Can Meditation Save Your Relationship? (Science Says Yes)
Mindfulness and meditation are all about cultivating an intimate relationship with yourself and the present moment, but these practices also boast transformative benefits for intimacy with your partner. Relationship intimacy involves emotional closeness, which is a key component of maintaining a meaningful relationship. In an age when busyness is our modern-day epidemic, and hyper-connectedness is the norm, mindfulness and meditation become lifelines for the success of our relationships.
The research is in! A meta-analysis published in the February 2016 issue of the Journal of Human Sciences and Extension found that mindfulness can be linked to profoundly satisfying, connected relationships. This meta-analysis looked at the results from 12 studies, including two mindfulness intervention studies. Overall, mindfulness was shown to enhance relationship connectedness and satisfaction. The practice of presence starts from within, but the benefits extend far beyond ourselves. Here are three reasons mindfulness and meditation will make you a better partner:
1. Meditation will help you be less reactive.
Neuroscience now validates what ancient yogis have known for years: that brain change happens through practices that connect the mind, body, and spirit. A consistent mindfulness practice decreases the amygdala’s density (the amygdala is a small part of the brain that acts as an alarm system, detecting threat), thus increasing our capacity to regulate our emotions in the face of anger, agitation, and fear. How does this translate to relationships? Think about a moment when you're reacting to something your partner said or did, a moment when you're feeling rejected, invalidated, or unloved. In these micro-moments, emotions such as anger, sadness, or fear often arise instantaneously in the nervous system. A mindfulness practitioner, however, can witness these emotions with objectivity, experiencing less reactivity due to changes in their brain. Reactivity is released through mindfulness and self-observation.
2. Mindfulness teaches us to speak from our hearts.
Viktor E. Frankl, author of Man’s Search for Meaning, said, "between stimulus and response, there is space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom." That space is mindfulness. Most of us lead perpetually busy lives of inundated inboxes, endless texts, and social media scrolling; we have little to no space to actually slow down to take in this life we’re living alongside our loved ones. The practice of presence (whether we’re talking about formal meditation or a mindfulness practice such as belly breathing) guides us back home to our loving, compassionate heart. The Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education did a study on the neurobiology of love; their findings showed that through mindful presence, romantic partners are able to deactivate parts of their brains associated with negative emotions and criticism.
3. Meditation will help you stay calm—and it will rub off on your partner.
Research shows that meditators begin to value an embodied sense of calm and become more likely to engage in thoughtful, mindful, interpersonal connections with others. A study led by Birgit Koopmann-Holm of Stanford found that meditators placed a higher premium on calmness than non-meditators. Neuroscience tells us that mirror neurons (brain cells that "mirror" the behavior of another) act as catalysts for calm interactions with our partner. In other words, if we choose to embody a calm presence with our loved one no matter what is unfolding around us, our partner will likely mirror this very behavior in response. Mindfulness meditation teaches us to meet the moment with full acceptance and without judgment. When we gift our presence to the people around us, we enhance our capacity for joyful living, interconnectedness, and meaningful relationships.
In a world where distraction is pervasive, living in the present moment is the greatest gift me can give ourselves. Mindfulness and meditation are there to teach us that health is about You. We. All and help us find what we seek most: partnerships full of love, depth, and joy.