Feeling connected to others in a world that's increasingly individualistic may seem challenging, but as Dee Marques explains, there are some simple intimacy exercises you can use to develop stronger bonds, deepen connections, and improve the quality of your relationships.

 

There's little doubt that humans are social beings. Feeling close to others contributes to our overall feelings of happiness and fulfillment. Indeed, there are plenty of studies that confirm this from a scientific point of view. In fact, scientists believe our brains are hardwired to be social and that our development as a species relied on our ability to maintain strong bonds.


But although we live surrounded by people, loneliness and isolation are still some of the biggest social challenges of the 21st century. Indeed, researchers have noted that one can have a wide social network and interact regularly with others and still feel lonely or disconnected. This suggests that intimacy is a key factor in the development of meaningful connections with others. So, here are five easy intimacy exercises that can help deepen the connection you have with your partner and all the other important people in your life.

 

1. Meditation

Meditation is a fabulous tool that can help you achieve greater awareness and connection with the world that surrounds us. Several studies have found that regular meditation practice has a positive effect on close relationships and helps develop a stronger sense of intimacy.

 

According to these studies, there are several reasons why meditation works: first of all, meditation makes us more accepting of our own flaws, so we can easily become more forgiving of others. Secondly, meditation improves our ability to separate thoughts from emotions and makes us less 'reactive', so we can continue working on developing closeness, despite ups and downs in our relationships.
How to promote intimacy and deepen connection: 5 easy exercises - happiness.org
Meditation helps deepen connections with others


Shou-yi is a lesser-known form of meditation that comes from the Taoist tradition. The name itself means “to embrace the one”, so it's easy to see why this intimacy exercise can help deepen a connection with others. Shou-yi brings to the forefront of your mind the fact that in one way or another, we are all interconnected and interdependent. This technique is also known as “quiet sitting” and involves contemplative meditation based on Taoist philosophy:

  • Sit down with your back straight
  • Visualise the five 'yin organs', or bodily parts where energy resides: the liver, heart, spleen, lungs and kidneys. This could be compared to a body scan meditation, where you focus on one body part at the time
  • Each yin organ has a colour associated to it. Liver is azure, the heart is a vivid red, the spleen is yellow, lungs are white and kidneys are dark blue. Focus on the relevant colour as you move through each body part
  • According to Taoist scriptures, these colours also correspond to the five elements: wood (azure), fire (red), earth (yellow), metal (white) and water (dark blue)
  • Visualize the flow between body parts, colours and elements

The goal of this technique is to achieve a deep insight into oneness and bring a deep sense of harmony between humans, the earth and the cosmos. Once you are in the 'oneness mindset', it becomes easier to look at the forest instead of getting distracted by the trees (other people’s habits and traits that bother us). After all, there is a reason why Taoist philosophy has been used for peacebuilding and conflict management purposes.

 

2. Loving-kindness meditation

A second intimacy exercise to help deepen connection is loving-kindness meditation (LKM). The ultimate goal of LKM is to strengthen compassion, love and appreciation for other beings, so it's an ideal technique to improve intimacy.

 

RELATED: How to improve intimacy – 9 techniques to try

 

A study of people who practised loving-kindness meditation for six weeks showed a reduction in the negativity levels of their relationships. Furthermore, participants reported having a stronger support network and felt increased happiness. The technique is also simple:
 

  • Find a quiet space and choose a comfortable position
  • Create a mantra, which should include good wishes towards others (for example: "May I be happy, healthy and free from harm. May you be happy, healthy and free from harm")
  • Repeat the mantra in six stages: first direct it towards yourself, next towards someone who has had a positive effect in your life, then towards a relative or friend, next towards someone you feel neutral or have an occasional conflict with, then towards someone you dislike, and lastly, towards all beings
  • While you repeat the mantra, picture those good wishes physically going from you to other people
  • Here's another example of a loving kindness meditation by Jack Kornfield

 

3. Gratitude

The third exercise is writing gratitude letters. Letting people know we value them and care for them can improve our relationship with others, since we become more likely to overlook people’s flaws, lessening any chance of conflict and helping us achieve a better appreciation of other people’s value. Gratitude letters can deepen connection because our feelings of gratitude are directly shown to the other person.

 

This intimacy exercise has a strong impact on the quality of the relationship, as well as a lasting effect that can span several weeks, as shown by studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Even if you don't send the letter, putting your gratitude in writing makes you more aware of your positive emotions and is bound to make you feel closer to others.

 

“Writing gratitude letters as an intimacy exercise can deepen connection because our feelings of gratitude are directly shown to the other person.”

 

Gratitude letters work because when we direct our attention to gratefulness, we automatically divert it from toxic or negative emotions. And as some researchers have found, the benefits multiply over time, since cultivating an ongoing gratitude practice causes changes in brain activity in areas related to decision-making, meaning that there is a link between gratitude feelings and how we act towards others.

promote-intimacy-deepen-connection-exercises
Say thanks: gratitude letters are a great intimacy exercise

 

4. Getting to know you exercise

The fourth method on deepening connections is a 36-question exercise that you can use to understand others better and get a better picture of who they truly are. For this intimacy exercise, you'll need to set at least 45 minutes aside and take turns asking the questions that you can find here.


RELATED: 6 types of intimacy and how to cultivate them

 

Research at US universities has shown that this exercise is effective in helping deepen connection and closeness between people. This is because the exercise relies on mutual self-disclosure as opposed to small talk. Furthermore, it requires both sides to open up, providing a safe environment where there's no fear of feeling vulnerable or one-sided.

 

5. Mindful listening

Devoting time to properly listening to others (instead of simply exchanging views or acknowledging information) is one of the best ways of showing we care for them. Mindful listening is an intimacy exercise that can also help increase empathy, because in doing so we get to understand better other people’s motives, needs and fears, gaining a more accurate picture of who they are as human beings.
 

“Meditation practice has a positive effect on close relationships and helps develop a stronger sense of intimacy.”


So, next time you have a conversation with a partner or friend, focus on what they're saying without judging or interrupting, and do your best to be present in the moment, being supportive and receptive. It's also useful to have some guidelines in mind:
 

  • Suspend assumptions
  • Suspend judgement
  • Suspend status (communicate on an equal-to-equal basis)
  • Honour confidentiality
  • Honour silence


Deep listening works because by not being judgmental and overlooking differences in opinion, others feel more inclined to trust us. Overall, mindful listening improves the quality of our relationships and sets a solid foundation for authentic interpersonal encounters.

promote-intimacy-deepen-connection-exercises
Listen and learn: deep listening equals deeper connections
 

The benefits of deeper intimacy

We live in a society that's increasingly individualistic, so it's always good to remember the benefits of crafting a deeper connection with others and of cultivating intimacy in relationships. The benefits are both physical and emotional: being able to connect with others at a deeper level generates empathy, which has been proven to give a sense of purpose and to strengthen the immune system.


Other studies show that stronger connectedness with others is a key component of our support system, can lower stress and anxiety levels, and has been linked to lower heart disease rates.


Of course, lasting closeness, intimacy and loyalty will not come automatically. There is no magic pill when it comes to deepening your connection with others, but the five intimacy exercises we have discussed here are a good starting point that can help your enjoy richer and more meaningful relationships. 
 

 

happiness.com | The fine art of being: learn, practise, share

 Are you a happiness.com member yet? Sign up for free now to:

■ enjoy our happiness magazine with practical life tips
■ share and support in our happiness forum
■ self-develop with free online classes in our Academy

Relationship advice Communication skills | Learning 

 

 

Written by Dee Marques

dee.jpgA social sciences graduate with a keen interest in languages, communication, and personal development strategies. Dee loves exercising, being out in nature, and discovering warm and sunny places where she can escape the winter.


YOU MAY ALSO LIKE

0 comments

Join the conversation

You are posting as a guest. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

cb****
Add a comment...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.



There are no comments to display.

Similar articles

Forum discussions