February has arrived, and for many, today marks the beginning of the end of New Year's resolutions. So long, it's been a great ride...
We're curious – why, year after year, do resolutions fade or dissolve altogether? Is it lack of motivation? Power of old habits? Fear?
An article in Psychology Today suggests several reasons why resolutions fail (more on that here), but the main conclusion they offer is this:
"Making resolutions work is essentially changing behaviors and in order to do that, you have to change your thinking and 'rewire' your brain."
Meditation and mindfulness are highly effective in helping to 'rewire' our brains, and we're excited to share three strategies below that can help you begin to create new neural pathways, and eventually, new habits of being.
1. Choose to choose.
It's a lot easier to blame busyness, technology, or other people, than to own the fact that perhaps we're making choices that are not in line with our intentions.
Let's admit, it's tempting to pretend that our choices somehow happen to us.
To be clear, we know that we can't always control the way life unfolds. What we do know is that we have the ability to act and respond with intention, rather than cruise on autopilot or merely react to unexpected turns.
Within each day there are choices. Hundreds of them. And they all add up to create this life. When we approach our lives with mindfulness, we create space to actually make the choices, in the moment, that will most fulfill us.
Holocaust survivor, author, and extraordinary human Victor Frankl captures the mechanics of this perfectly:
"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."
Mind the space.
The space Victor Frankl speaks of exists, but we often fly right past it in the blur of habit and distraction.
Short meditations and mindful pauses help us momentarily step out of this blur, giving our deeper intentions an opportunity to rise to the surface.
From this fresh mental space, we are much more inclined to make choices in line with our values.
We're not talking about radically changing our lifestyle.
We're talking about pausing at key moments throughout the day.
In the pause, we can recognize unnecessary distractions or preoccupations as they arise, and choose not to chase them.
Pausing helps reset, reconnect with our priorities, and give life to goals that may otherwise remain lifeless.
3. Use mindful tools daily.
Saying we're going to be more mindful is, of course, setting another new intention. If we're honest here, the new declaration to be mindful is just as likely as the others to get lost in the fold of old mental habits.
But this intention – being more present – is the foundation for all of our other resolutions.
We encourage you to bring this resolution to life every day, as the key to intentional living and choosing.
To that end, here are a few tools we're excited to share with you:
FIRST THING - LAST THING
What we have found most useful for developing mindful habits is to set aside time for a short meditation first thing in the morning and last thing in the evening. Before we enter the flow of the day, we meditate for 10 minutes to connect with our bodies and our minds, and soak in our intentions for the day. Just before bed, we sit for another brief period. If 10 minutes seems like too much, start with what seems sustainable for you. Even one minute is enought to get the habit wheels turning.
PRACTICE WITH A COMMUNITY
Having a workout partner motivates people to go to the gym. Similarly, meditating with a community can help hold you accountable to your practice, and breath life into your new habits. In addition, we learn a lot from other mindful beings who are navigating life's joys and challenges, and hearing what they do to live mindfully can be super beneficial.
ADOPT CUES THAT REMIND YOU TO PAUSE
Consider moments during your routine that you can create new habits of becoming mindful. For example, when you...
- Pour your first cup of coffee
- Put your keys in the car ignition - Take your first bite of lunch
- Step out of the shower
- Your idea here?
...each of these can become cues to pause, take a few mindful breaths, and reconnect with your intentions.
LISTEN TO AUDIO RECORDINGS
Having some guidance to help you settle into the present and let go for a moment can be a huge help. We've added two new recordings: "Mindful Pause" and "Breath" to our Well-Being Toolkit. The next time you find a few minutes of downtime, consider NOT checking your email or facebook feed. Instead, play a mindful pause to intentionally recenter and reconnect. Or, use them when your day feels like it's accelerating into break-neck speed. You can also use the structure to craft your own spontaneous mindful pauses to ground you and connect you to what's really important.