It's all in Your Mindfulness

Dating in today’s chaotic world can be challenging. Conversations come in through texts, emails, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and dating apps. It can be difficult to find a moment to catch your breath and evaluate where you’re at in your relationships.

As you struggle through the clutter, it’s easy to become overwhelmed, and even exhausted with the prospect of more communication. As you seek to connect with people in your life, take a deep breath, slow down and focus on the moment you are in and the person you are with.
The ability to stay present and attentive, no matter the circumstance, is called mindfulness, a skill that can go a long way in improving dating and marriage relationships.

“If you practice mindfulness in dating you actually hear and understand the other person,” said Tammy Hill, a licensed marriage and family therapist. “Being present, reading their body language, and making eye contact can really help your dating life. You’re actually going to want to get to know them, and they’re going to want to get to know you.”

When practicing mindfulness, it is essential to pay attention to the person you’re with, and also what you are thinking and feeling. When you realize what is happening in the present, you can actively live your life and be engaged in the moment.

“So often as humans we are busy,” said Hill. “Our minds are thinking about what’s happened in the past or busy thinking about what’s going to happen in the future, and right now isn’t under consideration. I would bet more students on campus today are thinking about Friday night than are thinking about Thursday afternoon. Mindfulness is being present, and letting your heart be present.”

There are many ways of letting your heart be present, depending on the situation you’re in and the person you’re with. This can include being honest with the other person about where you’re at emotionally, listening attentively, showing your interest or reciprocating their body language.

“I started dating this guy a few months ago, and I decided right from the get go to be honest about the fact that I was kind of damaged emotionally from my last breakup, and that could impact this new relationship moving forward,” said Madi Bailey, a senior from California. “He listened really attentively, which made me feel more confident in talking about sensitive subjects. He was really appreciative that I was open about it, and it really helped that he could understand where I was coming from when we had problems.”

While practicing mindfulness, stay aware of the situation you’re in and how you’re feeling.

“Ask yourself ‘what do you feel touch wise? What are you seeing, tasting or smelling?’” said Hill. “When we tune into our senses, we become very present minded. I encourage couples when they’re married or dating, whatever stage they’re in, to slow down and live right now. Be present. Let your heart be present where you are. Live right now. This is the only chance you’re going to have to live this Thursday afternoon. Why not just be here with it?”

The following skills can be helpful when learning to implement mindfulness in your daily, and dating, life.

  1. Tune into your senses

    Try to breathe deeply, clear your mind, get calmed down and peaceful. Become aware of what is going on around you. What is your brain picking up that you’re not cognitively registering? Being aware of your senses and what you’re experiencing can help keep you grounded in the present, and able to focus on the people around you.

  2. The most important person is the person you’re with

    You can be with someone wishing they were somebody else, you can be with someone and think, you’re not who I thought you would be, but this won’t change the situation. Be willing to accept the moment for what it is and recognize that preconceived notions about what you want or what you’re looking for can be overrated. Get to know people for exactly who they are.

  3. Recognize your feelings

    Take time to recognize and analyze how you truly feel, without trying to conform it to what you think other people will want to hear. Do you feel calm? Anxious? Excited? Separate the expectations of others from your natural reaction to your experiences and make decisions informed by these emotions.

  4. Be patient and seek to understand others

    Really listen to who it is you’re with. Ask questions as you come to know and understand them better and focus on their response without getting distracted by your phone or what is going on around you. This will help you to understand where their point of view and perspective is coming from and increase your connection.

  5. Be mindful in conflict

    This will help ensure that you don’t behave in ways you regret. Recognizing “I’m being triggered right now, I need to breathe deeply, I need to step away,” and doing whatever it is you need to do to calm down can save unnecessary heartache. Take the space and time you need to be present, and not hurt that person you’re due to your own past trauma or insecurities. If you’re mindful, not only are you able to control yourself but you’re also able to really hear the person you’re with.

  6. Practice

    You practice yoga, you practice sports, you practice art skills. You do this to get into a routine and create a habit. If you practice mindfulness, you’re going to be so much happier, and the people you’re with are going to feel so much more loved.

When starting to incorporate mindfulness into your life, remember the end goal: improving relationships. Being present in the moment and striving to listen to and understand can go a long way in building connections between partners.

“Researchers have found that the number one thing that people want from their partner is to be understood,” Hill said. “You can’t understand someone if you’re not with them.”

Use mindfulness to avoid moving forward without truly getting to know one another. As you take a step back and intentionally choose your dating path, aware of every step, you will find you enjoy dating more and are gaining something from the relationships in your life. Don’t allow yourself to become caught up in the routine of dating as a joyless habit. Ask yourself what you truly want and need, and listen to the answers you discover.

   –Shaye Mullen

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