Are you looking for ways to improve your relationship? Mindfulness is the key to improving many areas of your life, including relationships!
If it would have been a few months ago I wouldn’t have noticed how her shoulders or her gaze dropped as she mentioned her cat. Instead, I would have been waiting for it to be my turn and started in on a topic close to my heart – like sports or travel.
The night would have ended like so many others, with me having no clue what had gone wrong. We wouldn’t have connected and she wouldn’t have agreed to see me again.
But it is today and I’m a different person.
So, instead of talking about myself, I ask her what’s wrong with her cat. I can immediately see she’s impressed. I almost feel myself shift on the scales of her regard. The question ends up unlocking the date. She talks about how her cat hasn’t been well and how she’s really worried. I empathize.
She opens up.
We only talk about the cat for 15 minutes, but the goodwill it created carries over into the rest of the night. Our conversation becomes less stilted and flows more easily. The silences shift from being uncomfortable to being natural pauses as we enjoy each other’s company.
After dessert, we head to a bar. Her eyes sparkle. My heart beats a little faster. We’re not even talking about when we’ll meet again as neither of us wants this meeting to end.
So What Changed?
How did I get better at dating? Did I read a lot of second date tips? Sure, but they didn’t really help. What did it for me was practicing mindfulness. I started working on becoming more aware of myself, my emotions and my surroundings.
It’s not always been easy, but it’s been worth it! It taught me how to get a second date, but it doesn’t end there. It has improved my life in so many other ways as well. You don’t need to take my word for it either. It isn’t just me that swears by mindfulness. In fact, the scientific jury has come in and they’ve come down in favor of mindfulness to an overwhelming degree.
Mindfulness has, to name but a few, been shown to be good for:
- Relieving stress
- Worrying and regretting less
- Higher life satisfaction
- Better sleep
- Less depression and anxiety
- Less heart problems
And, of course, it’s been shown that it can be beneficial and can improve your relationship as well. But then, how could it not?
It means you’re more in the moment, more aware of your surroundings, more capable of understanding your emotions and where they come from, as well as better able to understand what other people are feeling.
In fact, mindfulness has been shown to boost our emotional intelligence, which is our ability to understand other people’s emotions and our own. And that is obviously going to help if you want to improve your relationship.
It certainly helped me. I’ve gone – to bring back one of my favorite topics – from striking out to hitting home runs, with three out of my four most recent dates leading to a second one. (Yes, that’s right, you can be more mindful and still love sports. I haven’t suddenly turned into somebody who wants to shave their head, burn incense and wear pajamas all the time!)
How to Become More Mindful
Sounds pretty good, right? So how did I get here? And, more importantly, how can you? That question, in particular, will be the focus of this second-date advice article.
For many of you, this will be a relief: I didn’t start with meditation.
I mean, everybody says it’s a really great way to get better at being more mindful, but it struck me as a step too far. It turns out you don’t have to start there either. There are plenty of other ways to practice your mindfulness with the purpose to improve your relationship.
Here are some of the ways you can start out:
1. Pay attention to your breathing – particularly when you’re emotional.
Your breathing is a great way to center yourself and calm yourself down. If you’re feeling stressed it’s going to speed up. If you then take a bit of time to calm it down again, you’ll be able to stop thinking about what is stressing you out and calm not just your breathing but yourself as well.
And that will, for example, let you shed that discomfort that you so often feel when you first meet somebody for a romantic evening. From there – instead of having your anxiety clanging like church bells in your head – you’ll be able to relax and really pay attention to them.
From there you can stop thinking about ‘me’ and start thinking about ‘us’.
2. Take moments to focus on what would normally pass you by.
You know those moments when you would normally grab for your phone – not because you’re expecting it to tell you anything new, but because there is an empty space to fill? Don’t. I swear, sometimes it feels like phones were created with the sole purpose of destroying mindfulness.
Instead, fill that moment with opening yourself up to the world around you. Try to catch something that would normally have slipped beneath your consciousness. Are there any interesting smells, or sounds? Is there something to see that you hadn’t noticed before? How is your posture? Don’t just focus on one thing either. Try to take in as much as possible.
Practice this often enough and it will become automatic. This, in turn, will allow you to pick up on a lot more signals that other people are sending out and thereby become better at reading other people and the situation that you’re in. That, by the way, was how I noticed that she was worried about her cat.
3. Learn to be in the moment.
As often as possible, bring yourself back to the moment. Start by practicing this when you’re alone. Instead of allowing your mind to wonder, focus on what’s going on. Become aware of the little things. What does the apple actually taste like? How do your clothes feel as they rub against you as you walk?
In the beginning, these moments won’t last very long, but if you keep doing it again, and again it will become easier and last longer. Bring yourself back to the moment whenever you notice that you’re distracted and pay attention to what you’re feeling, seeing and experiencing.
Then take it into your dates with you. This means you don’t spend the time the other person is talking thinking of what you’re going to say. Instead, you actually listen to what they’re saying. Then, when it’s your turn to talk, let your response naturally flow forth from where they left off.
This is what they call ‘Mindful speech’.
4. Accept that you are not your thoughts and emotions.
This one sounds pretty abstract, but it isn’t. It’s, in fact, perfectly logical. You can’t be your thoughts and your emotions, as they’re constantly changing, coming and going. You, in the meantime, remain the same.
So why is this important?
Only when you can accept you’re not your thoughts and emotions can you take a step back and insert conscious thought between the stimulus and the response. And that is vitally important, as it means you’re not going to get carried away. And so, when I meet a classy woman who seems out of my league, my nervousness doesn’t throw my brain on tilt anymore.
Instead, I take a step back from my nervousness, recognize it for what it is and let it go. That way I don’t blow a fantastic romantic opportunity in the first few seconds.
Now, I’m not saying this will be easy. Quite often, for example, it’s nice to be angry and letting it go is the far harder thing to do. Still, it’s the right thing to do. And so, practice. It will become easier over time. It will be well worth it, not just to improve your relationship or to get you a second date, but in lots of other areas as well. If you’re ruminating, you’ll be able to simply let it go. If you’re frustrated, you can let it go.
Mindfulness is not something that will just happen. It requires a shift in how you look at yourself and see the world. That means it will take some time to master. Don’t let that get you down. The benefits will start accruing almost immediately, as your outlook on life improves, you can let go of the negative and embrace the positive, and, yes, you learn how to improve your relationship.
This is not just because the dates go right, but because you better understand what went wrong, which is the first step to fixing your mistakes.
So don’t get frustrated. And if you do, see that as a perfect opportunity to practice mindfulness by slowing your breathing and letting it go. Because practicing mindfulness isn’t just about the destination, it’s also about appreciating the journey.
If you can do that, then you can focus on the moment. And that allows you to be in the moment and appreciate and enjoy, for example, that first date. Want to learn more? You can do a lot worse than checking out the Greater Good at Berkley University.
So what happened with the girl with the cat?
Our date ended on a high note. And you can be sure there was a second one. And a third.
In the end, we didn’t stay together, however. Why not? Because I fell head over heels in love with somebody else I met. We’ve been together for six months and it’s been phenomenal. But you know what’s even better?
The girl with the cat and me are still great friends. I thank mindfulness for that as well. We were able to have a grown-up conversation about what had happened and decided that we had such a great time that we’d like it to continue in each other’s lives, even if it wasn’t romantic.
And so we hang out, joke, kid and talk about her cat (who fortunately got better). We even help each other out. For example, she helped me with this article. And so, practicing mindfulness took me from not knowing how to get a second date to enriching both my romantic and my social life.
And it can also improve your relationship too. So what are you waiting for?
Author Bio: Several years ago Jelte left behind the sedentary life of academia to travel the world, experience the sights, sounds and ideas she shares with him, and write from her many corners. In that time, he’s written two books and hundreds of articles, seen four continents, lived in six countries, travelled through dozens more and never owned more than fit into two bags. Find out more at Vagabondwriters.com. You can also connect or follow him on Facebook.