How to Make Mindfulness a Habit

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Mindfulness is a super power. It helps us stay in the moment so we can avoid conflicts and misunderstandings, create more happiness and contentment in our lives and create more intimate and connected relationships. 

What exactly is mindfulness? It simply means that you’re aware of what you’re thinking so you don’t let your thoughts and feelings blindly drive your actions and behaviors. Mindfulness puts you in control of your life and gives you a pause button. Instead of just reacting to a given stimulus. It helps you know that feelings aren’t facts and you can respond thoughtfully to something instead of just reacting without thinking. So, if your partner leaves the toilet seat up again (stimulus), you don’t threaten divorce (unthinking reaction). 

Generally, our minds are not on task (i.e., you’re washing the dishes but thinking about what you need to do to get ready for a meeting the next day). In fact, research shows that our minds are wandering about 50% of the time, depending on the activity. All this mind wandering makes us anxious, depressed, frustrated and angry. This distraction is the termites eating at the foundation of all your relationships.

I’d like you to start a mindful practice by doing the following. Set a reminder on your phone to alert you 3x per day. I don’t care what the times are, but try to spread them out (maybe 9:00, 1:00 and 6:00). When you hear the alert, simply notice where your mind was. What were you thinking about? 

Gently bring your focus back to the present (as non-judgmentally as possible; no “why can’t I keep my focus?!” self-talk). Be kind to yourself and just bring your awareness back to the present moment. Once you bring it back, to the present, I’d like you to do one shoulder shrug. This is a research-proven technique that’s awesome for centering yourself, as well as calming your nervous system. 

What you do is shrug your shoulders all the way up to your ears for a few seconds, then push your shoulders back and squeeze your scapula (the wings on your back) together for a few seconds more, and then let your shoulders drop. Ahhhhhhh. You’ll immediately notice that you feel more relaxed and that you’d had your shoulders slightly raised without realizing it. 

All day long we, unknowingly, raise our shoulders the tiniest bit. Every single time you do that, you release small amounts of a stress-inducing hormone called Cortisol into your blood stream. Whenever you raise your shoulders, even a little bit, your brain thinks you’re about to fight (if you think of a fighting stance or any time someone scares or startles you, you’ll realize that you raise your shoulders a little and start breathing out of your chest instead of your belly - both of these signals release Cortisol). 

This exercise is the BEST bang for your buck. In just seconds this “hack” will have you feeling centered, calm your nervous system, and give you a here and now focus. By doing this exercise, you’ll train your brain so it will be mindful at other times without the cue of the reminder alert on your phone. It’s amazing – you’ll see results in just a day or two!

 

Abby Medcalf