We all have things we’d liked to change about ourselves. Maybe you want to lose weight. You promise yourself to add more fruits and vegetables in your diet, or take on a new exercise regimen. But then, you don’t. Within weeks, you revert to your old habits. So, you give up, feeling worse than before you started: perhaps, even angry with yourself. The truth is, it can be really hard to break old habits, and even harder to adopt new ones. Given this, how do you succeed in turning “intention” into “action”? How do you change the habits that aren’t serving you? Research shows that when you incorporate mindfulness practices into your life and increase your level of self-awareness, you’re able to stay focused on your goals – and dramatically improve your success in achieving them. Better yet, these practices can take as little as a few minutes a day.
Mindfulness allows you to untangle yourself from habits that aren’t serving you.
Our brains are capable of rational thought. It’s our ability to act with reason and reflection that makes us uniquely human. Unfortunately, our rational brain isn’t always in charge. Our decisions are often motivated by other factors, including emotion. We can get a delicious type of pleasure from NOT doing the thing we are supposed to do, but instead doing the thing we aren’t. We find ourselves motivated by impulses that are mutually inconsistent. You want to lose weight, but you also want to eat whatever you like. You feel divided against yourself, pulled in different directions.
How do you end the war between these conflicting motivations? How do you help the rational part win, so you can achieve your goal?
According to the ancient philosopher Aristotle:
The secret of change is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.
Mindfulness is the key to changing your habits so you can achieve your goals.
Mindfulness practices empower you to create new habits that align with your goals.
Mindfulness practices help train your brain so it’s inclined to do what’s best for you. Being mindful allows you to tap into the rational part of yourself, whenever you need to.
Mindfulness involves being fully present with yourself: aware of what you’re thinking, feeling and doing at any given moment in time. You become an observer of your thoughts, feelings and emotions: including the ones that cause you to engage in habits you want to change. When you’re triggered to do something that doesn’t align with your goals, you can see the impulse for what it is – a thought you don’t have to act upon. This involves meta-awareness: paying purposeful attention to the contents of your thoughts. Mindfulness practices help you develop this skill, so you can break out of the patterns of negative behaviors in your life.
Mindfulness also involves self-compassion: the ability to observe your thoughts and feelings, without judging or criticizing them. You can investigate your patterns of trigger-thought-action with a sense of curiosity. Then, you are able to choose to do what’s good for you: not by trying to muscle yourself into it with will-power, but out of a gentle, kind, compassionate self-awareness of what is best for you and what aligns with your goals.
Try this Mindfulness Practice and Change your Habits – for GOOD!
So how do you actually make this happen? I created a mindfulness practice you can use to change your habits, and turn intention into action. It’s called AWARE.
- Assess what you want to change. Think about the habit you’d like to change the most. Then, identify the triggers that lead you to engage in it. Consider the sensations, feelings, thoughts, environment, people and experiences that preceded being triggered. Any combination of these can cause us to engage in negative habits.
- Work with your triggers. When you feel triggered to engage in this habit, pause and take a few deep breaths. Focus on what’s going on inside of you. What body sensations are you experiencing right now? What emotions can you identify? Are there thought patterns that come up for you? Try to label what are you thinking, feeling, and sensing. Then, simply observe these things: knowing they will pass just as quickly as they came.
- Actively recall your goal. Now that you are aware of the thoughts, feelings and emotions that arise when you are triggered, you are able to see that you don’t have to act on them. Recall your goal: what matters to you most; your true desire. What would it feel like if this were already your reality? Know that if you consistently refocus your awareness on your goal, it will become your reality!
- Release self-judgment. If you were unable to resist temptation when triggered, tell yourself – it’s ok! Don’t beat yourself up: be kind and gentle with yourself. Remember that it’s hard to change a habit. You don’t have to be perfect: that’s why it’s called a mindfulness practice! Scientific research proves you can and will be able to change your habits over time with practice, as you build your mindful self-awareness muscles.
- Enjoy your new reality! When you consistently repeat this mindfulness practice over time, you will WANT to do the thing you know is GOOD for you – and it will become your new habit! You will experience the tremendous feeling that comes when what you want to do and what you actually do are in alignment. And who doesn’t want that?
The first time you do the AWARE mindfulness practice, write down on a piece of paper each of the steps, and your input on them. Post it somewhere you will regularly see it. When you’re triggered to engage in the habit you want to change, take a look at your list and go through each of the steps. Over time, you can do this mindfulness practice without looking at the paper. Practice it at least once a day, for as little as five minutes. If you want, try increasing how long or often you do it, until you reach a total of 15 minutes a day. Brain research proves that if you do this practice consistently, you should start to see results in as little as two weeks.
Then you will experience how mindfulness practices can turn your intentions into your new reality!
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