Image: Courtesy of Priscilla du Preez via Unsplash
Interpersonal relationships can be difficult to manage when we don’t have the right tools in our toolbox. Most of us don’t learn these in our formal education, and social media abounds with people offering solutions, many without a solid foundation. The good news, however, is that there is a way we can all learn to become resilient not only in having functional interpersonal relationships, but also in achieving our personal goals. The key way is mindfulness. When people first hear the word “mindfulness,” it can bring up images of monks meditating on mountaintops, and the idea that it is only about bringing greater calm into their lives. While this can be true for some, the actual definition of mindfulness is the way in which it helps us regulate our thoughts and emotions so we can be much less reactive to the people we interact with. Just think about all the times you’ve gotten angry, frustrated, or annoyed with someone, be it your neighbor, children, spouse, boss, or in-laws.
Mindfulness provides us with the ability to stay calm and steady no matter what any of these people say or do. Wouldn’t you love to have the ability to avoid all that emotional turmoil in your relationships? Let’s open up the toolbox and I’ll share with you some of the exact tools you need. Here are a few ways that mindfulness can help you in your interpersonal relationships.
The Power of Mindfulness in Interpersonal Relationships
1) Be mindful when you are going through something hard
Many of us can be very compassionate toward others but just the opposite toward ourselves. We can say things to ourselves that we would never say to others, and certainly not to someone we care about. Mindfulness helps us move from inner bully to inner ally. It helps us acknowledge when we are the ones who are going through difficulty in our relationships. Because we are experiencing difficulty, we are deserving of the same compassion we so readily bring to others.
2) Especially during the pandemic, remind yourself that what you’re experiencing is unprecedented
The pandemic has created hardship for all of us, from fears about contagion, the reality of losing those closest to us, to the demands of raising children in a COVID-19 world, to the shifts in our roles at work as many moved to remote. Pausing to remind oneself of all this can help us see that we need to be kind, gentle, and patient with others and above all, ourselves during this time, even in 2022.
3) Mindfulness helps remind us that uncertainty and change are a part of life
So often we think that things will stay the same, but, in reality, the only certainty is change, especially in our relationships. When we resist this fact of life, we cause ourselves even greater suffering and difficulty. The next time you find yourself fearful of uncertainty and change, take a mindful pause and take a few slow deep breaths. Once you remind yourself that we all experience periods of uncertainty and change, you’ll likely find yourself more relaxed and more able to cope with whatever it is you are facing. Breath is so important in work like this.
To reverse patterns of self-criticism, we have to bring mindful awareness to this pattern. The phrases that you might consider saying to yourself are:
I am human, I make mistakes, but I try to better myself everyday and that’s what matters most.
Change is hard but it’s easier if I stop being hard on myself.
My mistakes don’t mean that I’ve failed, they show that I’m a human being who is growing and learning.
It’s okay to forgive myself. I am worthy of love and care.
I am free to let go of others’ judgments and un-welcomed opinions.
By implementing these tips into our everyday lives, we can start to truly live the lives that we were meant to live. Mindfulness can free us from the crippling negative thoughts and emotions that can discourage us from doing what we love and enjoy. This is true for everyone, no matter how young or old, rich or poor. We all deserve to have healthy habits and lives full of abundance and full of kindness to ourselves, as well as to others. You deserve to take control of your mental health.
Meet Our Expert
Dr. Gail Gazelle MD is a part-time Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Master Certified Coach for physicians.