Building mindfulness and self-reflection skill takes time and practice. It is just like establishing any other habit or exercising muscles in your body. With consistent practice and attention to your inner being you will start to observe yourself, your attitudes, patterns, and relationships differently. One way to cultivate these skills is through journaling or active self-reflection around a particular topic or prompt. When we journal, draw, dance, run, sing, or express ourselves creatively different parts of our brain are able to process thoughts and feelings that allow access to memories, connections, and associations. If you feel ‘stuck’ in a pattern or want to bring awareness to your anxieties, love, trust, or anger and frustration then using the prompts below as a jumping off point for reflection can help spark mindfulness and attention to these parts of yourself.
1. This first prompt is about bringing emotional awareness to relationships through reflection and conversation.
- Write down three feeling words (ie trust/distrust, respect/resentment, intimacy/disconnect, etc) central to your relationship right now and then journal about what those words mean to you, how they are or are not present in your relationship, and why they matter. Couples that are working together on improving their connection can complete this activity separately and then share and talk about what they wrote down with their partner.
This activity can lead to greater awareness of the strengths in your relationship as well as areas to improve. It can help to clarify goals and create plans to grow together and become more close and connected over time or to celebrate the ways in which your relationship is strong right now.
2. This next prompt examines how you have changed over time and how that impacts your current or future relationships. We are all complex and dynamic beings who learn and grow over time. If we do not pause to reflect on how we have changed or what we have learned with time then we are not realizing our full potential or acknowledging what is missing or what we have gained.
- How have you changed since the beginning of your relationship? If you are single, reflect on how you have changed since your most recent relationship and consider how you will be different with your next partner. What has sparked those changes and how do you feel about the person you have become or want to be?
It is easy to judge and blame ourselves for relationship challenges but it is much more difficult to take a deep breath and calmly evaluate patterns that we are ‘stuck’ in and identify how we can learn and change. Instead of blaming our partners, our parents, or ourselves we can learn to calmly reflect on how our patterns have served to protect us and identify brave new ways to approach intimacy and connection that will lead to healthier and happier relationships.
3. The last prompt for this exercise addresses attunement with our body and breathing. Our minds and bodies are intricately connected and work together as we move through the world and create relationships. By using self-reflection to build bodily awareness we become more mindful and better able to connect with our own thoughts and feelings so that intimacy and relationships grow over time.
- Think about the most recent conflict you had in a relationship. Close your eyes and picture the scene, what you see in the room, what you hear/smell/taste/touch. Can you observe how your body felt? Now, take a deep breath in and out, exhaling audibly through your mouth and write everything you can remember about how your body felt during the conflict but try not to describe any of the words said or the details of the conversation. Focus on your bodily sensations and your breathing. Were you breathing quickly and talking loudly? Were you calm and quiet and clenching your fists? Could you feel tears in your eyes or did you have a shocked expression on your face? What was your body telling you? When you are done writing about that experience put down your pen or pencil and close your eyes. Now, spend as much time as you need slowing down your breathing, calming your body, relaxing tension in your muscles and clearing your mind. When you feel back to baseline and calm, open your eyes and take up your writing tool to write about how your body and mind feel now that you have processed this experience and calmed and quieted your body and mind. By focusing on our body instead of the situation, words, and details of the conflict we engage a different part of our mind that enables us to have awareness and mindfulness when stressed. Over time this will help to clarify the root cause of conflict and come to better understanding of ourselves and the dynamics of our relationships.
Just like athletes will practice in a calm and quiet setting before game-time it is important for all of us to use writing prompts and mindfulness exercises like these to learn from our conflicts and practice bringing calmness and mindfulness to ourselves.
Be careful with these activities as they can lead to judgment, doubt, anxiety, fear, and withdrawal. It is important that with each of these activities you approach them from a place of curiosity and compassion towards yourself. Learning can only happen when we feel safe and appropriately challenged so take things slowly and observe your reactions to these prompts.
If you would like to talk about your responses to these prompts and continue to grow your ability to reflect and think deeply about yourself and your relationships please consider working with me or scheduling a FREE 20-min consult.
Looking forward to working you!