All people form habits. It is a part of human nature. Habits can be healthy such as brushing your teeth every night or going for a walk each morning. Habits can also be unhealthy when they take on forms such as sitting on the couch and watching too much TV or getting fast food every day for lunch. Humans slowly become their habits.
When we engage in a habit our minds “turn off” and go into “power saving mode”. Because we engage in these behaviors or habits so often, our minds do not need to be as alert. Mindfulness is exactly how we change our poor habits. Mindfulness is practice that will allow us to tune back into our bodies and awaken our brains. Counselors use the tool of mindfulness to help clients with a variety of symptoms including depression and anxiety. The purpose of mindfulness is to help a person be aware of what their bodies are experiencing. Mindfulness allows us to look at our bodies as communicators of our internal world. We might feel tightness in our stomachs letting us know that we are anxious about something or possibly a relaxing in our chest, which can signify relief. Our bodies are constantly communicating and it is our job to tune into that communication rather than letting our habits take over. Many times we will choose to engage in poor habits because it is comfortable or mindless.
So how do we use this tool of mindfulness to engage in habit change? One effective mindfulness technique is focusing on all five senses. All of our senses experience the world differently. When we focus on what we are experiencing it helps take our minds out of autopilot and focus on the present. Throughout the day we are constantly bombarded with different sensory experiences. It is easy for us to engage in unhealthy habits such as mindless eating or mindlessly zoning out over the TV. This mindful technique encourages people to focus on enjoying activities through all of the senses. It is also helpful to understand where our thoughts wander, because no one can stay focused and mindful all the time. Understanding where our thoughts go can give us insight into how we are feeling and why we are seeking comfort through our habits.
Habits are difficult to break and I encourage you to take a step in the right direction by making yourself a priority this week. Give me a call to set up an initial appointment and I will work with you on strategies to include mindfulness into your life.
Lauren Whalen is a contracted therapist in private practice with Insight Counseling Center. If you would like to schedule an appointment with Lauren, you can reach out to her at LWhalen@insightcounselingcenter.com or 224-374-3609.