Today, we are seeing that more and more people are doing some form of meditation. It’s not surprising that during the pandemic many people decided that if they couldn’t go out and be social, they would go in and work on themselves. The pandemic generated a large population of people who began to take steps toward improving their physical and mental health.
This movement has initiated a significant influx of meditation program offerings, including apps for smart phones, books, courses, online retreats, etc. – all designed to teach us the various ways that we can meditate in our daily lives.
So what are the benefits of meditation? It appears that the list is quite long, and not the least is that many are discovering that by practicing meditation on a regular basis, the relationships in their lives also improve.
When we think about meditation, we may think of it as a solo activity, possibly even a selfish one. After all, we may be spending less time with others in order to spend some quality time with ourselves. And some would ask, “How does this benefit the others I’m not spending time with?” It may even seem like doing meditation could be detrimental to the relationships in our lives. But research shows that meditation is actually an effective means of improving our relationships.
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin- Madison found that a class of participants who practiced mindfulness meditation on a regular basis improved the quality of their relationships. The participants were asked to sit in a meditation room with their eyes closed, palms facing each other, feet flat on the floor, and attention focused on the breath. Participants were randomly assigned to a treatment group or to a waitlist control group. All participants completed a pre-test survey one week before the first mindfulness meditation session, and after the last session. Participants received no compensation for participating in the study. The data were collected between January and March 2014.
The study found that the meditator had higher levels of positive mood than non-meditators, and the partner of the meditator had an improvement in mood even if they didn’t participate in the practice of meditation. This finding also occurred regardless of the different stress levels each partner was experiencing. Interestingly, the benefits of the meditation extended beyond the meditating individuals themselves.
There are many of studies that back up this finding. If you like reading research studies, here’s one from the European Journal of Social Psychology. Click here to read more about how meditating can help to improve relationships:
But how does this mutual benefit occur?
What researchers are discovering is that by doing mindfulness meditation or even simple focused breathing for 10 minutes at a time, the meditator is training the mind to pause and slow down. It’s this slowing down process that enables the person to be non-reactive. And by being mindful, watching the inner workings of their own mind with compassion and kindness, they come to understand more about who they are in the world. This is a process of self-discovery.
This compassion toward the self naturally becomes a mindset for being compassionate toward others, and through this process, we come to see how our minds and the minds of others are quite similar. When we watch our minds in a non-judgmental way, we see how our thoughts sometimes can cause us anguish. We come to learn not to believe everything we think.
The act of being a non-critical, curious, and kind observer of the mind allows us to be okay with our minds, with ourselves, and with others.
And what is the best way to practice it?
Below, are the instructions for a simple practice of Mindfulness Meditation.
This type of practice has been proven to be effective in improving relationships.
Remember that you don’t have to be an expert in meditation to experience the benefits.
First, begin by choosing the amount of time you have and/or would like to sit in meditation.
Then find a comfortable chair or cushion to sit on. You can have feet flat on the floor or legs crisscross. Choose a location that is as private as possible. (Some of my clients even meditate in their parked cars.)
Now, set your timer and close your eyes.
Bring your attention to your breath. Feel the sensation of the air and follow it all the way in and all the way out. If you’d like, you can say to yourself during the inhale “IN” and say to yourself during the exhale “OUT”.
After a short while, you may notice that your mind has wandered, and you are in the midst of your thoughts/emotions/images/stories, etc. It doesn’t matter.
This is a natural process of the brain. It’s looking for problems to solve and issues to address, etc.
LET IT ALL GO.
Imagine the thought floating away, possibly into a puffy cloud in the sky.
Then return your attention to your breath.
Do this repeatedly, as many times as necessary without any type of criticism toward yourself. Be gentle with your mind and be kind toward yourself as you begin this process.
When your timer goes off, simply thank yourself for doing the practice without judging the experience as good or bad.
This type of practice is a process of training the mind to pause and slow down. If you found it difficult or challenging in any way, know that there are many apps, podcasts, recordings (including on my website https://optimalyoucoaching.com/), to help make it easier to begin and maintain a meditation practice.
If you’re interested in finding out more, please click here to send me an email requesting information and/or a complimentary meditation session with me.