Mental HealthMindfulness with Habits

Dave Chorlton Dave Chorlton8 months ago8 min

Our emotions and thoughts are intertwined; thoughts produce emotions and emotions produce thoughts. Beneath our actions are an amalgamation of thought processes at play, and we create patterns of thinking and patterns of actions that by their very nature form into habits. We can often become lost in our thinking patterns and our actions can repeat to produce similar real-world outcomes. Whether we want to change our eating behaviours, exercise more or to the very extremities of breaking free from any form of addiction, we must look within and transform our patterns of thinking. We can often focus on top level changes, but unless we change the deeper patterns at work, we will fall back into the same habitual traps.

How can we break free from our bad habits? How can we create newly formed positive habits?

By taking a step back and by becoming the observer of our thoughts, we can take the first step to true transformation.

How to use Mindfulness with Habits

  • Nature: When we spend time in nature it reduces our stress levels, improves our mood and also can help us to want to become part of a community. Nature helps us to appreciate life more and helps us to look at the bigger picture of our lives and life itself. Go for a walk and breath in the air, look all around you and choose something to focus your attention on. This could be a tree, the skyline, an animal or anything that you find particularly beautiful at that very moment. Observe this object of beauty, and just pause to appreciate whatever it is. Take some deep breaths and just appreciate this moment. Think of one thing you are grateful for with this moment. Then continue to enjoy your walk and observe other things that capture your attention. The idea here to help you get out of your head and current patterns of thinking. By appreciating moments of beauty in nature it will help you to become present and grateful. From this practice, it will help you observe yourself and the world around you in a new way with more clarity. In doing so, you will be able to understand yourself better, observe your trigger points for unhealthy habits, and then have a foundation to choose your next steps with a clear mind.
  • Willingness to Change: Philosopher Hippocrates discussed the idea that if you want to heal someone, you must first ask them if they are willing to give up the very things that made them sick? If we want to break free from unhealthy habits, we must be willing to change our patterns of behaviour. It is not as simple as just stopping one action, there is a myriad of complex behavioural structures at play behind our actions. Thoughts produce emotions, and emotions produce thoughts. Our thoughts often lead us to our next action. Viktor Frankl shared that between stimulus and response is space; and this is where mindfulness comes into play. We have to be willing to change, and this is where the aforementioned concept of nature and the bigger picture can help us. Then we must practice mindful thinking to observe and create that space between thought ad action.
  • Community: By growing our sense of community we can increase our sense of responsibility and create a sense of purpose in our lives. If we practice mindfulness, we can have more meaningful conversations. The more meaningful relationships we have across the board, the greater chance we have of creating newly formed positive habits. We will have an increased motivation to grow as a person as we will grow alongside others, start new hobbies and also want to be better for other people. Social isolation will likely increase the chances of bad habits emerging and decrease the chance of you wanting to create new positive habits in your life.

The more time we spend in nature and the more time we spend on creating quality relationships and a sense of community, we will set the foundations for health, happiness, resilience and support. Beneath this, if we can become more aware of our thoughts and emotions and the space between such thoughts and our actions, we can regain our sense of autonomy over our future self. Then we can use mindfulness practice to become more aware of our surrounding in nature to foster meaning, and also more awareness in our conversations to create deeper connections with others.

Wishing you health and well-being.

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Dave Chorlton

Dave Chorlton

David Chorlton is a Mindfulness Teacher and Positive Psychology Practitioner. David is the founder of app and wellness space www.meaningfulpaths.com.

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