Tuesday, December 27, 2011

If you’ve made a New Year’s resolution, Mindfulness may be able to help you stick to it.

Whether your resolution is to watch less TV or to eat healthier, chances are you’ve got an old habit to break. This is why resolutions are so hard to keep—habits are deeply ingrained in our brains. It may help to think of your habitual way of doing things as a path in a forest that you have walked again and again. Each time you’ve watched TV or eaten a bowl of ice cream the path has become more worn, and easier to take the next time—and more difficult to break out of.

If you’re not paying attention, you will repeat your habitual behaviour over and over, because the path gets more and more worn down, and it becomes harder and harder to change.

Mindfulness can help you pay attention so that you can start to see how you take the same old path. By checking in with yourself before you act, you break the automatic pattern, and give yourself the choice of what to do next.

Putting Mindfulness to the Test

Habits are like a path in the woods.

The next time you feel the urge to act on your habit, stop for a moment and ask yourself, “what is going on now?” Take a few breaths, feeling the air enter and exit your body. Notice the physical sensations in your body, the thoughts in your mind and the emotions you may be feeling. A helpful tool for this pause is a 3-minute breathing space.

Of course, this is just the first step. After you’ve noticed what’s going on, you may want to ask yourself the question, “what can I do now that will be best for me?” This may be a good time to review your resolutions or other goals you have for yourself.

Be patient with yourself as create your new habits. Depending on the particular habit and how often you do it in may take days, weeks or months to change your automatic behaviour. However long it takes, you can be confident that each time you stop, notice the old habit and choose a different response you will be walking a new path, which will get easier and easier each time you take it.

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