“When we get too caught up in the busyness of the world, we lose connection with one another – and ourselves.”
This quote penned by Jack Kornfield, author and Buddhist practitioner, urges us in our elusive, ever-changing world to remain mindful of our loved ones and our shared surroundings. A recent psychological study even shines a light on the benefits gleaned from mindfulness meditation practices used in couples counseling sessions! I suggest you take some notes before you end up sleeping on the couch tonight.
The case study
Julianne McGill, Ph.D. and other psychological experts in the field explored the benefits of a mindfulness approach when it comes down to communication and counseling between couples. This abstract was recently published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. McGill goes deeper into what the study entails here,
“Broadly, mindfulness is conceptualized as “the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally to the unfolding experience moment by moment” (Kabat-Zinn, 2003, p. 145). Based on this definition, there are multiple components involved in mindfulness and its practice. Baer and col- leagues (2006) delineated five mindfulness facets—nonreactivity to inner experience, observing thoughts/feelings, acting with awareness, describing with words, and non- judging of experience. This opened the door to the possibility of exploring the relative influence of specific facets of mindfulness on individual and relational functioning.”
What is mindfulness exactly?
Look, I used to chuckle at the granola-esque, woo-woo based argument in support of practicing mindfulness in your day-to-day life. I no longer scoff at the folks with meditation applications on their iPhones since several studies show enormous benefits for couples practicing mindfulness in their relationships! David Ludden Ph.D. breaks down what it means to be mindful next.
“Mindfulness is rooted in Buddhist and Hindu teachings. Buddhism includes a journey toward enlightenment, and the concept of “sati,”—which encompasses attention, awareness, and being present—is considered the first step toward enlightenment. The term was roughly translated from the ancient language Pali into the term ‘mindfulness.’”
How can remaining mindful improve your relationship?
An article in Psychology Today claims mindfulness can lead to better overall interpersonal and sexual satisfaction. Once you break down the basics of what mindfulness entails it makes perfect sense. If you’re more in tune with your partner’s needs you can learn to anticipate what they’d like or require from you before they even ask.
“By acting with awareness, we mean that we turn off the autopilot and act intentionally instead. Especially at crucial moments in our relationship with our partner, whether that be having an argument or having sex, we need to act purposefully rather than being driven by our impulses, which so often lead us astray. When we act with awareness, we carefully choose our behaviors with a specific goal in mind.
For this study, the researchers recruited over 800 heterosexual couples who each individually agreed to take a survey intended to assess levels of mindfulness, including both non-reactivity to inner experience and acting with awareness. The participants also responded to questions about their current levels of stress, perceived relationship quality, and sexual satisfaction. The researchers then analyzed the data to see how mindfulness and stress are related to satisfaction with each partner’s relationship and sex life.”
What conclusions were drawn after the study?
Researchers discovered some similarities between men and women when it came down to being mindful of the other in the bedroom and overall in their relationship. Here’s what they found to be true:
- Non-reactivity to inner experience may relieve stress and improve the quality of a relationship
- Acting with awareness was not the most important thing in relation to the quality of a long-term relationship
- Personal stressors only individually impacted a man or a woman’s sexual satisfaction
- Non-reactivity to inner experience directly impacts men’s sexual performance
- Conversely, women reported higher sexual satisfaction when acting with awareness
- Men acting with awareness had a positive correlation with women’s overall sexual satisfaction in that they too benefit from their partners acting with awareness
McGill wraps up the conclusions of this study best with this quote,
“Although they play different roles, the twin aspects of mindfulness—non-reactivity to inner experience and acting with awareness—are important components of relational and sexual satisfaction. As the findings from this study show, acting mindfully not only improves your own happiness, it can also influence your partner’s happiness as well.”
In conclusion, being mindful of your actions and your partner’s needs is paramount. Especially during this stressful year we could all benefit from taking a breath, checking in with ourselves and our loved ones and doing something thoughtful or kind. The foundation for your relationship will be stronger than ever, trust me.