In my last blog, The Art of Creating New Habits, I discussed how the subconscious mind creates habits based on emotionally charged memories of past experiences. The subconscious mind keeps us in “automatic pilot” mode repeating the same routine day after day. While many subconscious habits keep us safe, others can trap us in a pattern of unwanted behaviors. Repetition hardwires these daily practices making it difficult to step beyond what is familiar.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a practice that can help us live more fully in the present and brings us into a conscious state of mind. It allows us to make observations about our thoughts and actions while refraining from any judgment. Accepting our current circumstances and focusing on all that is good has profoundly positive effects on our health and creates an opportunity to develop new experiences and habits.
“There is something wonderful, bold, and liberating about saying YES to your entirely imperfect and messy life.”
Let’s learn more about mindfulness by looking at the daily habits of my two cattle dogs, Rosie the Red dog and Nellie, the White speckled dog.
Nellie starts her day focusing on one thing, getting a treat before entering her crate for the day. She follows me around the house, monitoring my every move to see how close I am to finishing my morning routine. Whining and barking in anticipation as the moment grows closer, Nellie spends her morning stressing about whether she will get her morning treat like the day before. Oblivious to the abundance in life, Nellie experiences feelings of anxiety, frustration, and uncertainty.
Rosie has a very different perspective. She was a pregnant rescue dog found on the streets during one of the coldest winters on record. Her heart is full of gratitude and appreciation for her warm home, and Rosie spends time looking out the window from her Tempurpedic dog bed. Mindfully studying the birds, rabbits, and horses in the pasture and basking in the warm sunshine spilling in through the window, she can truly let go of the stress and emotional pain from her abandonment. She is calm, focused, and living in the “now.” Rosie still gets the cracker before I go to work, just like Nellie, but she has made good use of her morning, making the most of each minute. Rosie feels relaxed, at peace and has learned to enjoy the moment.
How about you?
Reflecting on your day, would you say you are leading a Nellie or Rosie life? What thoughts are most prevalent throughout your day? Do you live in anticipation of what might go wrong? What types of behaviors or habits result from those thoughts? Perhaps you find yourself constantly reverting to old habits that make you feel out of control or frustrated. If so, mindfulness may just help you break that cycle and bring more joy to your life.
“Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside dreams, who looks inside awakes. “
Mindful practices start with becoming aware of what is currently happening and allowing thoughts to come into your mind without reacting to them. Witnessing your thoughts is a very freeing process that will enable you to break free from internalizing negative emotions and past experiences that trigger unwanted habits.
Here are some simple ways to practices mindfulness:
- Pay attention to the now. For example, notice the feel of the wind and sun on your face as you walk to your car. Reflect on the majestic qualities of nature.
- Listen to the thoughts that surface as you wake up and practice acceptance and non-judgment. Return and refocus on breathing if you begin to feel anxious or overwhelmed.
- Notice the sensations in your body as you exercise and take deep breaths. Visualize oxygen filling up and nourishing your cells.
- Focus on your food, chewing, the origin of the food, and images of growth and repair occurring in your body as you eat. Make peace with your body and celebrate its miraculous capabilities.