For some mindfulness seems like a hard to reach artform that can only be achieved by the dedicated. Staying grounded in the present moment and being self-aware may seem impractical or even impossible to incorporate into daily life, but it doesn’t have to be. Mindfulness can and is quite simple if you choose to embrace it with an open mind and admit how much you truly need to land in the present moment. Considering the mounting mindfulness studies and its potential benefits, it’s safe to say that mindfulness can help improve both mental and physical health, induce calmness, and just allow you live a better life.
That being said, there are many ways mindfulness can positively affect your social relationships as well.
Being mindful can indirectly lead you to reflect more on yourself, your mind, your body, and your needs. The key to this potentially life-enhancing meditation technique is being mentally and emotionally “open”. When you take a moment to be mindful, that means you are taking a moment to let everything within and outside you to sink in deeper. This can mean that you may contemplate about your feelings – ask yourself why are you feeling/reacting this way? You may also think about your choices – ask yourself why did I make this decision? These questions may seem redundant or simple, but can be helpful when it comes to knowing and understanding yourself, and therefore communication better in social situations.
Here is an example: if you become triggered in a social situation – mindfulness can allow you to take time to reflect on it and figure out why you were triggered by it. You might go into how it makes you think ands feel, sensory experiences, thought patterns and what have you.
Without mindfulness, you may be full of unhealthy emotions that are not accurate to your desired reaction. When you do reflect, you’re not only training your brain to be thoughtful, present self-aware, but you are also training your brain to know yourself better for the next time a similar situation arises.
Being mindful means intuitively knowing and understanding your body. Knowing your body will help you with self control when it comes to certain emotions such as anger, hysteria, sadness, and irritability. One way to understand your brain is the scientific explanation given by Dr. Daniel Siegel. He helps by creating a tangible example of your brain using “The Hand Model”. If you make a tight fist, you have your spinal cord (your wrist), your brain stem (your palm) and cerebral cortex (your closed fingers). When you react to something, picturing lifting your fingers up. The fingertips become the cerebrum — they have “flipped” and they are no longer in “harmony” with the rest of your brain. You have officially flipped your lid. You cannot be fully to blame for what you say or do when you flip your lid, because your brain is literally no longer able to problem-solve, communicate properly, or think straight. You are however responsible to know when you flip your lid. When you start to feel a strong emotion, you can ground yourself quickly by knowing what you want your reaction to be and understanding how to keep your cerebrum integrated enough to be logical; even when anger is a fair response.
Acts of kindness
Again, sometimes anger and frustration is a fair response to an unpleasant or traumatic situation. However, being affected by a situation does not have to translate to being unkind. This refers to being unkind to others, but also being unkind to yourself. The “no judgement” undertones of mindfulness allow us to really think how we can be more accepting, empathetic, and compassionate to ourselves and the people around us. When you are approached by someone unkind, mindfulness asks you “do you want to rise or do you want to fall?” When you are confronted with a situation that brings out a worse version of yourself, mindfulness asks you “what kind of person do you want to be right now?” When you experience a situation you are uncomfortable with, mindfulness asks you “how can you practice compassion today?” Lastly, when you have the chance to be unkind, mindfulness reminds you – “you know yourself – how can you work to know this person better, too?”
Focus is key to mindfulness. Focusing on what we see, smell, feel, taste, and of course – what we hear. Mindfulness creates better listeners, more attentive friends and workers, and a person who is fully aware and prepared for a meaningful interaction. When you try to stay mindful and present, you think less about the past and the future and your attention is fully on the needs of the “now”. Your attention span will inherently increase as you force yourself to drop the hustle and bustle of our modern lives, and rest and reflect instead. An interaction as simple as a conversation suddenly becomes easier when you are mindful. It is okay to admit that sometimes in social situations, we are behind-the-scenes thinking of how we can get out of it, what responsibilities we have later that day, or about a completely irrelevant thought. Mindfulness erases the need to fill our brains to the rim, and instead pours out a bit of worry and leaves enough space to pay attention.
When you are at your most mindful, you will be able to clearly think about what you want to say and do without the need for judgement, anger, or violence. Similar to the “flipping the lid” theory mentioned under self awareness, you will be able to know exactly what your body and mind do during conflict, and you are able to correct the parts you are not okay with. Instead of having your reaction push the conflict further, you will inevitably be able to avoid unnecessary arguments. Mindfulness insists that finding a solution that improves the well-being of everyone involved is the best way to end a conflict, and you can get there through a deep breath, a clear thought, and quick reflection.
The next time you are in a social situation, remember to practice mindfulness. Take a deep breath. Ground yourself in the “now”. Let go of the past, forget about the future, and be present. Find a sense of gratitude in your sensational awareness of the moment, and let healthy relationships thrive. Mindfulness may be the secret to more positive interactions, but one must practice it to find out.