Mindful Relationships May Be Key to Mental Health

Mindful Relationships May Be Key to Mental Health

Health and wellbeing and happiness and SO MUCH MORE are NOT solo sports.

Living a good life is NOT just about thinking of “me, me, me”!

Rather, real positive emotions and positive experiences come from connecting with others, with building positive relationships with others, and from being mindful of all that happens between us and others …

by Tasha Seiter via Psychology Today


  • Good relationships may be the most important contributor for our happiness.
  • A significant amount of research links better relationships to better health and happiness, especially in marriages.
  • Mindful partnering appears to be a significant predictor of better mental health.

Ever wonder what might underlie and predict the differences between those who live full, satisfying lives and those that can’t seem to break out of their struggle into old age?

The results of the longest-running longitudinal study of human flourishing, the Harvard Longitudinal Study, give us insight into this question. When asked to sum up the results of the study briefly, the head researcher (George E. Vaillant) says, “Happiness is love—full stop.”

The study followed 268 Harvard men over almost 80 years, investigating what factors were correlated with greater happiness, less mental distress, and better physical health over time. Potential predictor variables included genetic makeup, income level, IQ, and educational attainment. But, there was one element that had the most power in differentiating those who were thriving from those who were suffering, late into their 90s. That was the quality of their relationships. Valliant even goes so far as to say, “The majority of the men who flourished found love … and that was why they flourished.”

The study sample included only men, and mostly white men, and thus we have to replicate these findings with a more diverse sample. But, the findings of this study suggest that quality connections may be the most important ingredient for thriving in life. In fact, there is a huge research body linking better relationships to better health and happiness, and this is especially true of marriages.

In a study by my colleagues and I (which has not yet been published, I want to point out), we wanted to see if a specific quality of romantic relationships—what we call mindful partnering—might be related to mental health. Mindful partnering is mindfulness in the couple relationship—how fully present are you with your partner, and how accepting and compassionate? A vast body of research supports that mindfulness is associated with better mental health, including lesser depression and anxiety. We wanted to see if the same would be true for interpersonal mindfulness with one’s partner.

We had 17 couple pairs (N=34) complete a series of questionnaires, including the Mindful Partnering Measure, the Depression Anxiety Stress Scale, and the Dyadic Adjustment Scale, Satisfaction Subscale (used as a control variable in analyses). Our results suggested that emotional awareness of one’s partner as well as intentional acceptance and compassion of one’s partner were associated with lesser anxiety. At trend (i.e., almost significant) levels, total mindful partnering was associated with lesser anxiety, and self-compassion in the partnership was associated with lesser depressive symptoms. Although we can’t determine if mindful partnering actually caused the lower levels of anxiety/depression, because this study wasn’t longitudinal, these findings suggest that being a mindful partner is associated with greater mental health. I also want to point out that our sample size was small for this study, and these results should be replicated in samples with larger numbers…

… keep reading the full & original article HERE