Headspace on Relationships

February 18, 2014

Headspace on Relationships

Do you ever notice history repeating itself? Whether it’s at work or home with a partner, family and friends, most of our lives involve a web of relationships that deeply affect and are affected by how we feel and behave. We naturally deal with this balancing act by developing habits and assumptions – they’re a normal way of navigating our social world. But when do they start getting in the way? When we’re unaware of our thoughts and feelings, we can develop negative patterns. Whereas actually, a whole lot of pain can be spared with just a little awareness.

The latest research in to meditation suggests it can have a powerful and positive effect on our relationships, and it’s no surprise. When we’re mindful of thoughts and feelings we’re naturally more aware of our habits. It could be a tendency to get defensive when feeling challenged, a low-level state of anxiety feeding uncertainty about a particular person. Perhaps it’s always wanting something more, or to change things… even being constantly eager to please.

Actually, it’s in the nature of the mind that awareness of a mental state changes that state as soon as we notice it. So the first step towards altering a habit is setting the intention to be aware. It may be a tiny difference to begin with, but maintain that sense of awareness and slowly the pattern, seen clearly, begins to dissolve. It doesn’t take lots of analysis or effort - in fact it happens quite naturally, effortlessly. That is, as long as we’re willing to sit with it and allow it to unfold in its own time.

It’s this awareness that we cultivate when we meditate, so it’s no wonder that mindfulness has been shown to improve relationships - and in more ways than one.

A regular meditation practice helps us regulate our moods - and we all know the effect they have in any relationship. It can increase feelings of empathy and kindness, as well as our levels of acceptance, which could potentially provide the most radical shift of all. It’s even been shown to elevate feelings of compassion and altruism.

The simple fact is, when we feel good about ourselves we tend to be happier and generally more content. Quite obviously, this is better for others to be around. But we also tend to be less reactive, allowing others to be who they are, instead of projecting our own ideas on to them the whole time. Often we carry our previous experiences in a relationship, so that what we experience with a person is actually an image of the past rather than the present. It’s what the person used to be like and how we felt when we spoke to them before, rather than a true reflection of how they are. When we bring mindfulness to relationship, we’re more able to let go of the past, bringing our experience into the present moment and being with people as they really are, right now.

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