Whether we like it or not, this time of year cues our minds to reflect and think about habits we want to change. If you’re reading this, odds are one of those habits is bringing mindfulness into your life more and allowing this to be the year where it sticks. Or maybe you’re also looking to change other habits that run alongside your values like being more self-compassionate, living alongside your values, playing more, or creating more mastery in life. All of these are basic elements that help uncover happiness.
Whatever the habit is that you want to make, here are a few practical tips to help make your changes stick.
How to Make Your New Habits Stick
1. Choose the right practice
If you’re trying to integrate the ability to become more present in your daily life, choose what you want to practice. You may want to integrate a more formal mindfulness practice that would come in the form of a sitting meditation or mindful yoga. Or maybe you want to integrate more informal moments of just being present to whatever you are doing. Or maybe both. Or perhaps it’s exercise, better sleep, or being a more present friend. Having an awareness of what you want to do is the first step.
2. Set up reminders
As much as we’d like to think, “I got it all up here, I can remember,” it’s important to understand that your brain works off cues. The way our environments are set up cue our brain to make certain decisions. Give your new habits a boost by setting up your environment to support the changes you want to make. For example, you can put a meditation cushion next to your bed so it’s the first thing you see in the morning. You can sign up for an app that will remind you to have more mindful moments. There are many other apps that do this for exercise, sleep and even to keep you on whatever task you like. Or you can go old school: put up sticky notes in your work area or, even better, get a real person to practice with you and motivate each other.
3. Build a support network
Many of us have the rule in our heads that “I can do it on my own.” The fact is, you are more likely to actually integrate a new practice if you have people alongside you who are trying to do the same thing. Finding a group of people in your area or on the web that you can connect with is very important to sustaining this practice. You can connect through new challenges, learn from each other, and feel part of a community. Your community also serves as a reminder that this activity is important in your life. Check out Meetup.com to find a local group doing exactly what you’re interested in. If there isn’t a local community, an online group is a good runner up.
Try these three things out with whatever habits you are trying to change. Really build them into your routine and have compassion for yourself along the way. Making changes difficult work, but it’s also entirely attainable.
If you do stray from your practice “forgive and invite” — Forgive yourself for the time gone by, learn from your obstacles, and invite yourself in that present moment to begin again.
Here’s to a happy healthy new year!
Adapted from Mindfulness & Psychotherapy