“Practice makes perfect” – a truism but particularly relevant to developing mindfulness.
People who know about habit forming suggest three basic steps to develop a habit:
- focus on one small and simple behaviour
- build the habit into your daily routine/structure of your day
- frequently revisit your motivation (s) for growing the habit of mindfulness.
Start simple and develop more complex behaviours as you master an initial starting point. If you are trying to do something complex at the outset and trying to maintain the behaviour, you can easily become discouraged. However, if you start simply and achieve mastery, this will add to your motivation. You will avoid discouragement and frustration this way.
If you structure the new behaviour into you daily routine, you are more likely to be able to sustain the mindfulness practice. So if it is something you do first thing in the morning, then each time you wake up you are reminded to undertake the behaviour. One of the participants in the Search Inside Yourself leadership program decided to do mindful breathing whenever he put the jug on for a cup of coffee. I have started the practice of using open awareness first thing in the morning when I make my first cup of tea. Providing an inbuilt structure (timing & location) to a mindfulness practice helps to embed it into your daily life.
It is important to maintain your motivation when the going gets tough or there are things that distract you from your practice. One way to do this is to write down the reasons why you want to engage in the mindfulness practice. As you begin to practice, you will find that you will be able to add to your motivation list because you have experienced some positive benefits that you had not alluded to earlier in the practice cycle. Some people even develop a personal mantra to help their motivation, e.g. “be mindful, be my best”.
Mindfulness is within everyone’s reach but each person is different. So a particular mindfulness practice may appeal to one person and not another. You need to find somewhere to start (or extend) that suits your personal preference and lifestyle.
There are many pathways to mindfulness – mindful breathing, mindful eating, meditation, open awareness, reflective listening, yoga, and Tai Chi – to name a few. Start somewhere and grow mindfulness from that point.
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