3 Simple Mindfulness Practices to Improve Your Relationships

It i’s true that another person’’s feelings towards you have nothing to do with you.

creating trust despite egos at work

But it’s also true that you can improve your relationships. People like people who make them feel heard and respected.

So, in another way, their feelings have everything to do with what you do.

When someone treats us in a way we perceive to be negative, it’s not always easy to respond in a loving way. The ego wants to defend itself. This is natural, but practicing mindfulness will give you the ability to pause before reacting, thereby giving you the power to change your relationships for good.

What is mindfulness? According to Jan Chozen Bays, How to Train a Wild Elephant, it is “deliberately paying full attention to what is happening around you and within you– in your body, heart, and mind. Mindfulness is awareness without criticism or judgement.”

There are, of course, many different practices you might take up to improve your ability to be mindful and non-reactionary. But let’s start small, with three simple but high impact practices.

Three Simple Mindfulness Practices that will Improve Your Relationships:

  1. Better Than You Found Them

    Look for ways to leave spaces tidier than you found them.

  2. Listen Like a Sponge

    Mindfulness in action: holding a core of stillness within.

  3. True Compliments

    Find something nice to say. Be genuine.


Let’s go into more detail regarding each of these mindfulness practices. How exactly will each of them help improve your relationships?



Mindfulness Practice: Better Than You Found Them

Most people will clean up after themselves. In fact, this behavior is the social expectation, so much so that we actually notice an outlier.

Unless you’re a baby, cleaning up after yourself is so much the social expectation that we notice outliers.

Unless you’re a baby, cleaning up after yourself is so much the social expectation that we notice outliers.

When a person leaves a mess behind everyone else notices. This is a quick way to lose points in relationships… unless you’re an adorable little baby, of course.

People also notice outliers in the other direction. It is the expectation to help clean up any mess you might have made, but what if you took it a step further and helped clean up other people’s messes? In a dinner party this could look like taking initiative to do the dishes for your host, and doing them well. At a work party this might look like staying back to help the clean up crew finish faster.

To be an outlier is to stand out. Standing out as someone who is helpful and considerate is a good way to generate feelings of appreciation towards you, which will begin to tip the relationship scales in your favor.

leave places better than you found them to build relationships

Listen Like a Sponge

There is a Buddhist recitation for invoking compassion that perfectly illustrates the reason for this practice: “We know that by listening deeply we already alleviate a great deal of pain and suffering in the other.”

Think about a time when you felt really heard. A time when you could tell the person you were speaking to was fully engaged in what you had to say. What did it feel like to know that that person obviously wanted to know what was on your mind/in your heart? Can you remember how you felt towards that person?

As a woman who’s been on a lot of dates, I can tell you from experience that a good way to endear yourself to the other person is to pay attention to what he’s saying. Ask questions. Be interested.

Yes, being interested is a choice.

Maybe the topic they’re going on about is not something you know much about— in this case, ask questions without interrupting. Maybe they’re talking about a hobby you’d never personally enjoy— in this case, listen for, or ask questions to learn, where their passion stems from. Be curious. Most importantly, suspend judgement. Instead of thinking, “Oh I hate when people talk about cars,” think of yourself as a detective on a mission to discover why cars are important to them.

Then take it a step further and see if you can’t ask enough questions and listen closely enough to be able to put yourself in their shoes and understand their enthusiasm. I swear to you that it is possible.



Sometimes the simple act of listening is the best way to improve a relationship.

Sometimes the simple act of listening is the best way to improve a relationship.

Now think of a time when you did not feel heard. Think of a time when someone diverted their eyes when you were in the middle of your sentence. Think of a time when someone interrupted or bulldozed over what you were trying to express. Think of a time when someone was looking at their phone or computer screen while you were trying to tell them something important to you. Can you remember how you felt towards that person?

If you’re like most of us, situations like those will have made you feel, well, not good. Maybe you felt embarrassed, maybe you felt angry, maybe somewhere deep down you thought “I’m not worth listening to.” Can we agree that simply NOT making a person feel this way is a step in the right direction?

Now take it a step further, and listen intently. While she’s speaking, make her feel focused on by keeping your eyes on hers and remarking/repeating/asking questions where appropriate.

In my experience, this is one of the best ways to improve ANY relationship.

Mindfulness Practice: True Compliments

If you’re not accustomed to giving compliments, this one might feel strange at first read. You might be thinking, “What if I don’t have a compliment? What, do you want me to just make something up?”

No; being disingenuous with your compliments is the last thing you’d want to do if you want to improve your relationships.

So what if you don’t have a compliment?

Look or listen more closely.

Assume that the person is trying their best: in terms of dress, storytelling, social skills, work performance, etc. It’s easier to compliment someone when you make this assumption, because it naturally elicits feelings of empathy, regardless of whether you agree with their pairing of shirt and pants or not.

build trust in relationship with genuine compliments

When you empathize, you are being open. When you empathize, you are suspending judgement. Therefore, the act of empathizing with another person automatically allows you to be more positive, which will allow you to see more things to compliment.

Make a conscious effort to find something to compliment. If you aren’t comfortable giving compliments at all, start by aiming to give a compliment each day. You can also set a couple alarms on your phone so that you are sure to carve out time to find things to compliment. The point is to start conditioning yourself to naturally look for things to compliment in your everyday interactions.

In addition to making the other person feel seen and making their day a little brighter, you’re increasing their affinity for you. People like people who make them feel good about themselves.

Not to mention, the simple act of looking for compliments makes you a more positive, likeable person.

In summary, improving your relationships can be a matter of little mindfulness practices.

If you’re serious about improving your relationship(s), choose one of these practices (or try them all) and give yourself reminders to practice them until they become second nature.

Reminders can be alarms on your phone, sticky notes on your mirror, or even the string on the finger. Try them on everyone, not just the relationship(s) you’re seeking to improve.

Mindfulness practices take, well, practice.

But keep it up and sooner or later you’ll be recognized as a joy to have around, and isn’t that what we’d all like for any relationship— to be around someone we enjoy?















How Checking Email Drains you of your Ability to Make Good Decisions and What to Do About It

Baby Bo Lux’s Wonder Week has her so wide-eyed she can hardly sleep… correction: we can hardly sleep.

Baby Bo Lux’s Wonder Week has her so wide-eyed she can hardly sleep… correction: we can hardly sleep.

As a new mom with a business to run, I am more aware of my limited energy and brain capacity than ever. Knowing these resources are finite daily, I’ve set out to learn how to maximize them.

Today’s post will help you do just that.

In Baby Bo’s world, this is week 19—what they call a “wonder week”. Her senses are sharper than ever and she’s starting to comprehend her environment in a new, more intense way. Because her little head is reeling with new things, sleep has been tough. For all of us!

Just like our bodies weaken (wilted into the sofa at the end of a long day) so too does our mental capacity. So yeah, I treasure my physical and mental energy and aim to be deliberate about my heavy lifting.




batch emails checking emails drains good decision making capacity

Here is a simple way to save some of that precious (wo)man power:

  1. Don’t leave your email open to be checked haphazardly.

  2. Don’t check your email first thing in the morning.

Sound too simple to be valuable advice? Read on and be amazed, Friendo.


Here’s why:

The part of your brain responsible for making decisions, processing large amounts of info and controlling your impulses is the prefrontal cortex. It is a voracious sucker of your resources, namely glucose. Because you have a limited amount of resources, your ability to put your prefrontal cortex to good use is limited too.

Which is to say: you can’t make good decisions all day. Make one, and your ability to make more is reduced. It’s a bank and you’re withdrawing from it every time you make a choice.

Budget this resource, because not all choices are worth your energy.

Constantly checking email reduces mental capability by an average of ... 5% in women and 15% in men... 15% is 3x more than the effect of smoking weed..png

Email checking is a big sucker of this resource. Infact, constantly checking email reduces mental capability by an average of 10% on an IQ test. That’s an average of 5% in women and 15% in men. By the way, 15% is 3x more than the effects of smoking weed.

Plus, if you’re always available to answer emails, people expect you to immediately answer their emails. And they’ll give you more emails to answer.

A Better Idea:

  1. Batch your emails. Choose when you’re going to check them by prioritizing your day’s events.

  2. Even better: train people to only expect responses at certain times of the day (or certain times of the day every couple days!). You can do this by always answering emails at the same time or by including a note in your email signature.


The Best Thing to do with your Newly Free Mornings:

how to maximize your brain power and make good decisions

On Sunday or Monday, prioritize your tasks for the week. Prioritizing is an even bigger drain of brain power than checking emails, so be sure to get your plan on paper to avoid having to do it again.

Even though prioritizing requires a lot of energy, planning your days out this way will optimize what you can get done.

Start with the most important complicated task, everyday.


What do you think?

Did you find something in this post helpful? Is there something you’re going to try? Have a question? I’m all ears! Please share!


A Pregnant Pause: The Seven Best Flowers for Expectant Moms

Pregnancy Portrait by Karolina Zapoloska

Pregnancy Portrait by Karolina Zapoloska

The Bloom Equation’s founder, Miquila (Mika) Alejandre Romero, and her husband, Jesus, are expecting their first child in December. Which is why it’s the perfect time to share the seven best flowers for expectant Moms.

Mika runs The Bloom Equation, a San Francisco-based floral company. Jesus is a viticulturist in the Napa-Sonoma Wine Country. So they’re both in the business of growing businesses––and now a family.

Is It a Boy? Or Is It a Girl?

Actually, they’ve been so busy with everything else that’s going on, that they’ve chosen not to discover the baby’s sex until it’s born.

Some people just can’t wait to find out. Others want to wait. And the latter is a very millennial thing to do (think: gender reveal parties).

 

How “The Language of Flowers” Complements The Seven Best Flowers

The Bloom Equation is the only company using the lost “Language of Flowers” in every one of its designs. This concept dates back to the Victorian age.

When people received flowers, they knew it was a secret message like a floral puzzle that would later be revealed by the sender. Pretty enticing. Pretty smart. Pretty sexy.

In fact, Mika has created the world’s most comprehensive database for it. So while Mika and her husband don’t want to know if they should paint their nursery blue or pink, she doesn’t want to wait to share this blog about the seven best flowers for expectant Moms.

They include:

 

best flowers for new moms

1. Chrysanthemums – “Long Life / Cheerfulness / Optimism”
“Mum’s the word” when you first discover that you’re pregnant, but then you want to shout it from the rooftops and tell the whole world. “Mum” is also a British slang term for “Mom”.

Chrysanthemums are a mighty bloom that are among the most popular flowers  and can provide endless possibilities. They mean: You are a wonderful friend… long life… fidelity… cheerfulness… optimism… joy… joviality… and mirth.

 

best gifts for new parents

2. Baby’s Breath – “Happiness / Everlasting Love / Festivity / Pure Heart”
A newborn’s breath is magical. It’s like a wisp of heaven. It’s feels like an angel is inhaling and exhaling – sweet and light and warm.

Baby’s breath flowers are most found alongside roses in a bridal bouquet or in a Valentine’s Day garland, but more than worthy of their own vase. They connote: happiness… everlasting love… festivity… pure heart… and gaiety.

 

gifts to welcome new baby

3. Queen Anne’s Lace – “Fantasy / Haven / Delicate Femininity”
Not exactly royalty, Queen Ace’s Lace is actually a wildflower that some think originated in Afghanistan, then spread across Europe and eventually to America. It was once considered a nuisance weed in New England.


But it’s also known as Wild Carrot, so its white flower head is edible raw or lightly fried, while you can use its seeds in soups, stews, and teas. Queen Anne’s Lace means fantasy… complexity… delicate femininity… haven or sanctuary… protection... and I’ll return for mothers expecting their own bundle of joy.
 

flowers to welcome new baby

4. Pink Roses – “Grace / Beauty / Lovely”
Most closely associated with classic love for Valentine’s Day, pink roses come in a rainbow of shades and convey different meanings. Dark pink equals an expression of gratitude; medium pink was for your first lover; and light pink was to express admiration.

Pink Roses were the first rose color that was cultivated. And during the Victorian years, they were folded into greeting cards or used in other ways, such as wallpaper. They stand for grace… beauty…. gentleness… a young girl… or you are just lovely!

 

new moms flower meanings

5. Pink Tulips – “Love / Imagination / Dreaminess”
While most people think tulips sprung from the fertile northern European country best known for wooden shoes, windmills, ice skating, and bicycles, they really hail from Southern Europe to Central Asia. In fact, the name is thought to be Persian for “turban” because it resembles that headwear.

Pink tulips are appropriate for a friend or family member to convey good wishes, caring, or attachment. While tulips in general stand for “perfect love”,  pink tulips represent love… imagination... and dreaminess for a mother who is full of flower.

say welcome new baby flowers

6. Violets – “Faithfulness / Loyalty / Let Me Love You / Sweetness”

Some girls are named “Violet”. An eastern state’s sports team is called the “NYU Violets”. And a Sea Violet is a species of edible Mediterranean marine invertebrates.  

Violets have been around since the Middle Ages, but went mainstream around 1850 when flower names became popular. They’re vibrantly colored, sweetly fragrant, are most often found in blue or purple, but can also be yellow, white or variegated.

 

Common meanings for violets include modesty, faithfulness… simplicity… humility… I return your love… loyalty… let me love you!... you occupy my thoughts… sweetness… rural happiness… candor… spotless innocence… and purity of sentiment.
 

welcome baby with flowers

7. Star-of-Bethlehem – “Hope / Purity / Guidance”
Last, but certainly not least, the Star-of-Bethlehem has a very holiday-sounding name. Mostly native to southern Europe and southern Africa, it’s also known as Ornithogalum, a genus of perennial plants.

Named after the shape of the stars that appeared low in the sky during the biblical birth of the baby Jesus in the town of Bethlehem, it can grow up to 30cm tall, bear clusters of typically white star-shaped flowers, often have green stripes, and number between 50 and 300 species.

In the Language of Flowers, the Star-of-Bethlehem connotes hope… purity… and guidance, which are all representative of what expectant mothers expect from a plant.

 

gifts to congratulate new parents

So now that you know the seven best flowers for expectant Moms, contact The Bloom Equation (415-484-9884) to order a gift that uses the one that best fits your personality.

By the way, whether you’re about to add to your family or not, The Bloom Equation designs arrangements, gifts, parties, weddings, and team-building events that are beautiful, personal, creative, and fun.

 

How to Use Love Languages to Improve your Relationships (and Business!)

Applying Love Languages to Improve your Relationships

Learning to improve communication with different types of people is a passion of mine. Different types? For instance, the Gary Chapman categorizes people by their love language.

My love language is a tie between "physical touch" and "quality time", so it was hard for me to register "acts of service" as love a few years ago: my boyfriend would make me dinner to show his love and instead of appreciating it I would feel like he didn't love me enough because he wasn't physically affectionate in public. 

But love languages apply beyond a romantic relationship. Learning your own love language lets you know what your strengths and weaknesses are, so you can improve.  ("Acts of service" is now the love language I speak second-best; back then it was dead last!)

you can learn to speak other love languages

Learning to speak other love languages can transform a turbulent relationship into a strong bond. It's been the case for me more times than I can count!

what is your love language?

These are the five love languages: words of affirmation, quality time, physical touch, acts of service and gifts.

If you don't know yours, you can take the quiz for free at Gary Chapman's site.

Besides transforming your close relationships, the ability to recognize and speak other people's love languages can lead to more business.  

People do business with people they know, like and trust. 

people give business to people they know, like and trust

People do business with people they know, like, and trust.

Sometimes you have to make the first move.

Sometimes people need to know you like them before they can open up to knowing, liking or trusting you. 

Sometimes people need to know you like them before they can open up to knowing, liking or trusting you. People experience this sense of being like/loved through the expression of their love language.

For this reason, it's helpful to be able to recognize other people's love languages. Here are some things to note about a person to help you figure out their love languages:

questions to identify someone else's love language

For instance, if the person often offers to bring coffee into the office, they might have the language of gifts as one of their higher love languages.  If a person can often be heard complaining about other people not changing the toner in the copy machine, perhaps their love language is acts of service. If they walk around putting their hands on people's shoulders, perhaps one of their highest languages is physical touch.

Once you know a person's love language, it's time to start "speaking it" to them. The following images offer tips for speaking each of the five love languages.

It's also important to not forget special occasions... especially if the person in your life with the love language of gifts is someone you work closely with.

It's also important to not forget special occasions... especially if the person in your life with the love language of gifts is someone you work closely with.

People with the love language "acts of service" need to feel like they have a partner in you. 

People with the love language "acts of service" need to feel like they have a partner in you. 

This love language can be tricky in the business world. You probably want to avoid putting your hands on people (even a light touch on the shoulder) unless you are sure this is their love language. Some people are offended by physical touch. 

This love language can be tricky in the business world. You probably want to avoid putting your hands on people (even a light touch on the shoulder) unless you are sure this is their love language. Some people are offended by physical touch. 

If your love language is "quality time", you probably are particularly aware of/bothered when people who pick up their phone while you're talking or at dinner. 

If your love language is "quality time", you probably are particularly aware of/bothered when people who pick up their phone while you're talking or at dinner. 

Wondering if someone in your office has this love language? Leave a sticky note with a compliment on their desk and notice their response. If they save it or are particularly pleased by it, this language might be one they naturally speak. 

Wondering if someone in your office has this love language? Leave a sticky note with a compliment on their desk and notice their response. If they save it or are particularly pleased by it, this language might be one they naturally speak. 

Although people generally think of Gary Champman's five love languages as applicable only in your romantic and familial relationships, I have seen it change business relationships just as readily. 

Good luck, and let me know if you have any questions!