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Mindful Exercises for Couples

Have you and your partner felt disconnected recently? Whether you feel emotionally distanced due to everyday life stressors or a recent argument, there are a number of mindful exercises for couples that can boost intimacy, relieve tension, and build connection after only a few minutes.

Follow along as we uncover the benefits of mindfulness exercises for couples and three mindful techniques you can try today. By the end, you'll learn how to be present in the moment with your partner, cope with and resolve challenges you face as a couple, and discover greater happiness — both inside and outside of your relationship.

What it Means to Practice Mindfulness as a Couple

Mindfulness is described as a form of meditation focused on bringing an intense awareness into the present moment without interpretation or judgment. Mindfulness meditation has been shown to reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety, treat and prevent symptoms of depression, boost cognition, and improve overall body satisfaction.

Some common forms of mindful practices include breathing exercises (i.e. deep belly breathing, box breathing, etc.), guided imagery, body scanning, journalling, and any other sensory exercise that helps narrow focus on the present moment.

Mindful exercises for couples are powerful tools that rely on the following 7 principles:

  1. Non-judging – Being impartial and non-judgmental about the people and the world around us.
  2. Patience – Understanding that the events in our lives will unfold in time so it’s important to live in the moment rather than being fixated on the future.
  3. Beginner's Mind – Realizing that every moment we experience may be a new, unique, and incredible opportunity to grow and evolve.
  4. Trust – The process of developing a basic trust within ourselves, our beliefs, and our intuition to help us discover a sense of peace.
  5. Non-Striving – Recognizing that who we are is enough and the pursuit of being “different” or “better” may be distracting to our goals.
  6. Acceptance – Learning to accept our reality in a non-complacent way.
  7. Letting Go – Focusing on what we can control and letting go of anything that causes worry, tension, or anxiety to help free us of stress and help us focus on the present moment.

The Importance of Mindfulness in Relationships

Mindfulness is a practical tool to help couples face challenges, foster emotional connection, and enhance feelings of love and compassion. Practicing mindfulness allows us to become more calm and empathetic during arguments, gives us the opportunity to shift our unconscious behaviours that may be impacting our relationship, and allows us to be more aware of our partner's thoughts, feelings, and desires.

One of the most common barriers that prevent us from practicing mindfulness within our relationship is our ego.

While a healthy ego is capable of observing itself and the surrounding situations without overreacting, an unhealthy ego is driven by our fears and desires. Oftentimes, an unhealthy ego gets in the way of our relationships, making us feel inadequate or self-defensive, causing us to take control of our partners or play the victim during arguments.

The best way to release ourselves from an unhealthy ego is by engaging in mindfulness techniques to bring about feelings of peace, happiness, and equanimity within our relationship.

Top 3 Mindfulness Exercises for Couples

Here are three beneficial mindfulness exercises for couples you and your partner can either practice together or on your own.

1. Intentional Eye Contact

Intentional eye contact or “eye-gazing” exercises are powerful practices that can help us feel emotionally bonded to our partners. Since our eyes are capable of being the most expressive facial feature on our bodies, prolonged eye contact can be used to help people learn more about us without having to say a word; this helps to foster a deeper, more meaningful connection.

A 2017 study found that direct eye contact helped to reduce the boundaries between “self” and “others", creating a more intimate experience of “oneness” within a short period of time. As such, practicing intentional eye contact with your partner can enhance connection, increase feelings of love, and help build trust

Here’s how to do it:

  • Start by sitting in a comfortable position facing your partner
  • Begin by holding hands or making some form of physical contact with one another
  • Set a timer for 5-10 minutes and begin gazing into each other’s eyes
  • Breath deeply and hold your gaze, allowing yourself to blink naturally as you need
  • Allow yourselves to break your gaze only once the timer goes off

Keep in mind that the first couple of times practicing the eye contact exercise will make you feel a bit goofy, awkward, or even uncomfortable – this is completely normal. With practice, you’ll build your tolerance to this exercise and allow yourself to open up to being more vulnerable in the moment with your loved one.

2. Loving-Kindness Meditation for Couples

Loving-kindness meditation is another common exercise that couples can benefit from. It involves sending thoughts of kindness and warmth out toward others through a series of repeated mental mantras.

The practice of loving-kindness meditation helps cultivate deeper feelings of love and compassion while also relieving tension that may be caused by a recent argument or stressful event.

According to experts, this type of exercise is shown to increase people’s empathic responses to the distress of others which helps couples feel more supported through adversity.

Here’s how to practice kindness-loving meditation:

  • Find a quiet room, free from any distractions to sit comfortably for about 5 minutes
  • Close your eyes and relax your muscles, taking in 2-3 deep breaths to calm your mind
  • Bring a mental image of your partner into focus by imagining them sitting in front of you
  • Picture them smiling brightly at you, waiting for you to speak to them
  • In your mind, let them know that you wish them to be happy, to be successful, and to be [insert any other personalized positive mantra here]
  • Take in a breath to draw intention into your body then transmit these kind and loving mantras silently with each exhale

3. Practice Gratitude Together as a Couple

Gratitude check-ins are an incredibly valuable practice within healthy relationships. When we take time out of our busy schedules to make space for gratitude, we are more likely to experience positive emotions and build a closer connection with our partner.

Interestingly, research has found that expressing gratitude with your partner releases oxytocin, otherwise known as the “love hormone”. As a result, couples are more likely to feel more bonded to their partners after practicing gratitude together. Just another example of how mindful exercises for couples can produce great results within your relationship!

The best way to practice expressing gratitude is by setting 5-10 minutes aside every day to sit down and discuss the things that you’re grateful for. Free from distractions, you and your partner can go back and forth expressing 1-2 things you’re grateful for either within the relationship or about your partner.

Here are some examples:

  • “I am grateful that you packed the kids’ lunches this morning when I was busy getting ready”
  • “I am grateful that you take time in the day to listen to me vent about work”
  • “I appreciate that you cleared all the snow off my car this morning”
  • “I appreciate the difficult conversation we had last night, and I am very happy we found a
  • resolution”
  • “I notice how hard you’re working and I appreciate everything you do for the family”

If there are times when you’re not able to sit down with your partner for this exercise, it’s also beneficial to express daily compliments, pass along a note to share your appreciation, or even a simple text to remind them that you’ve been thinking of them.

Key Takeaways

Mindful exercises for couples are a great way to build and maintain a happy and successful relationship. No matter if you’ve been with your partner for a few months or several years, these exercises help couples deepen their connection and increase stress resilience.

If you and your partner are struggling to connect or have not been able to get past certain arguments, we are here to help support your concerns and to help you discover relief. Book a consultation with us today to discuss our couples counselling options.

Written by Tori Mudie, BA, MA, RP, CCC

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