Mindfulness: how to create a new habit

Our habits define our life and even our personality. Studies indicate that about half of our daily actions are motivated by repetition.

But what happens when we know that something (like mindfulness practice) is positive and healthy for us, but it still requires effort and is not automated in our lives?

Authors such as BJ Fogg, James Clear and Charles Duigg, among others, present in their books how any habit works. Based on studies and experience, they also focus on what are the main tips we can use when we want to start a new habit in our lives.

In this article, we offer some examples of how to apply the renewal of habits in the area of ​​mindfulness. It is with some recurrence that we get this type of feedback: “I want the practice of mindfulness to become routine for me because I know it is good for me, but I am not succeeding!” In fact, we know that there is some desire and initial intention, but that with the stress, distractions and multitasking we have during the day, after some time we easily “fail” and give up.

Is this situation familiar to you? Then follow us on the next tips:

  • Don’t choose too many habits to start at the same time: starting a new habit already requires a lot of your attention and energy. Choosing multiple habits to start or break at the same time can make it more difficult for you to succeed.
  • Consider whether you really want to start this habit and why: Before starting, assess whether you want to start this habit right now (but don’t wait for the “right moment” to do it). And why? Is it because you feel you need it? What’s good for you? Is it because others say you should? How committed are you to that intention?
  • Think about identity: More than what you’re going to do and how, think about who you want to be and focus on that. As an example: I want to be a calmer person (or healthier, or less reactive, or more empathetic, etc.), so I will intentionally dedicate 10 minutes of my day to practicing mindfulness.
  • Define as specifically as possible how you are going to implement the new habit: how long, how often, where, what is the process, alternatives for any failure, etc. As an example: I will practice 3 minutes of mindfulness every day when I open the bedroom window and per week, I will increase it by one minute until I reach 15. If I can’t do it in the morning when I open the window, I will do it when I close the window at the end of the day.
  • Start small: Start implementing this new habit in a short way. As an example: start with a 3-minute mindfulness meditation practice and over time (at least 5 days) you can increase the practice time.
  • Connect the new habit to an existing habit: Studies indicate that bundling habits helps success. Think of established habits you already have and add to them. As an example: After opening the bedroom window, I sit on the bed and meditate for 3 minutes. After turning on the computer, I connect with the body and take 3 deep breaths. When I turn off the car, I check in (thoughts, emotions and body) for 1 minute.
  • Use obvious triggers: be creative in how you can remember to practice. As an example: use post its (on the button that opens the window blind (using the previous example); post it on the computer; post it on the coffee machine (for mindful drinking); alarms on the cell phone.
  • Make behaviour easy: anything that requires effort becomes more difficult to implement because our nature tends to save energy. Turn the implementation of the habit as easy as possible. As an example: place the meditation pillow (if you use it) right next to the bed; make the meditation audios available offline on your cell phone or computer; have earphones with you; organize a space at home for your practice; notify people in advance that you are going to start this practice at that time, to avoid being interrupted; eliminate the distractions you can.
  • Monitor and celebrate: create a way to monitor success in implementing the habit, marking for example every day when you manage to meditate or do some integrated practice. And celebrate, even the small steps, not just the end result! You can create for yourself a kind of “loyalty card” with several steps.
  • Define a reward: In mindfulness practice, the wellness benefits are THE reward. In any case, you may need an extra, more visible stimulus. As an example: if I manage to meditate every day this month, I will buy a book that I like.
  • Build community: When we share challenges and commitments, we increase the success rate. Share this new habit you want to implement with someone (if you can’t, at least make a commitment to yourself through writing). If you find other people who also want to implement this new habit, it can be very stimulating to follow this challenge together.
  • Self-compassion: Implementing a new habit is a process always challenging where it is normal and human to have some failures. Accept these failures with self-compassion and without blame, but don’t give up. Use those failures to notice what is helping or blocking. And don’t give it all up. If it’s a daily challenge, try not to miss two days in a row.

Hopefully these tips help! For our part, we want to remind you that we have some resources that can help you maintain the practice. The School of We has guided meditations available here and a monthly mindfulness session open to the entire community, which you can watch here.

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