Mindfulness. Can it be Habit-Forming?

(Read this in about three and a half minutes)“Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.” ~ Carl Jung

I’ve written quite a bit about habits and how they shape our thinking, which shapes our choices, which shape our actions, which ultimately shape our life. Yep, you called it. I can be a nag. But every word is true,  good habits are essential to living a life that is well aligned with our worthy values, the things that matter most to each of us. Habits help us to do “the next right thing” repeatedly, almost on auto-pilot with virtually no conscious thought involved. Awesome, right?  Habits remove a lot of the heavy lifting involved in making good decisions when all those pesky choices greet us at every turn.

So how does all this buzz about mindfulness square with habit building? We’re supposed to be present in the moment and operate in cruise control simultaneously? Isn’t that like trying to pat your head and rub your tummy at the same time?  Before you stress out and think I’m sending you shopping for a meditation cushion and incense, I’d like a chance to explain that the two processes can live together quite happily.

It’s entirely possible to develop a habit of tuning into to the present moment. It becomes a process of practicing the pause on a regular basis during your overscheduled day. I can hear your eyes rolling as you think, “that’s all I need, another item on my to-do list!”  I feel your frenzy, my friend, but this is something that takes less time than you think and will actually result in getting through that list better and faster because you will have a fresher mind. Think of it as a reboot, a control-alt-delete in your day to clear the cache of tangled thoughts competing for front row seating in your busy brain.

Habits guru Gretchen Rubin created a list she calls “Secrets of Adulthood” and here’s a sweet one; What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while.”  That means focusing on the moment for even 5 minutes a day trumps doing it for 30 minutes once a week. And there’s far less risk of falling asleep because your body thinks, “Hey, she stopped! Must be time for a siesta!” (I’ve been in your socks.)

 It comes down to intentionally training ourselves to put it in cruise for a few minutes and smell the roses or look at the sunset or pet the dog or feel yourself breathe, or whatever thought makes sense to you. Create a trigger which tells you to pause, for example, when you stick your hands in the warm soapy dishwater it’s time to stop for a few and just think. When we read about the practice of meditation the key word is “practice”.  Research has proved that this can actually change our brain! Think of it as a kind of little “bliss boot camp” where we can  learn to lengthen our fuse which can get pretty short when we’re stressed! Repetition is the key to training our mind and internalizing this process. Over time it can help with both problem solving and personal relationships.

You do not rise to the occasion; you sink to the level of your training.~Dave Grossman

As you learn to calm and center yourself, even briefly, you are developing capabilities that can be beautifully applied to everyday living. As you develop the ability to switch your brain into “low gear”, you may find you can respond more calmly and compassionately in situations that might have been very difficult before. That critical skill of allowing even a small space between what happens and how we respond is a huge factor in living a life of greater satisfaction, meaning and purpose.

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” ~ Victor Frankl

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    • Betty Streff

      Aw thanks! It’s the hope that it makes a difference that makes writers write! 🙂 What a great way to start *my* day!

  • Grant Newbold

    Dear Blog Subscriber. Like you, I come to this blog with anticipation of what Betty has for us with each new post. I don’t review these or give input ahead of time so each time they post I get the joy of the surprise of what Betty has written, just like you do. Mindfulness has received a lot of psychological and medical research over the past 20 or so years and it is well supported by that research. For so many of us in this culture it seems foreign to us and we struggle with it. It is important that we be open to that struggle as we attempt to utilize mindfulness as a life skill. I too struggle to learn the skill of mindfulness as I come from a strong farming work ethic that is capped by an education in the sciences. I hope you will join me in this struggle because the more we focus on “process” rather than “produce or outcomes” the more we are likely to experience positive outcomes in the long run. Please join us in this process and study our summary PDF you get when you subscribe to our website. Thanks for connecting. Please feel free to leave a comment as they help us serve you and others better. Talk to you again soon, Doc Newbold.

    • Betty Streff

      You’re right! Mindfulness takes practice just like any other worthwhile pursuit!

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