a result, makes us better equipped to work with our partners effectively (Shapiro, Schwartz, & Bonner, 1998).
- Increases our level of empathy, which can then impact our relationships (Shapiro, Schwartz, & Bonner, 1998).
A Real World Example
So how would practicing mindfulness affect our romantic relationships in our day-to-day experiences? Take, for example, an argument with your partner. Instead of acting impulsively and lashing out during the exchange, you would be present and aware of what your partner is saying. Beyond that, you would have the ability to put yourself in your partner’s position to understand the points he/she is making, and then choose the appropriate response. This more aware and measured way of handling the situation is likely to lead to fewer arguments and a lower level of negativity when handling the issue.
In essence, being mindful allows us to access and understand our emotions and be present and capable of understanding the emotions of others. While this can certainly improve our own mental state, it can also lead to a better connection with others.
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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.
Bavelas, J. B., Coates, L., & Johnson, T. (2002). Listener responses as a collaborative process: The role of gaze. Journal of Communication, 52, 566–580.
Brown, K. W., & Ryan, R. M. (2003). The benefits of being present: Mindfulness and its role in psychological well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(4), 822.
Shapiro, S. L., Schwartz, G. E., & Bonner, G. (1998). Effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction on medical and premedical students. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 21, 581–599.