Mindfulness has become a crowded space – both on the internet and in the real world – and it’s gotten a little bit of a bad rep lately because of its “trendiness”. However, beyond that is a very powerful tool that, when practiced with the right intention and commitment, has the ability to change our lives and relationships for the better.
We’ve got proof of that, too. Mindfulness has been scientifically proven to improve both mental and physical health, making us more compassionate and open individuals. Research has also shown that couples who practice mindfulness together end up having stronger relationships.
According to a meta-analysis study published in the Journal of Human Sciences and Extension in 2016, a growing number of research studies that focus on how mindfulness affects the outcome of relationships has found that it promotes unity, connection, and closeness within the relationship. Even though mindfulness is an individual practice, the study found that couples who practice it in their romantic relationships are less likely to react negatively during conflict because their general attitude is one of acceptance, gratitude, and kindness.
“Relationships are strengthened when couples share mindful experiences together because mindfulness is about choosing to be present. In relationships, it’s not just about the actual physical presence of your partner but also the connection through attention; through emotional closeness, touch, tenderness, empathetic awareness, appreciation, mutual respect, and shared experiences,” says Helen Williams, a counsellor and psychotherapist specializing in self-development, as well as couples and marriage consultations, at Mindful Me Dubai. “It’s so common to be out at a restaurant and watch couples only interact with their phones and not each other. Mindfulness teaches us how to be present in each moment by really showing up for ourselves and those around us.”
Williams also talks about how couples have stronger bonds when they grow together, since growth requires awareness. “Growing together usually signifies making a conscious choice to pursue situations, possibilities, and circumstances that often take us beyond what is familiar. When we knowingly pursue a shared experience, a deeper emotional connection and openness is reached, which is how our bonds are strengthened. Mindfulness practices enable us to stay present in the moment, being there for both our self and our partner.”
The idea is that, the more mindful you are, the more satisfied you will be in your relationship. For inspiration, we’ve compiled a list of 12 ways to become a more mindful couple. Some things can be done regularly, while others require more time and financial resources.
Take a Mindfulness Course or Workshop Together
Williams says that, of all the mindful practices that couples can adopt, the most obvious activity is to attend a mindfulness course or workshop together and learn as a couple how to add mindfulness practices and awareness into your daily lives.
Schedule “Conscious Time”
Start having “conscious time” without the distraction of screens. That means purposefully turning off your phones during agreed family times and being fully present in those moments. “Eating meals together, taking walks, engaging in sports activities, or even just shopping in a mall can all become mindful activities if they are enjoyed in presence and without the distraction of phones. Also, small requests such as, ‘Are you willing to listen to me?’ or ‘I’d love to hear about your day,’ are ways of being mindful. “
The couple that meditates together, elevates together. However you choose to do it – whether it be sitting with each other in silence for a few minutes, chanting, or praying – a daily meditation practice has proven to make people calmer, more centered, and less reactive. When we meditate, we begin to release tension, and as a result we become more conscious and relaxed. It’s truly a great way to start the day on a connected note. If meditation is new to you, this might help.
Volunteering is a really great thing to do with your partner because it fosters a sense of gratitude within you. For couples considering this, remember that donating isn’t the same as volunteering. While they are both worthy, the latter is a lot more gratifying because we are offering up our time, which is more rewarding than just offering our money or material possessions.
Play a Sport
Maybe it’s a game of tennis, or a round of golf. Perhaps it’s a yoga practice or a bicycle ride. There are lots of fun sportive activities that couples can do together. It doesn’t have to be a sport one of you already loves (although that’s a good incentive to try and pick it up), and it can be something new to both of you.
Start a Hobby
I have a friend who does the New York Times crossword puzzle every Sunday with her partner. They sit together on their balcony, each with their own copy, working through it separately with some good-natured ribbing when one partner gets a clue that the other hasn’t been able to crack. It’s their thing. If you’re not a wordsmith, don’t sweat it. Chess is a hobby that is both challenging and engaging, and board games are a fun way to bond.
There are lots of DIY projects that can appeal to both men and women. You could give cooking a try or, if you already know how to cook, learn a new cuisine, even from home with a cooking book as your guide.
From dancing to learning a new language, there are so many options when it comes to hobbies that you’re bound to find something you can both get excited about.
Check off Each Other's Bucket List Together
I read a novel once that was about a couple that fell in love while checking things off their individual bucket lists together. Every week they would take turns picking one item to check off of their lists. Within a year, they completed both lists and lived happily ever after. While real life isn’t a fairytale, having your partner encourage and support you doing something you’ve always dreamed of (whether by cheering from the sidelines or physically participating) increases your sense of gratitude, appreciation and love for them. And vice versa.
Share in Each Other’s Big Moments
A birth or a death. A promotion or a demotion. Birthdays, anniversaries, and any other important milestone in our lives are meant to be celebrated or commiserated together. When a partner grieves alone or celebrates alone, a divide is formed between the pair. Show up for your partner. Make a big deal out of their big moments.
Go on More Date Nights That Cost Nothing
As lovely as it is to eat a delicious meal with your other half at a swanky restaurant, sometimes that environment can be too noisy and distracting to really connect. Once in a while, consider going for a leisure walk on the beach while your phones are left at home. You could also go camping or play hooky midweek.
When budgeting, my husband and I like to do mezze nights at home. We play music, share a simple mezze platter, and just talk. It’s as good as some of the experiences we’ve had at top-rate restaurants.
Discover the World Together
Discovering the world doesn’t necessarily mean going on more holidays, because you don’t need to get on a plane to discover the world around you. In the UAE, there are seven Emirates. Visit each one and discover the beauty and uniqueness it offers. The same holds true in other countries. There are always towns and villages, beaches and deserts, monuments and museums, art and cultural hubs to be discovered, rediscovered, and savored together.
Share Once-in-a-Lifetime Experiences
Climb Kilimanjaro, go on safari in Namibia, go snorkeling and diving in the Philippines, skydive anywhere, travel to Burning Man, watch your favorite band in your favorite city. There are so many experiences in this life that can take your breath away and remind you why being alive is so glorious. Share that kind of experience with your partner. If nothing else, it will always be a beautiful memory you made together.
Commit to Learning the Language of Mindfulness
Some of the words for mindfulness are presence, conscious awareness, kindness, attention, and conscious choice, according to Williams. If you start practicing these often – alone and together – you’re already changing your life.