Real Life. Real News. Real Voices.
Help us tell more of the stories that matter from voices that too often remain unheard.
Join HuffPost Plus
thinner_close_xCreated with Sketch.
THE BLOG

How to Improve Your Relationships With Mindfulness

We all want to have better relationships with people, but many of us are unsure of how to accomplish this. These four simple practices can improve your relationships significantly.
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

"Give the ones you love wings to fly, roots to come back, and reasons to stay." -- Dalai Lama

Do you have trouble understanding relationships? If so, then you're not alone. Relationships can be one of the most difficult challenges of the human existence. Whether they are relationships with family members, friends, or romantic partner, conflicts in relationships can cause us stress, unhappiness, and even separation.

Many of us spend our whole lives trying to figure out how relationships work, and still feel like we don't understand them. But the truth is that once we gain some understanding, we realize that having good relationships isn't as complicated as we might think.

The main reason we have difficulties with relationships is that many of us can't see beyond our own wants and needs. So, if we're dealing with someone who sees the world from the same perspective, then we're constantly going to be involved in a power struggle -- each trying to get his own way. Our relationships will be filled with conflict and misunderstanding.

Many people believe that in order to have healthy relationships, that they need to be working on the relationship itself. While this may indeed be important for healthy relationships, what we really should be working on is ourselves. Not only do we need to learn how to be more loving, compassionate, and understanding, but we also need to overcome one of the greatest obstacles to healthy relationships -- our insecurities.

There are several simple practices that can help us make great strides in improving our relationships. Among them are deep listening, mindful speech, writing meditation, and mindfulness meditation. These are key elements of the mindfulness practice.

Deep Listening

Many of us don't listen closely to other people when they're talking to us. We're usually thinking about how we're going to respond, or something entirely different. We have difficulty paying attention because our mind is agitated, and we want to move on to the next order of business. And so we miss much of what people are telling us. This is the main reason why we have such difficulty remembering people's name when we first meet them. It's not because our memory is going bad, but because we weren't paying attention when they told us their name.

People know when we're listening to them, and it sends a clear message that we value what they have to say. It shows respect, appreciation, and caring, and these can go a long way toward healing, and bringing more harmony into our relationships.

The way to practice deep listening is rather simple. Start by looking into people's eyes when they're speaking to you. Try to keep your attention on what they're saying, and resist the temptation to let your mind wander off. And in the event that it does, there is nothing wrong with telling the other person that you missed something he said, and to please repeat it. This shows sincere interest, and that you're trying your best to pay attention. I think you'll be amazed at how well deep listening works. Try it and see for yourself.

Mindful Speech

How many of your conflicts have been the result of simple misunderstandings? Somebody misunderstood what you said and/or your intentions. Whenever we're engaged in a conversation, we often say the first thing that comes to mind. We rarely stop to think about how our words will be interpreted. We simply assume that people will fully understand what we mean. Though we can't control how other people are going to interpret our words, we can certainly reduce the likelihood of being misunderstood.

To practice mindful speech, start by resisting the temptation to simply react to other people's words or actions. Pause and choose your words more carefully. Choose words that are loving, compassionate, and respectful, and try using a tone that is calm and non-threatening. Also remember that it isn't always necessary to give your opinion. Sometimes silence is better than a response.

Loving-Kindness Writing Meditation

One of the reasons for difficult relationships is our attitudes about other people. We are often more concerned about our own needs over those of others. So, our approach to dealing with others will be confrontational because we see them as a threat to us obtaining, or keeping, the things we feel we need to be happy. This is what happens when our happiness depends on external things and circumstances.

Loving-kindness writing meditation is a practice that can quickly transform our attitudes about other people without any conscious effort. The way it works is simple: just copy a set of positive affirmations by hand for about 5-10 minutes a day. That's it. What this does is imprint the affirmations directly into your subconscious. After a about a week, you'll find yourself treating people differently, because your attitudes will become more loving, compassionate, and understanding. This is a very powerful exercise.

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation is the mainstay of our mindfulness practice. If we want to understand how relationships work, then we need to become more mindful of how our thoughts and actions affect our relationships. Mindfulness meditation will not only help us understand relationships better, but it will also help us gain the inner strength to overcome our insecurities.

Mindfulness meditation is not complicated. Just find a quiet place where you will not be disturbed for a few minutes. Sit in a chair with your back straight, feet flat on the floor, and hands in a comfortable position. Close your eyes, and begin observing your breath. When your mind wanders off, just bring your attention back to your breath.

Your mind will keep wandering off. That's normal, so don't expect perfection. Just keep bringing it back. After a few minutes, your mind will begin to settle down. If you are new to meditation, you can start with about 10-15 minute sessions every day, or every other day. Then increase to about 20 minutes, or more, if you like.

What the meditation does is quiet the excess chatter in your mind, and this will help steady your emotions, so that you don't react so much to other people's words or actions. It also helps you see the world with much greater clarity.

We all want to have better relationships with people, but many of us are unsure of how to accomplish this. These four simple practices can improve your relationships significantly. As they are the foundation of the mindfulness practice, they will help you understand relationships better, so you can cultivate greater peace, harmony, and more loving relationships with everyone you encounter. And this will lead to a more rewarding and fulfilling life not just for yourself, but also for those around you. After all, isn't that what you're searching for in your life?

-----------

HuffPost's GPS for the Soul app is based on two truths about human beings. First: We all have a centered place of wisdom, harmony and balance within us. Second: We're all going to veer away from that place, again and again and again. What we need is a great course-correcting mechanism -- a GPS for the Soul -- to help us find our way back to that centered place, from which everything is possible.

Because no one knows better than you what helps you de-stress and tap into that place of peace inside yourself, it's important for you to create your very own GPS guide -- a personalized collection of whatever helps you course-correct. Email us at GPS@huffingtonpost.com and we'll set you up with your very own HuffPost blogger account to share your guide on the site. If you're already a blogger, we encourage you to upload your personal guide today. We can't wait to see what you have to share.