Meditating your way to stronger relationships

Meditating your way to stronger relationships

Lauren Elkins

purimYou experience relationships every day. We’ve never met, but right now, you are relating with me as you create an opinion about my writing. Our lives are surrounded by relationships and they have a powerful impact on us.

By increasing your mindfulness, you can make your relationships, the important and the passing ones, positive experiences, and you can strengthen your faith: in yourself; in others; and in your relationships.

Through meditation, you increase your mindfulness. You probably know some of the benefits of this such as a stronger immune system, stress reduction, and better management of anxiety. But did you know it also helps you to increase your empathy and improve your satisfaction with relationships?

Here are three relationship benefits gained through meditation:

1. Learn to be mindful of how your thoughts and actions affect your relationships.
Think of a recent, important conversation with a close relationships (such as a spouse or close friend). Do you feel like you were mindful during the conversation or did emotions run high? Here are some mindfulness guidelines to help with your crucial conversations:

  • Come to the conversation with faith in a positive outcome
  • Focus on being present and open
  • Stay engaged and don’t shut down
  • If you feel you are disengaging, use coping strategies such as deep breathing
  • If you feel you are being judgmental, of yourself or the other person, stop
  • Express empathy for the other person’s different opinion
  • If you feel uncomfortable, that’s okay: it’s normal
  • Be aware of the other person’s discomfort and offer them support
  • Recognize your shared vulnerability

2. Improve your sense of self-worth and stop looking to others for validation. Mindfulness helps you to love and have faith in yourself. In fact, it creates a physiological difference in your brain: you can see a decreased activation of the areas of the brain associated with rumination, according to Biological Psychology. Have you experienced a downward spiral of negative self-talk? We can be our own worst critics! When you shut that down, you love and have faith in yourself. In turn, you won’t need to depend on others for that love and validation, which places unfair expectations and strain on your relationships.

3. Manage your own emotions better so you don’t react as much to others’ actions or words. Meditation also helps change your brain for the better in regards to managing your emotions. A study using fMRI showed that participants who did a short mindfulness intervention were better able to regulate their emotions in response to negative stimuli. The study found that it didn’t need to be extensive periods of mindfulness or meditation, nor did the participants need to be meditation experts to see a difference.

About a year ago, I attempted to make meditation a daily habit.However, when I sat down to do it, I felt a tangible feeling of dread. I thought meditation was supposed to help me with anxiety, but it seemed to exacerbate it!

At the time, I wanted meditation to be an instant cure all. And, I wanted it to somehow work its magic on an infant with difficult sleep habits. As I was trying to meditate, I felt on edge, waiting for the baby to cry.

It took me a long time before I learned consistency. Today, I am slowly learning to be more mindful, but I have learned to notice when I put up emotional barriers blocking other people. When I take the time to meditate (I don’t do it every day, still), I like to use a visualization of a person close to me. As I focus my thoughts on them, I picture a light shining within them that grows and grows. Little, by little, I am learning to see that light in each of my relationships and help it to grow.

I’ve also learned that by strengthing my faith through meditation, I am more satisfied, committed, and invested in my relationships. Over time, I’ve reaped incredible benefits! Have you?

Lauren Elkins is a writer, former IT industry expert, and a mom, with a lot of faith in herself, her family, and God.

Choosing Mindfulness

Choosing Mindfulness

By Camille Ward, FaithCounts.com Contributor

choosing-mindfulnessEven when sitting still, I feel like I live in a perpetual whirlwind of chaos. On particularly stressful days I find myself pulling my coat tighter and tighter, as if it were the only thing holding me together. I’m not just bad at mindfulness, I’m downright terrible at it.

Sounds like I could use some time in mindful meditation, right? But that would take even more time out of my day.

Maybe that’s the point. Time out.

I’ve begun to realize that I’ve been thinking about mindfulness all wrong. Mindful meditation isn’t about putting another item on the schedule, but about taking things off. All of us need a time out at some point. Meditation allows us to step out of life to practice…for life.

We arrive to life in a shocking explosion of cold and noise and pain. No crash course. No manual. We’re expected to wing it from day one. And it just keeps getting crazier. Yet when the opportunity actually comes along to practice for this circus we call life, we pass it by because we’re too busy. But life, like any other skill, requires a mastering of the basics: The ballerina’s first position, the bassist’s scales, the ball player’s swing. And a brain’s mindset.

Mindful meditation isn’t the goal. It’s the practice. Our goal is a mindful life.

When meditating, we focus on the sensations of the present, allowing distracting thoughts to come and go without judgment. By practicing the skills we need to make the most of life we learn to experience life intentionally and observe and accept change without fear. Hopefully we emerge to find ourselves more content, peaceful, and ready to face life.

Of course, none of these things are useful if we dive back in with the same attitude we had before meditation. We have to learn to apply mindfulness to our life as a whole.

Worry is the opposite of mindfulness. All of us have fruitless worries that clutter up our lives. They pull us into the future, prevent us from engaging with the present, and manage to be exhausting without actually accomplishing anything besides making us unhappy.

In an effort to live more mindfully, I’ve begun my week by listing 5 concerns that I am consciously choosing NOT to worry about:

  • Finding a new apartment next year.
  • Finding gifts for my friends’ unborn children (who aren’t due until July…).
  • If people think I’m lazy because I need naps.
  • If the weather will keep me from getting to work this week.
  • Whether or not I’m ever going to get married.

Okay. That list was kind of hard. But also very relieving. While some of my worries made me feel silly or vulnerable, writing them out helped me remember that most of them aren’t even in my control. They’re real worries, but they interfere with living a happy life. This week, instead of stressing over those things, I’ve been enjoying where I am now. So far it’s felt great.

What about you? What 5 worries are you going to reject? Share in the comments below or on social media, using #faithcounts.

Camille Ward is a student of English Education at BYU. She loves to spend time with her family and is not to be trusted with a budget in bookstores or bakeries.

Mastering Mindfulness

Mastering Mindfulness

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Chasing Shiny Thoughts

Have you ever been driving, arrived at your destination, and realized that you can’t remember the commute? Have you read a page or two of a book and can’t remember a single word? Like a raccoon drawn to a shiny object, it’s oh-so-easy to chase after shiny thoughts and lose precious moments.

The Conveyor Belt of Thought

Our minds are like a conveyor belt that’s always running. Our thoughts flit enticingly before us on this conveyor belt and we get to choose which ones we pay attention to, and for how long. But a skill that most of us don’t realize that we have is the power to slow down the conveyor belt, or stop it altogether; the practice is called mindfulness, and it’s really good for you.

Your Power Is in the Present

Mindfulness is achieved by focusing on the present. Think about it. When was your life not happening right now? You can’t change the past, and your influence on the future is always determined by what you’re doing in the present. All of your hopes, dreams, and aspirations are entirely dependent on your ability to live powerfully in the present.

Children: The Masters of Mindfulness

When it comes to mindfulness and living in the present, we have a lot to learn from children. Generally speaking, children are oblivious to time and therefore can allow themselves to be fully present, with whatever they’re doing, at any given time. As a result, they’re trusting, happy, and worry free.

As we grow up, becoming distracted, worried, and overwhelmed is commonplace. It’s exciting news to discover that the power to reverse these unproductive behaviors and live joyfully in each moment has been with us all along.

How Do I Do It?

Mindfulness experts advise that beginners pull themselves into the present moment by focusing on the breath—because your breath is always with you in the present. Here are some steps to help you begin practicing mindfulness:

  1. Find a quiet place. If you can carve out a few minutes to sit alone and be mindful, excellent. If not, know that you can practice mindfulness anywhere, in everything you do, simply by being present and allowing yourself to thoughtfully, calmly, and nonjudgmentally, experience each moment with your five senses.
  2. Slow down the conveyor belt. Try to clear your mind and focus on your breathing. Some find it helpful to say words like “Let” on the in-breath, and “Go” on the out-breath. You can close your eyes or focus on something in your surroundings. Use your five senses to observe and experience your surroundings without judgment. What is the temperature? Are there any smells? What can you hear? Notice any physical sensations internally or externally.
  3. Observe your thoughts. When thoughts do pass before your mind, allow yourself to watch them go by as an observer, without judgment. Let them simply be what they are without chasing them or getting emotionally involved. Remember, you are not your thoughts, and it’s healthy to periodically distance yourself from them. As an observer, you’ll be more open to truth and guiding inspiration.
  4. Set your intention. Setting an intention is a powerful way to put your faith into practice. Decide what you want to accomplish. Do you intend to stay positive throughout the day? Watch what you eat? Keep your temper? Finish your entire workout? It could be anything. Decide what you intend to do, say it to yourself, and simultaneously give it to God, or send it out into the universe. For example: I intend to finish the first item on my to-do list.
  5. Engage in the present. When setting your intention, trust that all you have to do is fully engage yourself in the present, and that God, or the universe, will provide everything you need to succeed.

Mindfulness Helps You Live Worry Free

A fascinating fact about worry is that it’s either past or future based—the two time components that are completely out of your control. When you set your positive intention, and exercise faith that God, or the universe has your back, all you have to do is your very best with the moment in front of you. This mindset is freeing and carries with it a whole host of benefits.

Linda Clyde is foremost a wife and a mother of three. You may contact her at colossalthought@gmail.com