Illustration: Kagan McLeod
Why It Works
Meditation appears to train the brain to be more empathetic, a handy trait when you feel like strangling the person you love. In 2007 researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison used fMRI scans to peek inside the brains of 16 monks and found that meditation lit up the temporal parietal junction—a region that helps us to feel, and respond to, others' emotional states. This could explain why spouses say that the practice leads to more compassion in their relationships. In recent research by Virginia Tech's Marriage and Family Therapy Program, high-conflict couples who started meditating by focusing on one word or phrase for ten minutes at a time (together or alone) found themselves arguing less often.
How It Works
Diane Gehart, PhD, a marriage counselor in Thousand Oaks, California, who specializes in mindfulness, suggests that couples start small, with just two to five minutes of meditation a day (and take the weekends off). You should be seated, facing your partner, but meditate in whatever way you prefer: You could listen to a track from one of Kabat-Zinn's CDs or follow one of the guided meditations on Gehart's website (DianeGehart.com). Or you could simply set a timer and sit in silence, observing your breath, noticing your thoughts and then letting them go. After about two weeks, Gehart's clients start to report greater intimacy.
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