Ahhhh, February, the month of love and romance. We spend the first two weeks of the month bombarded with images of hearts, chocolate, flowers, and gifts. The truth is, Valentine’s day places unrealistic expectations on relationships as well as isolates those that are single. In fact, the pressure of the ‘perfect day’ does more harm than good, inspiring a surge in breakups every year. At its core, Valentine’s Day is nothing more than a commercial holiday designed to stimulate spending, but since it's going to be forced in our face for the next month anyway, let's take the opportunity to shed light on the dynamics of our current relationships and how we can become more fully present for them.
I'm not talking about romantic relationships specifically but rather the love we share and the kind of relationships we have with ourselves, our family, and our partners. Covid has drastically changed the way we interact and has created a divide and separation that has added an extra layer of challenge to maintaining healthy relationships, but there are some valuable things we can consider even at a distance and carry over once the time comes where we can all embrace again.
When we are spending time together, do we offer our attention or distract ourselves through phones, TV, or other stimuli? How do we behave in our relationships? How do we love? This month, ask yourself how you can be more mindful and bring real value into your current relationships.
Mindfulness brings the unconscious into the conscious. When we are more fully aware, we can be more fully present. Self-evaluation is the key to bringing mindfulness into our lives and relationships so remember to pause, breathe, and connect as you navigate your relationships this month.
First, let's talk about the most important kind of love: self-love. What kind of relationship do we currently have with ourselves? Is it a healthy relationship or volatile and full of negative self-talk? How can we prioritize cultivating a compassionate relationship withourselves even when there are other things demanding attention in our lives? Can we put at least the same amount of effort, if not more, into the relationship as we do with others?
Listen to the language you use with yourself
Invite softness and compassion into your internal dialogue
Assign a self-care day each month to pamper yourself
Develop daily rituals (morning, evening or both!)
Allow yourself at least 10 minutes of 'you' time per day
To dive deeper into Embracing Self- Care, Check out this awesome article by the wonderful Integrative Health Coach, Gina Ciaccio.
Next, let's talk about relationships with our family and friends. Who is most demanding of our time and is the relationship an equal exchange of energy? Are we enforcing our boundaries in a healthy way? What are our triggers and how can we stop reactionary responses? Are we offering our time and companionship to those that need it? Do we actively listen? How can we engage more with those we love on a deeper level? What kind of activities can we peruse to offer our attention and support?
Learn to prioritize yourself when the situation doesn’t serve you
Communicate your needs clearly - set boundaries.
Try to engage in outdoor activities away from electronic distractions
Make yourself available in a way that serves you and your family
Practice taking a full deep breath before you speak/respond
Lastly, (if this category applies to you): romantic relationships. How do you and your partner work together? How do you communicate? How do you listen? How can you be more available and more aware of the dynamics of the relationship? How do you express your needs and desires?
Listen fully to your partner (avoid multitasking during conversations)
Invite in honest conversation by setting aside time to share specifically about the things you love about the relationship but also the areas that struggle
Release expectations - don’t try to change the other person
Don’t compare your relationship to anyone else’s
Express your own vulnerability and communicate your needs
Overall, just be gentle with yourself and the others that are close to you. No one is perfect, no relationship is perfect. We're all just doing the best we can with the tools we have available to us at any given moment. The only thing you can do is focus on the areas and aspects of yourself that you can change to bring mindfulness into your interactions.