Hi there and welcome to Monday Mini Meditations,
Last week I chatted about habits, in particular my sugar habit, and mentioned I would share “7 ways to develop better habits with meditation”.
So let’s dive in right away.
Firstly what is a habit? Well according to dictionary.com it is “an acquired behaviour pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary”.
So we all have lots of acquired behaviour patterns that are good habits – brushing teeth, exercising, drinking water, checking right and left before crossing the road, saying thank you and more. Take a moment now to think of all the great habits you practise daily. Many of them are so ingrained you probably just do them without thinking.
But a lot of the time our habits are not helpful, and these are the ones I want to address.
I believe that many negative habits result from STRESS. Stress arises from fear, worry, anxiety, panic, even boredom, in relation to our relationships, jobs, finances, families and more. (Try a stress test to evaluate your personal stressors here).
Because we do not know how to handle stress, and the emotions that accompany stress, in appropriate ways, we often develop unhealthy behaviours to deal with them. A glass of wine or a piece of chocolate to self-calm after a challenging work day ends up becoming a bottle of wine or a whole block of chocolate every day if the stressor is not dealt with. Done over a long period of time the result can be a major ingrained habit that is very difficult to eradicate and may cause huge issues in life.
But I believe that even the most challenging habit can be overcome and a new habit developed instead. I am not for one moment suggesting this is a simple process but it is an achievable process when practised with awareness.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle
I personally love the power meditation has given me to reduce unhealthy habits by becoming more aware and present in my own life. Of course I haven’t overcome all my unwanted habits, but I am alert to the different choices I can make to support my well being. For me, that is the key to gently making changes and living a happier, healthier life.
So here we go, 7 ways to develop better habits using meditation:
- It is often easier to break a bad habit by replacing it with a new healthy habit. Consider using meditation as a new habit. Start small and easy with a meditation practice of a couple of minutes a day at a set time, and then build, build, build.
- Relaxation meditation – regularly practising relaxation meditation for only 10 -20 minutes will reduce the effects stress has on your life. Relaxation meditation signals to the body that you are no longer in the “fight or flight” response resulting in less reactive behaviour. Less stress means better habits and choices around wellbeing and daily living.
- Breath meditation – are you standing at the fridge ready to grab that bottle of wine or block of chocolate? Breathe deeply and regularly for seven breaths, counting to 6 on the in-breath and 6 on the out-breath. This will interrupt the urge and give space to make a better choice. Also a great one to use when you want to yell at a partner, at the kids , buy yet another pair of shoes or to break any other impulsive behaviour.
- Mindfulness meditation –being in the present moment and actually becoming aware of thoughts, feelings and emotions is powerful. Often our thoughts are focussed in the past or the future creating anxiety and worry. Practice non-attachment to thoughts, feelings and emotions by mindfully yet passively observing what is occurring. It is from this higher vantage point of awareness that deeper self-understanding arises and we can discern opportunities for creative solutions and new habits to emerge.
- Smiling meditation – regular grumpiness or moodiness, caused by stress, can actually become a habit as the brain’s neural pathways get stuck in this mode. By smiling, firstly with the mouth, and then with the imagination (seeing the whole body smiling, right down to the itsy bitsy cells), we can recalibrate. When we are feeling good, we are less likely to engage in a negative habit.
- Visualisation meditation– use your imagination to build strength and willpower. Imagine that your favourite unhealthy treat is right there in front of you and you really desire it because you are feeling stressed and tired. Notice how inviting it looks and feel the intense urge to have it. Then see yourself determinedly walking away from it and notice the good feelings that bubble up inside from making a better choice. Practice this regularly.
- Walking meditation –. Get “more bang for your buck” by developing the exercise habit and increasing the meditative habit. Walk briskly for 20 minutes keeping your attention and focus on your body. Get out of the head and all the usual mental processes and simply enjoy the sensations and physical pleasure the body derives from walking. This increases the brains natural happy chemicals and reduces the need for other stimulants, which can become habit forming.
There you go….. 7 ways to develop better habits with meditation. As I mentioned before, this is not a quick fix, but with determination and focus meditation can change habits and the benefits can last a lifetime. This week try one of these meditations for yourself. Remember, if you have any physical or mental health issues, to always check with your doctor before using any of these steps.
I would love to hear how your meditation practice is helping you to let go of old habits and to develop healthier new ones.
From my heart to yours,