Mindfulness is an important skill to develop in everyday life to reduce the presence of negative/harmful behaviors and thought processes. Being mindful is another way of saying ‘pay attention’ and ‘be aware’. While mindfulness is usually discussed in terms of the individual, it is also relevant to the development of healthy relationships in parenting, friendships, and romantic partnerships.
The value of mindfulness:
Mindfulness, in all relationships, allows for two or more people to develop closeness, awareness, and understanding. It allows people to feel like they are being seen, heard, and valued, as opposed to judged or overlooked. Mindfulness is something that should be habitually practiced on an individual level and with intentionality. When one is able to be mindful in their everyday personal life, they are able to, then, apply those concepts to their important social interactions. Paying more attention to and becoming more aware of your personal thoughts and feelings, gives you greater ability to address them so that they are not noxious to others.
Mindfulness can be utilized to strengthen and deepen emotional and mental connections to those you find important in your life. It can take many shapes depending on the relationship, however most concepts can be applied across interpersonal connections.
Mindfulness in Parenting:
- Slow down: As parents, it is extremely easy to feel overwhelmed with the day-to-day expectations of making appointments, getting dinner cooked on time, and getting everyone to their respective extracurricular activities. One way to be more mindful is defiantly deciding to change pace, so that you are present in the moment with your children. This could look like extending your morning routine to include time for singing songs, reciting affirmations, or just moving a little slower. This could also look like canceling extracurricular activities for a week or two and just being together and relaxing.
- Accept your children for who they are: Children are not yours to control. They are born their own individuals, with their own paths in life. One of the best ways to be mindful with your children is to openly acknowledge and accept who they are. This means to avoid comparing them to their siblings or yourself. This also means not trying to change them, but instead considering how who they already are contributes to your familial unit. You can also be mindful in how you curate your child’s unique interests and talents.
- Ask for Feedback: Parents, especially in the Black community, are often convinced that their children will be okay if they have food, shelter, and a few electronics. However, we know that those are bare minimum things that children need. Mindfulness in parenting can look like taking the time to ask your children about if they think you are doing a good job, and how they think you can improve. This will let your child know that you value them, their opinion, and want to be your best self for them.
- Be Intentional: Mindful parenting encourages utilizing steps one and two to help you in being intentional in the time that you spend with your children. Mindfulness encompasses intentionality, in that it requires you to be aware of your children’s likes and dislikes, as well as what brings them joy. In learning these things, you are able to curate special pieces of time for just you and them that keeps them engaged, while making them feel seen and heard by their parent.
Mindfulness in friendships and with family members :
- Make time and be present: Once you reach adulthood, finding time to reconnect with friends and family becomes more and more difficult. This makes it very likely that you only engage with family during the holidays, or friends during homecoming season. Setting aside time during the year for phone calls, video chats, and even lunch dates makes the world of difference. Even moreso, choosing to be fully present and take in the experience allows you to create long lasting memories.
- Assist in making life easier: As adults, we all have things that we wish someone could take off of our plate for us. A great way to be mindful in friendships and with family is to show them that you were listening by helping them with some sort of task.
- Be accepting: Every member of your family or friend group is their own unique individual and is deserving of respect. Letting them know that you see and value them for who they are, makes them feel more comfortable with being themselves in your presence. This goes a long way in deepening connections no matter how often you all are able to gather or interact. This also creates the space for them to accept you as you are as well.
Mindfulness in romantic partnerships:
- Pay attention: In the age of instant media and smart devices, paying attention has gotten a lot harder to do. However, it is an imperative aspect of being engaged in relationships. One way to do this is to set aside specific and recurrent times where it is just you and your partner without distractions. This could look like removing devices from the space, or parroting back to the person so that they know you are listening.
- Active Listening: It is easy to feel like your partner talks to you all of the time about the same things–which could very much be true. However, taking the time to be fully engaged in conversation with your significant other can make a world of difference in your partnership. Active listening could look like repeating phrases or ideas back to your partner so that they know you were listening, or asking clarifying questions to make sure you interpreted them correctly.
- Create Joint Goals: The easiest way to make your partner feel seen, heard, and valued is to let them know that you are always thinking about your future together. This could be as simply as setting weekly goals, or as intentional as setting monthly and yearly goals. Writing these goals down in a shared location, and referring back to them, lets your partner know that you are being intentional about your future.
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