Meditation is super in right now, with everyone from Katy Perry to Oprah reaping and publicly advocating its benefits. Practicing mindfulness — via mindfulness meditation — is the learned exercise of staying present in the moment by quieting the mind. So rather than letting your mind be hijacked by millions of thoughts about your future or past, you practice being still and present, and focus your attention inward. When meditation is regularly practiced, it can ease stress and anxiety, heighten concentration, and even improve your romantic relationship. Jennifer Wolkin, PhD, a licensed psychologist who integrates mindfulness into her practice, strongly believes that being present when interacting with your S.O. can be infinitely beneficial.

Why You should Use Mindfulness In Your Relationship

First off, it’s important to understand the difference between meditation and mindfulness. People often perceive mindfulness to be an extension of meditation, but according to Dr. Wolkin, that’s not quite right. “Mindfulness is much more than meditation. It starts with choosing to become more aware of how we show up in life and then is making conscious choices about what our presence looks and feels like in each moment. All of this can inform the way we show up as an individual in a partnership,” she says. Obviously, the more you show up (both physically and mentally) for your partner, the better. Dr. Wolkin adds that practicing mindfulness for personal stress reduction, emotional regulation, and better communication skills will improve your relationship with your S.O.

Here’s How It Works

“We’ve all experienced that moment [when] we are so stressed that the little things start to bother us,” says Dr. Wolkin. “Stress increases our irritability levels, and usually inconsequential things start to elicit a reaction.” Our stress levels play a huge role in how we engage in our relationships with others. Less personal stress makes you less likely to lash out at your partner when they do something that bugs you. By taking a few minutes to practice mindful meditation every day — or even a few days per week — you can greatly improve your patience and overall relationship with your boo.

There’re other ways to use mindfulness too. If arguments are inevitable (as they often are), you can use your practice to help you better navigate them. Dr. Wolkin recommends taking a moment to reflect on what emotions you’re experiencing. Are you feeling threatened or upset? This pause will stop a knee-jerk (and often hurtful) reaction and allow you to respond with kindness. “It is hard to do,” she says, “but imagine if each individual in a partnership practiced taking a few breaths before lashing out and attacking [their partner] in return, and instead responded with a calmer and less defensive demeanor. We’d actually give one another the space to be heard, and the opportunity to communicate without our armor.” We like the sound of that.

Try These Exercises

If you’re interested in getting some hands-on mindfulness experience that doesn’t involve meditating, Dr. Wolkin recommends trying out two exercises to strengthen your relationship.

1. Individual Introspection: Pay attention and learn what triggers you to negatively respond emotionally to your partner. Notice yourself feeling angry and don’t react immediately. Take a step back and honestly assess. “Often in a relationship when anger is elicited, it is an indication that below the layer of anger is a deep feeling of hurt,” Dr. Wolkin says. Really try to dig to the root of that painful hurt and then write it down. Allow yourself to be vulnerable, and share your thoughts with your partner. When you start breaking down defensive and blame-oriented cycles, you will avoid future arguments.

2. Gratitude Game: We often begin to take our partners for granted and subsequently cease showering them with praise. Practice expressing the feelings that initially brought you together — that are holding you together. Write down 10 reasons you are grateful for your partner and then read them out loud. Switch. “I like to suggest that couples alternate after every [reason] until the lists are finished,” says Dr. Wolkin. The benefit is that “taking the time to express thanks for one another fosters a sense of trust and security in the relationship.”

Do you practice mindfulness in your relationship? Tell us how it has helped you and your S.O. @BritandCo!

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