Mindfulness is a pretty trendy word these days, but what exactly is mindfulness and how can it help us in our marriages? Dr. John Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as an “awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally. To be mindful is to be conscious and deliberate about your life. It is about choosing to be where you are, to really be present in the moment. It is natural for our minds to get caught up in a cycle of living in the past or the future, with little attention to the present. Being mindful is a reminder to slow down and appreciate the beauty of where you are right now. In relationships, practicing mindfulness has been shown to improve communication, decrease emotional reactivity, increase empathy and heighten relationship satisfaction.
We have all had the experience of arriving at our destination without having been fully conscious of the roads we were taking. We call this autopilot. Being on autopilot can also happen in our relationships. When life gets busy, sometimes our marriages can get pushed to the back burner. Date nights don’t happen, late night heart-to-heart talks turn into a quick “goodnight” before hitting the pillow and greetings turn into a halfhearted peck before quickly moving on to complete some other task. These small actions of not being present can lead our relationship to grow stagnant over time. Mindfulness is an invitation to combat the autopilot mode, to see our spouses and our relationship with fresh eyes and to sincerely give them your time and attention.
You don’t need to go meditate on a mountaintop, perfect your handstand in yoga or light candles and chant “ommm” in order to be more mindful. Simply bring your full attention to what you are doing now. When your spouse is talking to you, really listen. When you are hugging your spouse, really hug them. Along with your physical presence, give your spouse the gift of your mental and emotional presence.