You’ve probably heard of mindfulness meditation, a technique developed by Buddhists more than 2,000 years ago that helps you be present with whatever is happening in the moment. Proponents say that mindfulness meditation can contribute to stress reduction, improved sleep, heightened focus and increased creativity, just to name a few. But did you know that mindfulness could seriously benefit your marriage? Read on for more on why that is, plus four tips for a more mindful marriage from Julie Potiker, a mindfulness expert and the author of Life Falls Apart, but You Don’t Have To: Mindful Methods for Staying Calm In the Midst of Chaos.
What Is Mindfulness?
In a nutshell, mindfulness is the ability to stay fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D., a molecular biologist and meditation teacher, mindfulness is an “awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, nonjudgmentally.”
How Can Mindfulness Benefit Your Relationship?
Think about how busy your life is. Between work, kids and other obligations, it’s easy to let your marriage slip into autopilot. When you’re just going through the motions, you’re not present. Mindfulness empowers you to become more present with everything in your life, including your relationship with your partner or spouse.
4 Ways to Have a More Mindful Marriage
1. Practice Loving Kindness
Love and kindness—two cornerstones of a happy marriage, no? Potiker tells us that loving-kindness meditation, or Metta meditation, is the practice of opening your heart and focusing on the good in yourself and others. The practice, which takes as little as 15 minutes, entails allowing yourself to receive your own love or to send it out into the world. Loving-kindness meditation is one of the most flexible forms of meditation that we can practice anywhere, at any time, and any pace. First, start with yourself. Using yourself as the subject, show all your love and care to the self. Once you've shown yourself love and kindness (by saying things to yourself like, "I am worthy," "I deserve good things," etc.), begin to direct the same love and kindness to others—in this case, your spouse. Repeat the same phrases, but with your partner as the subject rather than yourself. For more on how to start a practice with your spouse, check out this guide from U.C. Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center.
2. Write Down Three Things You’re Grateful for About Each Other
Amidst the hustle and bustle of life, it can be super easy to take your spouse for granted—and vice versa. This one’s also beyond simple. Per Potiker, “Take a few minutes to turn your mindful attention to all that is amazing about your partner.” Even if it means opening your phone’s notes app and jotting down a couple of things you’re grateful for (and then sharing them) it’s an awesome reminder of all the wonderful things you provide for each other.
3. Listen to a Guided Meditation Together
“This mindful time is beneficial for easing into the evening together,” Potiker tells us. We’re fans of guided programs from the meditation app Headspace, which will lead you through quick sessions that help you start becoming extra aware of your body and breathing while sitting in a comfortable position. Or, instead of lying in bed side-by-side, scrolling through your phones before falling asleep, turn on a guided meditation to end the day in a more connected and loving place.
4. Do Things Together That Bring Each of You Joy
This is another activity that seems simple in theory but sometimes becomes tough to pull off in practice. Potiker recommends making a list of little things you both enjoy and choosing one to do together every day (it can be as simple as making each other a homemade espresso or reading a short poem aloud to each other), or picking a weekend to do a few at once. Mindfulness is all about being present in your lives individually and together, so make the effort to shut out all the noise and focus on what’s most important to you as a couple.