Have you been aware of any changes in your relationships since you started meditating? It could be in relation to those closest to – your family and friends – or perhaps your work colleagues, or your boss. Maybe even that guy you buy your morning coffee from on your way to work. This wouldn’t be surprising, and is something one can expect from a consistent and regular meditation practice. Recent research seems to say the same.

At its core, mindfulness gives us a greater awareness of our thoughts and feelings. A natural result of this is that we get a greater insight into our habits and tendencies. This could be the tendency to snap at someone when you feel threatened or insecure. Or perhaps the habit of reaching for a cigarette when you feel stressed or uptight. The important thing is that as soon as we become aware of that habit or tendency, it begins to change in nature. It might be in a very small way at first, but if you maintain that awareness, you will see that it begins to change itself.

Not only do we tend to be less reactive, but we also give people the space and understanding to let them be who they truly are.

Without awareness, we allow these patterns to continue in the same way, repeating themselves over and over again. Sometimes we can see this very clearly in relationships, where someone falls into the same pattern of behavior time and time again. However, as soon as we give ourselves the space to become aware of these patterns, they begin to dissolve. So perhaps it comes as no surprise that meditation has been shown to improve relationships in a number of different ways. First off, it has been shown to better regulate moods. It’s also been shown to bring about increased feelings of empathy. Perhaps most powerfully, it’s been shown to increase levels of acceptance. And what relationship couldn’t benefit from more of those things?

Understanding ourselves better brings about a sense of confidence and contentment. This inevitably has an effect on those around us. Not only do we tend to be less reactive, but we also give people the space and understanding to let them be who they truly are. It can be very easy to carry around past hopes or disappointments with us from previous relationships, projecting those onto the present moment. Often what we end up experiencing with a person is actually more a reflection of the past than the present. In its essence, meditation provides the framework for better understanding ourselves, and better understanding our relationships to those around us. In this way, we allow people to be the true expression of how they are right now.