How do you create a habit that sticks?

 

“Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.” Jim Rohn

At this time of year, after the festive season, the focus and discussion turn to how to do something different for the New Year. Giving up smoking; going on a diet; starting an exercise regime; getting a new skill; almost anything you can think of.

We all have written that list; be it long or short; of things we want to do differently at the start of the new year. And I can honestly say that we have all failed. It might take a few days or even a couple of weeks, but the change we try to make falls by the wayside. We then get into self-recrimination mode. Which makes the apparent “failure” even worse.

We don’t seem to learn from this and every year without fail, people create “wish lists of change”. What we fail to understand is that you have to start from a different place.


Change your mindset

It is a well know fact that if you want to “give up” something; be it smoking; chocolate; meat or even caffeine; you are setting yourself up for failure straight away with the concept of “giving up”. This is a “loss” mindset. This creates desire. Want. Craving. And like all loss, you crave it more and more.

I know this, having tried to give up smoking on more than one occasion. Having tried to give it up, I managed to last about two weeks, before the craving made me return to cigarettes. The key to me stopping smoking was changing my mindset.  I decided it was my choice to stop smoking. And like all choice, you can choose to start again. January 2006 was when I gave up (A New Year’s resolution). I have not smoked since.

Recognise the habit

Nearly everything we do can create a habit. Eating certain foods like chocolate when you are “unhappy”; smoking a cigarette when you feel “stressed”; opening a bottle of beer at the end of a day’s “work”; almost anything can create a habit that you may find difficult to break.

For me, the habit I had when I smoked was I would get up first thing in the morning; make a cup of tea and open the back door to light my first fag (English slang term) of the day. Part of changing my mindset was recognising the triggers and habits that surrounded them.

So you have got a list of things that you want to do differently; start or stop; what do you do next?

HELPFUL TIP: Remember Mindset, Habit and Reward

Mindset #1: If you are trying to stop something; like smoking or eating something you do not want to eat any more; the starting point is to recognise that you are NOT giving something up. You have choice. Choice to continue or to stop. You are in complete control.

Mindset #2: If you are trying to start something, like a new exercise regime; the starting point is to create space and time for you to be able to exercise. You need to create mental space as well as time and maybe even physical space. When I started Mindfulness, I realised that I had to get up earlier in the morning to be able to practice. As a result, I got up 30 minutes earlier every morning. I also created a physical space to practice in the spare room.

Habit: Any action you follow, be it exercise; eating; diet; whatever, will take time. Some people feel habits can be created quickly. But it does take time. There is a fallacy that it takes only 21 days, less than a month, for a new habit to be formed. However, it can take over two months, or at least 66 days to create a habit that lasts. If you would like further information on why 66 days, check out an article from James Clear – http://jamesclear.com/new-habit

Reward

Finally, reward yourself. When I gave up smoking, I took the £5.00 per day that I spent on smoking and put it in a clear jam jar. Every day I would put in a fiver. For a complete month. At the end of January, I had £155. As a reward, I bought myself an iPod. When I started Mindfulness; I bought myself an exercise mat to use every day, putting it out as a visual reminder to practice.

So, creating that New Year’s change list is only the start. Remember it takes more than just a list to make a change stick.

I leave you with the following quote.

“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

 

Moments of Silence and Peace

 

“Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life, but define yourself.”  ― Harvey Fierstein

This week at work has been exceptionally busy, with meetings; deadlines and commitments that had to be met; and a major project coming to fruition. Outside of work; there were a number of major social crises that had to be dealt with and evenings spent constantly on the phone. It felt as if every waking moment was filled with “effort”.

We all get caught up in the patina of life. Rushing from one event to another. From one crisis to another. From one person’s issues to another. Work. Home. Social. A feeling as if it is all full-on and relentless. You might even feel that your sleep and dreams are full on as well as you replay the days events in your head.

Our reliance and use of technology does not help either. E:Mail, Facebook, WhatsApp, Tumblr, text messages, phone calls, LinkedIn, and anything else you might use. From the moment we wake up in the morning; to the time we go to bed; possibly even in bed; we are “connected” to the rest of our world.

It is becoming really difficult to find those moments of silence and peace in our daily lives. Some would say it is impossible, but I would disagree.

So how do you make time and space to experience silence and peace?

Resting the Technology tips: I am not suggesting that you throw away your technology, far from it. I would simply suggest that you put it down for a while.

  • When the next notification that you have a “text, e:mail, SMS, or whatever come through” don’t immediately reach for your phone to see what it is. I have got into the habit recently of putting my phone on silent mode in the evening. That way, when I am with the family, I am not distracted by the constant “bleeping” of the “it’s arrived notifications”. 
  • When was the last time you left your phone at home when you went out? I did recently and after the initial panic attack of “where the hell have I left my phone”, it was a really refreshing experience to just leave it behind.
  • Don’t have your phone, tablet or other technology device by your bedside. Leave it in the kitchen, as I do. That way, I am not disturbed by it “pinging” away at night. Too many people have got into the habit of having it by their bedside and then get worried and wake up in the middle of the night.

Resting time tips. Likewise, I am not advocating you take a wholesale “virtual knife” to your working and social life; cutting out chunks of time that you can then spend in silence. What I am saying is, that it is possible; even in today’s frantic world; to find moments of calm and peace. I tend to find the time  by going for a short walk along the office between meetings. Also, I try to spend 5minutes after teleconferences, focusing on my breathing.  

Space in the morning tips. I generally, get up early. Since taking up Mindfulness, I tend to get up 30 minutes earlier than what I used to. Why 30 minutes? To allow me to share the three things I do nearly every morning:

  • A few minutes of yoga based stretching. I try to concentrate on the movement and the feedback feeling that I get from my body as I move. Followed by 5 to 10 minutes of cardio exercise, be it steps or plank exercises. Finally, 15 to 20 minutes of mindfulness practice. It is not always just 30 minutes. It depends on my mood, my thoughts and if I am at home working; going to be travelling to an office to work or in a hotel away from home.
  • Can you get up slightly earlier in the morning? I tried to practice mindfulness at the end of the day, but kept falling asleep as I was so tired. That is why I take the time in the morning. If you are an evening person, fantastic. Do it in the evening. I even know someone who takes their 1 hour lunch break and goes to the first aid room to practice there.

During the workweek tips. When I travel to work or from work; I take a moment of peace during the drive, generally in the traffic jam. I will sit and not listen to the radio and practice a breathing meditation.

  • During the day, I try to take moments to walk away from my desk, go outside and experience the world out of the “work bubble”. At lunch time, I’ll go for a walk. Even if it is round the office car park. Even the walk to the coffee machine, gives me an opportunity to just breath for a moment. Anything to break the cycle of “effort”.

Finally, the weekend arrives and we all suddenly slow down. The “effort” of the week becomes a distant memory. Well until Sunday evening, when you might start to think about revving up the engine of “effort” for the week ahead. Before you do, just remember, to find those moments of silence and peace in this frantic world we create for ourselves.

As we enter the summer holiday season, I hope you all have a pleasant and wonderful time off work, if you get a chance to. To recharge. To reflect. Possibly to even think and start the journey to a more peaceful world.
I leave you with the following quote:

“Quiet is peace. Tranquility. Quiet is turning down the volume knob on life. Silence is pushing the off button. Shutting it down. All of it.” Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner

Being non-judgemental

“I used to think anyone doing anything weird was weird. Now I know that it is the people that call others weird that are weird.” Paul McCartney

 

The definition of Mindfulness that I use comes from Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of the modern mindfulness movement. It states:

“Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally,” Jon Kabat-Zinn

One of the biggest elements of the practice of Mindfulness is the non-judgemental element. We are filled with “self-talk”, with thousand’s of thoughts flowing through our monds per day. Many of these are where we are reflecting and often ruminating. Typically, along a negative path. Thoughts such as:

“I can’t do this…..”; “I keep failing at….”; “Why does it always happen to me?”;

“I am no good at….”; “It will never work….” You get the picture.

What is so amazing, is that up to 70% of most people’s thoughts are negative. We fill our minds every day with negativity. When you consider we have up to 70,000 thoughts per day, that means upwards of 49,000 negative self-hits. We are constantly beating ourselves up thinking we are failing. All too often we find it difficult to accept what we’re feeling. A common pattern is to experience some initial unpleasant experience and then to feel bad because of feeling bad, and then to feel bad about feeling bad about feeling bad, and so on. It’s a vicious cycle of feeling bad about feeling bad.

So, what does Mindfulness do to counteract this?

Recognition: The first aspect of the meditation practice is to recognise that you do have these negative and judgemental thoughts. No matter how much you practice, you will never get rid of them totally. The benefit of regular pracice is that the number and frequency will decline over time.

Diary: You can use a mindfulness diary and write down all the judging, evaluating, appraising and so on thoughts that go on in your mind during the course of a short period of time, say half an hour. Don’t be shocked if you find hundreds of jjudgmentsgoing on. Afterward, note down any patterns in your likes or dislikes. For example, do you mainly judge yourself, other people, life, the government or activities you engage with, or just everything? The starting point to any change is to understand what you are seeking to change.  

Patience: Be patient in your practice. When you start to practice and you are asked to concentrate on your breath, you will notice that your thoughts will drift off. Don’t judge yourself. Accept that it will happen. And simply return to the basics of the breath. The in breath. The out breath.

Acceptance: Acceptance indicates that you’re prepared to do a reality check. Acknowledging that, for example, you drink too much, sleep too little, feel down in the dumps or bad about choices you’ve made. You can feel that if you accept things as they are, at least for now, you may never be able to change them, but as the song says, this ‘ain’t necessarily so’. In fact, the exact opposite may be the outcome when you’ve faced your demons.

Compassion: One of the best practices is called the Metta Bhavana, or Development of Loving Kindness meditation. This practice directly addresses the idea of forgiving yourself, other people, events and situations and  brings you to a sense of peace and wellbeing.

There are many different approaches that you can take. Some that work for me, might not work for you and visa versa.

I have found that being non-judgemental has become more than just a practice by practice thing. It pervades my whole waking day. When I am in a traffic jam and someone jumps the queue, I am less judgemental and quick to anger. When some does not complete a deadline at work, I am more forgiving and patient with them. Does this mean I never get cross, ofr judge people? I still do, but much less than before I started Mindfulness.

If you would like any help, or would like further details on the Loving Kindness practice, do get in touch.

I leave you with the following quote:

 

“Of course we need to accept ourselves as we are, but we can’t stop there. We also need to value ourselves enough make needed changes.” ― Steve Goodier

What on earth is Neuroplasticity?

“Life is half delicious yogurt, half crap, and your job is to keep the plastic spoon in the yogurt.”

Scott Adams

 

Something I have come to realize through my own practice and reading on Mindfulness is that our brains are not fixed and unchanging. Society has taught us that by the time you get to be an adult your brain’s structure; even the way we think; is fixed and unchanging for all of our lives.

In fact, it is not the case at all.

Our brain; like the rest of our bodies; can be consciously changed by our actions. Think for a moment, have you taken up a new sport or hobby as an adult? All of us have done so at some point. Whether it is cycling, running, swimming, golf, tennis, etc. Or perhaps, a new interest, such as learning a new language; learning to cook exotic meals, etc. Or even, if we have stopped something. For instance, smoking, drinking or eating meat. Throughout all of our lives, we are constantly changing habits and our bodies adapt.

So do in fact do our brains. Even our identities are not fixed, they change over time. Falling in love. Having children. Changing jobs.Moving to a new city or country. Everything has an impact both on our bodies, as well as our brains. Our memories. Our perceptions of the world around us.

The term, for the ability to flex and change the structure of the brain, is called Neuroplasticity.

Neuroplastic change can occur at small scales, such as physical changes to individual neurons, or at whole-brain scales, such as remapping in response to an injury. Behaviour, environmental stimuli, thought, and emotions may also cause neuroplastic change, which has significant implications for healthy development, learning, memory, and recovery from brain damage.

Scientific research has shown that the very structure of the brain can be changed in even a relatively short period of time.  

A number of studies have linked meditation practice to differences in density of the  gray matter that makes up certain parts of the brain. One of the most well-known studies to demonstrate this was led by Sara Lazar, from Harvard University, in 2000.

Richard Davidson, a neuroscientist at the University of Wisconsin, has led experiments, working with a number of Buddhist monks, including Matthieu Ricard, on effects of meditation on the brain. In fact, Matthieu has been called the Happiest Man alive. His results suggest that even short-term practice of meditation results in different levels of activity in brain regions associated with improvements such as: improved attention; reduced anxiety levels; a reduction in levels of depression; feeling less fearful; significant reductions in anger, and even the ability of the body to heal itself. Some of these results can be seen in as little as seven weeks.

I have always been fascinated at how the brain works, and what we, as humans, are capable of. I watched a great programme from the BBC, that I would recommend it to you. if you get a chance, check out:

The Brain with David Eagleman 

David explores how the brain conjures up the world we take for granted. This episode shows how the brain gives rise to thought, emotions, memories and personality. We Do not “see” the world around us, rather we reconstruct it moment by moment, based on our sensory perception, our brains ability to chunk together information, and even the ability to delete and distort reality.

 

I leave you with the following quote……. which made me laugh at the modern world we have.

“She got her looks from her father. He’s a plastic surgeon.”

Groucho Marx

 

We can change our negative wiring!

 

Oddball: “Why don’t you knock it off with them negative waves Moriarty? Why don’t you dig how beautiful it is out here? Why don’t you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?”

From the Film “Kelly’s Heros”

 

So what are we going to do about being hard wired with a negative bias? Accept it and just live with it? Or try to do something about it?  

Being surrounded by so much negativity and being hard wired towards it; it’s a wonder we are all not complete manic depressives. But somehow, most of us, seem to lead reasonably balanced lives. So it is not all doom and gloom. We instinctively try to balance both the negative and the positive.

One of the ways we strive to hold the positive is we surround ourselves with mementos of pleasant events. We may have photos of family members and loved ones in our houses. We listen to music which triggers memories of past discos and situations where we first heard the tune; a gig or a concert; or when the music was playing and we met a person we fell in love with. We may keep possessions from our past, from our family, that when we see them and touch them, trigger pleasant memories.

One of my mementos, is my grandmother’s watch. Why is it so special?

She was blind and almost deaf for most of her life. Was she down hearted? No, not at all. Most of the time, she was happy and chatty. One of her constants was the Royal National Institute of the Blind designed watch that she would wind and listen to the tick tock. It is like a old fashioned pocket watch, but the top case, when it is pushed up reveals a watch face with no glass. Instead, the dial hands are chunky and there are raised pips next to the numbers on the watch. She would run her fingers over the face of the watch and be able to tell the time. Even as I type this, the positive memories come flooding back. 

Another trick you can use is to record, remember and reflect on the positive experiences you have every day. Big or small it does not matter. As part of the MBSR – Mindfulness Stress Reduction Program; one of the activities you are asked to complete is to capture positive things and situations you are placed in every day. You write them down in a mini diary during the day. For instance: You say “good morning” to someone and they smile back at you; You hold the door open for someone and they say “thankyou”; You let someone in at a traffic queue and they flash their indicators. Anything and everything.

Then at the end of the day, read through the list and reflect on the day’s activities and how those positive moments made you feel.

There are some other tips you might like to try that are not related to Mindfulness or meditation in any way:

  • Be conscious of the viral effect of negative people and how they can “infect” positive people. If you can, choose not to be with them. You can not change them, but you can certainly avoid being with them if you can.
  • When positive events or interactions occur, savor the positive experience. Write it down. Record it. Photograph it. It is those positive moments that you want to remember.
  • Demonstrate and encourage others to be mindful of the “triggers” that can stimulate negativity. Reflect on whether the negative situation has been exaggerated or blown out of proportion, and how it can be changed or minimised.
  • Avoiding over-analyzing or ruminating on past negative events; rather focus on what can be done in the present in a positive manner. It is the rumination that build the negative memory sets.
  • When at work, focus on the small wins and progress on a daily basis, and take time to celebrate those, rather than waiting for the end of a project or an extended period of time before celebrating sucess.
  • Remember that it takes up to 10 positive experiences to counterbalance one negative experience. Perhaps you can see if you can record 10 positive experiences in a day. Big or small, I am sure it will be easy to capture them

 

Now you have reached the end of this article, why don’t you take a few moments to search out a treasured picture; a momento; a piece of music; or an object in your life. Look at it, hold it, listen to it and really feel it. Remember the memories it brings back. Positive ones. I hope, like my grandmothers watch and my memories of her.

Namaste.

If you liked the quote at the start, here is a collection from the film “Kelly’s Heros” where odd bal talks to Moriarty about “those negative waves”. Made me smile:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KuStsFW4EmQ

 

I leave you with the following quote:

 

“Try giving up all the thoughts that make you feel bad, or even just some of them, and see how doing that changes your life. You don’t need negative thoughts. All they have ever given you was a false self that suffers. They are all lies.”

Gina Lake, What about Now?: Reminders for Being in the Moment

New Year, new resolutions and tips on how not to fail

“I made no resolutions for the New Year. The habit of making plans, of criticizing, sanctioning and molding my life, is too much of a daily event for me. ” ― Anaïs Nin

This blog was originally going to be called “New Year, Old Habits, New Habits, New Beginnings” but I realised two things. Firstly, I was being too positive and making the assumption that we would all be succeeding in our new year’s resolutions, rather than failing in the first week and secondly, the no one was really talking about the practical steps we can all take to help support and make the changes we want stick.

Come the New Year, comes the idea that we should have a “New Year’s Resolution” to do something different. Diet exercise; relationships; work/life balance; savings and spending; change of life direction; smoking; drinking; eating meat [or other types of food]; we get to January and want to make a new start.

We set out with the best intentions in the world and then work / life / family / something else, gets in the way and we fail to achieve what we have set out. Why does this happen? Let’s start with a view of why our best intentions falter…….

[A]. Change is easy

We create the idea that whatever change we want to make is going to be easy. Let’s be truthful here. Any change is hard. We are creatures of habit. Small habits, like what type of toothpaste to use, types of food we eat, the types of clothes we wear, the types of places we visit, even the type of friends and relationships we have. All are based on comfort and a reluctance to change.

[B] You assume you have a plan, are following it and are being successful.

Or as they say about “assume” you can make an ass out of you and me.Come on, really. you have a plan? We might, if we are lucky sketch out on a piece of paper or write on a diary / calendar the end point that we want to get to, but the journey in between is written in fog or not at all. You are making a life choice. Think about examples like buying a house; getting married; or moving to another country / place. Do you do these on the spur of the moment or do you think and plan for them? We are making personal changes and we should plan and celebrate milestones of achievement. More later.

[C]. Time and Milestones of achievement.

There has been a raft of research on how long it takes for a habit to “stick” and become part of your every day life. Some say 21 days, other research says as much as 66 days. Pause for a moment, please and think about the last time you made a successful change in your own habits. Go on think. From the moment you had the idea to make the change, through to the point where it became part of your life, can take anything from 1 month to 3 months. Dependant on the depth of the change; how much effort you had to put in and obviously, how much you wanted it to happen as quickly as possible.

So, we have dealt with why change resolutions falter. I want to turn it around to how you can make them successful. Oh, by the way. Even if you have started a resolution, it is still worth thinking about how to make them “stick”. And for those of you that have dropped one of your goals, you might want to think about taking some of these tips and trying again.

Understanding your “Change & Learning Styles” to achieve your goals:

How? We all use the “VAK” model in our everyday lives. What on earth is “VAK” and what does it mean? Which type of person are you? What is your preferred learning style? That is the key here. How do YOU learn….

We all have a preferred learning style, be it through looking at; listening to;or touching. These different approaches are called Visual; Auditory or Kinesthetic learning styles. If you don’t know what is your style, there are links at the bottom of this article to help you identify yours. So, how can you leverage this to achieve your goals?

Visual Aids and Tips

  • Use pictures from magazines, or from the web and place them in noticeable places in the house for example, for foods that you want to eat, rather than foods you should not
  • I saved the money when I gave up smoking. Every day I would add a £5 note to the jar. After a week, I realised that if I was to start smoking again, I would have to begin by taking out the £5 notes and burning them! After a month, I had £150 and went out and treated myself.
  • If you have put milestones on the calendar, put pictures on it, highlight key dates. If you have a smartphone, put in reminders and include positive congratulatory notes.
  • An interesting tip, is if you use a PC, tablet or smartphone and have a password, why not change the password to reflect the phrase of your goal, i.e. “I no longer smoke”. It does work. Check out this article for details: https://medium.com/the-lighthouse/how-a-password-changed-my-life-7af5d5f28038#.7sfv38ja1
  • Feel free to comment on examples you use….

 

Auditory Aids and Tips

  • Why not record yourself saying what you want to achieve and how you want to achieve it. Then play it back to yourself.
  • If the resolution or goal involves a trip abroad, why not play the music from that place. Or the sounds of the sea if you happen to be by the sea.
  • You can use music, videos or movies to help re-enforce the places, events or activities you would like to happen.
  • Why not talk to a friend or family member and talk about the goal you want to achieve and get them to remind you on a regular basis – in a positive way – that you are doing really well

Kinesthetic Aids and Tips

  • This all involves moment, so in some respects is the most simplistic and at the same time, the most difficult to develop.
  • One of my goals for this year is to focus on exercise, so I have been focusing on standing up and movement. This encourages me to want to move more.
  • Have an object near you that you can touch. For instance, a tennis ball or golf ball if you want to learn tennis or golf.

The key elements to creating a new habit, is understanding what the goal you want; develop the routine and then reward the change. The power to positively reinforce the changes you want to make is the biggest element in any success.

As for me, I have three resolutions for 2016 and every day I am trying to achieve elements of each one. This first week back at work can only be described as manic, but even so, I have managed 3 out of 4 day to achieve my goals. Not perfect, but again, I am moving forward. I will write a separate article on my “3 words for 2016”.

I leave you with the following quote:

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.

 

If you want to find out what you prefered learning style, you can check out these links:

http://www.brainboxx.co.uk/a3_aspects/pages/vak_quest.htm

http://www.educationplanner.org/students/self-assessments/learning-styles-quiz.shtml

Mindfulness Habit Releasers

“Renew, release, let go. Yesterday’s gone. There’s nothing you can do to bring it back. You can’t “should’ve” done something. You can only DO something. Renew yourself. Release that attachment. Today is a new day!”  Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience

I came to Mindfulness through the book by Professor Mark Williams – Mindfulness, finding peace in a frantic world. You can get further resources from the associated web site at: http://franticworld.com/

One of the exercises in the book I really like is called  “Habit Releaser.”  I would encourage you to give it a try.  All of us have habits. After all that is mostly what our lives are founded on. Whether it is cleaning our teeth, having a wash, shaving washing our hair, getting dressed, driving our cars, going to work, and so many more. Our lives are surrounded by habits.

A “Habit Releaser” is where all you have to do is make a deliberate choice to break out of one (or more) of your usual routines.  For instance, notice which chair or sofa you normally sit in at home, at a meeting in work and then sit somewhere different and new.  Or perhaps you could drive a different route to work. Anything.

Mindfulness helps you to stand back from your thoughts and view them objectively. It helps you to engage with moment to moment living. Mindfulness, is not just the practice of meditation, it is being mindful in the present moment. Don’t forget, Mindfulness is NOT about clearing your mind. In fact, mind wandering is needed for mindfulness. It is the directing of the mind, that is the key.

In the book, the authors provide some examples of “Habit Releasers.” Why don’t you stop for one minute and write down all the habits you practice on a daily and weekly basis, no matter how mundane. You will be surprised how many you have. Here are some ideas you might want to try yourself.

[1]. Brush your teeth with the opposite hand, or look at the non-brushing hand whilst you brush your teeth.

Brushing your teeth is something that everyone does. Hopefully, at least twice a day. but the goal is to become aware of when you’re out of touch with the present moment. How much more would you have to be present and thinking about this activity if you switched it over and used your non-dominant hand?

[2]. Sit somewhere different

Be honest, how often do you sit in the same chair or sofa out of habit? Whether it’s the sofa at home, the chair or desk at the office, or where you like to sit when you are out with friends. I noticed when I was in a coffee shop recently, a group of people arguing  as to who was sitting in someone else’s seat. Comments like “you are sitting in my place” make you realise that people are comfortable with this habit. So, instead sit somewhere else, and use this as a cue to shake things up and be present.

[3]. Take a different route to work

Autopilot is one of the worst things about going to / from work. So many times have I completely forgotten how I drove to work and get back and think, “Did I really just drive that?”. It would appear that we are either daydreaming or more commonly, we are on autopilot. This can be really dangerous. Have you ever got to a road junction and turned left or right as you always did, without looking for other traffic users. Just because for the last 20 times, there was no traffic there, it only takes one time, for disastrous results. So to break out of this habit, find a new route to take when driving. Mix things up, check out some new scenery, concentrate on a new route and become aware of your experience.

[4]. Put down the TV remote for just one day

I don’t watch much television these days, but there was a time when I could get lost in the distracting world of the square mind numbing box. Hours would pass without me even realizing it. Watching TV can be a very mindless activity. It is completely passive as an experience. It makes us waste time we could devote to other valuable things. So why not do a day without the TV. and notice what you do instead. Do you read a book? Talk to friends or family? Cook? Mend something? Start an activity you have put off, since you do not have “time” which you have wasted watching the TV!

[5]. Throw away clutter

The girls hate me for this. They think I am some sort of tidy freak. I am not. I look around the house and see all the things we have collected over the years and realise that most of it, has no sentimental value to me at all. I know that can be odd. People keep all sorts of things to help engender memories. However, at what point do you say “enough is enough”? I like to try to clear out things that I have not used for a year or so. If they are of any use, I will give them to friends or even to charity. I know this one is potentially the most controversial “Habit Releaser”, but go on, do give it a try.

[6]. Go for a walk somewhere new

Walking can be a very relaxing activity as well as one that helps your fitness. I have been participating in a Global Challenge at work and managed through a lot of effort, to walk about 15,000 steps every day. I have had to find new paths to go along, else the same path every day becomes boring and repetitive. Get out in nature and find a new path you can explore. Go for a walk and be present and mindful of your experience. Notice the sights, sounds, and physical sensations with each step you take.

These are just a few ideas to help you pay more attention to life and stop those “habits”. If you’re feeling a stuck, pick one, or a couple of these ideas to help you bring more awareness to your experience of life.

I leave you with the following quote:

“You must learn to let go. Release the stress. You were never in control anyway.” ― Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free