Well-Being: Create Better Relationships Through Meditation

According to Marsha Lewis, Ph.D., the list below explains why a person who mediates might be a better partner in a relationship.

1. “Better management of your body’s reactions

Stress and anger lose their grip on your body more quickly and easily. When you get home from a hard day at work, you aren’t still carrying the pent-up tension and frustration in your body, and so you won’t be driven towards an angry reaction to your partner’s benign comment.

In a way, it’s like resetting your body’s “alarm” button when it’s gotten stuck in the Onposition. Vital to your relationships is your ability to (a) recognize that that’s what’s going on, (b) understand what is happening in your brain and body that is keeping you there, and (c) un-stick that alarm button.

2. Emotional resiliency

Being able to correct or repair unpleasant moods more quickly, without just sweeping them under the rug of resentments, frees you up to be less stressed by emotional upset, and more available to the next good thing.

Regulating your emotions doesn’t mean ignoring them, denying them, or cramming them deep inside (they eventually erupt anyway, but in festered form). The trick is to be able to get yourself back to baseline with relative ease and efficiency.

3. Better, more “tuned in” communication

Research on attachment and healthy brain development shows that having someone be attuned to you – they listen and “get” you without distortion, and respond in a way which is actually contingent upon you instead of just their own inner stuff − is one of the chief ways that your brain gets organized for wellbeing.

That’s true in childhood, and we’re now learning that it’s also true for adults. Mindfulness meditation helps you to be a more attuned communicator. Even better, new evidence suggests that the more you practice this kind of “attuned” communication, the more likely that your significant other will get better at it, as well.

4. Response flexibility

We often have a fairly limited repertoire of how we respond to those situations that just set us off. Some people always blame and yell when they feel ashamed; others cry whenever receiving criticism, even if it is constructive and positive.

The habits of our nervous system can seem like electrical surges, leaving us vulnerable to making a real mess when we don’t mean to. Having an emotional circuit breaker makes a real difference – creating the space for you to have a more mindful, conscious response. Mindfulness meditation, by beefing up areas which essentially buy us a tiny bit more time before we respond in a knee-jerk way, improves response flexibility.

5. Improved empathy

There are some common misconceptions about empathy. Being empathic isn’t about being a doormat or a mind reader. It’s also not about fear (I need to read this person really well so he doesn’t get angry and hit me).

Being able to “get” and understand another person’s state of mind is essential for healthy relationships, but being able to do so without losing your awareness of your own state of mind is vitally important. Getting your brain to let you perceive someone else, without your protective gear and lenses, and without getting lost in their “stuff,” is something that mindfulness meditation does extremely well.

6. Improved insight (self-knowing)

Getting to know yourself in a real way, and within a coherent framework (How did I get here?), results in being far less vulnerable to getting lost when it comes to being in relationship with others.

When we meditate regularly, we’re practicing our ability to notice what our brain is up to − what the thoughts are, what the feelings are. We become increasingly able to tell the difference between those momentary and ever-changing events, and who we really are. Through meditation practice, the brain gets rewired and “remembers,” more often and more easily, who you really are – not just your thoughts and feelings, so they don’t carry you away.

7. Better modulation of fear

If you’re able to be more comfortable with things which once scared you (He’s going to leave me; I’m not enough for her), and not as reactive to emotional fear, you change your entire experience of being in an adult-to-adult relationship with others.

It’s important in relationships to have ready access to being able to soothe yourself when you’re afraid, so that your reactions and interactions aren’t overrun by your fight-flight-freeze response. There is compelling research on the brain mechanisms underlying the flexible control of fear, and those are remarkably similar to the brain areas that change in response to mindfulness meditation.

8. Enhanced intuition

There’s actually increasing neurochemical and cellular evidence of a sort of second brain in our gut (okay, viscera). Most of us are familiar with having some kind of gut feeling, usually in response to something that has our attention. But what about all of those times when we’re an auto-pilot, or distracted? Is the information in our gut turned off’?

Hardly. Our viscera, and the rest of our body – our muscles, eyes, ears, skin, and so on – are telling us something. Most of the time, we ignore these messages, but the mindfulness practice of being more aware of what your body is telling you enhances the ability to be attuned to yourself, and what you unconsciously know – what we can refer to as intuition.

Becoming emotionally “smarter” – by using the extra information from your non-brain parts – enhances your ability to be in mindfully aware, conscious relationships with yourself and with others.

9. Increased morality

In addition to healthier, happier relationships with your partner and circle of friends, is there anything that comes from the first eight benefits?

The research on mindfulness shows that when people learn to meditate and practice regularly, their perceptions of their place in the world begins to shift – something corroborated by family members. They become more broadly compassionate, more likely to act on their highest principles, and demonstrate greater interest in the social good – what can very reasonably seen as living with higher morals. It’s like having a healthier relationship with your whole community, not just the people closest to you.”

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