Part 1/3: 3 Keys to Building Healthy Relationships (Especially for Young Women)

I had 20 minutes to speak on this topic recently at the Girl Fest San Diego launch event. Twenty minutes can hardly do justice to the complicated topic of building healthy relationships. So I focused on three factors that are key to my counseling work, especially for young women. And I offered immediately applicable tips so hopefully the audience would go home ready to apply some new, simple practices.

Key 1: Cultivating mindfulness

I write about and speak on mindfulness A LOT. It's at the core of my work. Mindfulness is awareness in the present moment. Sounds easy? The concept is simple, but the practice is complicated, because we often have a lot of mind chatter distracting us. Beyond awareness and observation, practicing mindfulness also means not judging what you observe.

There are so many ways this is important in building healthy relationships. Mindfulness allows us to know ourselves more deeply and consciously. This means we can be more responsible with our emotions, and authentic with ourselves and our partners, not hiding behind facades. This type of presense makes sexual encounters more meaningful in that mind chatter, distractions, and judments don't get in the way of sensual pleasure and connection. Mindfulness is also an amazing gift in a relationship; truly being present with someone, listening and being engaged, not thinking about what you want to say next, is deeply validating.

One of the simplest ways to practice this is when you're driving every day. While stopped at a red light, use it as a opportunity to slow down and practice mindfulness. Take several deep breaths, roll your window down and breath in the fresh air, notice the colors around you, and appreciate the red light as a gift. Another exercise I love is "making love to an orange." Take an orange, slowly peel it, and eat it over the span of 20 minutes. Move slowly, using all 5 senses, to explore each little juice pocket bursting with citrus-y goodness.  Mindfulness is a skill that requires daily exercise to develop. However, these practices don't have to take up a lot of your time, but it is important to make it part of your daily commitment.

(Part 2 and 3 will be posted this week!)

~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus, San Diego, CA -- Sex Therapist, Marriage Counselor, Sexologist, & College Sexual Health Speaker