How many of us have made a commitment to make a “positive change” in our life, like exercising more, but find our motivation is lost or we perceive that we don’t have enough time? We might have found it difficult to integrate a new routine into our already-packed schedule. Yet, how many habits do we already have in our daily routine? How did they get there? What sustains them?
The Secret to Starting a New Habit
Mindfulness is just like any habit. It’s a form of mental exercise, really. A practice in personal development. And as with any new routine, we are best to start out gradually, with an eye toward pacing and practicality. We may decide that our long-term goal is to practice meditation daily for 30 minutes or more. But starting there would be like trying to run a 5K the very first time we put on a pair of running shoes. In the beginning, small, simple steps are best.
First Steps toward Mindfulness
So what does mindfulness practice really look like? In small steps? Here are a few starter ideas:
- Turn the radio off on your ride home.
- Try a 2 minute “deep breathing” practice before you eat lunch.
- Take a moment to pause as you dry your hands in the bathroom.
- One of my favorite is to notice “5 new things” as I walk into work each day. You’d be surprised how much this exercise can calm you as you bring your attention more fully into the present moment. And, how many things we don’t notice when we’re not fully present.
Some people find more active, movement techniques helpful in settling their energy and improving their awareness. These could include:
- Walking with focused attention on the sensations in your feet and legs — things like heaviness, lightness, hardness.
- If you are in your chair at work, lift your arms and notice the associated sensations. Simply breathing and be present to what’s going on in your body can have a calming effect.
A Starter Plan for Mindfulness Practice
Even five minutes a day is a good beginning. You’ll soon notice how it cuts through the lack of connection to our inner lives. Studies show that just 10 minutes a day can have some subjective benefits. If you’re like most of us, some days you just don’t have 20 or 30 minutes to meditate.
Keep it realistic. You may only have five minutes, and on other days, no time at all. It’s a lot like exercise. Exercising three times a week is great. But if all you can do is just a little bit every day, that’s a good thing, too. It can still have a very profound influence on your life. Personally, I find it very grounding. It reduces my stress and helps me think more clearly, enabling me to navigate even the most challenging interpersonal interactions with greater empathy and compassion.
Remind Yourself of the Benefits for Motivation
Remember, mindfulness isn’t about what is happening; it is about how we are relating to what is happening — how much awareness, balance and compassion we are bringing to this moment’s experience, whatever it is. And while you may find it challenging to take time for yourself, meditation isn’t selfish or self-centered. Rather, if we become depleted, overwhelmed by the circumstances of our lives, perpetually irritable, or disconnected, we are unable to give much to others. Taking this time for your own personal development actually benefits those around you too.
Similar to other personal and professional goals, having a personal life coach will increase your ability to develop and maintain a more mindful way of living, enabling you to reap the rewards of a calmer and more satisfying life. So if you’d like to explore how mindfulness can help you be more effective, resilient and enjoy better relationships, contact me. I would welcome the opportunity to help you improve clarity, focus, creativity, and compassion in your life, one moment at a time.