Living more mindfully is an ongoing goal of mine. As someone who is ‘ruled by my head’ I think and I plan and I reflect and I ruminate through most of my waking hours. When I do manage to actively still my mind, it feels like a well deserved chill sesh for my brain. As a result, I am always on the lookout for new ways to try and achieve mindfulness. Being mindful means to purposefully bring your attention to the present moment, without judgement. Mindfulness means being aware of what you’re experiencing via your senses. I implement several mindfulness techniques to my daily life, though there’s one which has me absolutely flummoxed. It is so simple, yet still feels just out of my grasp. If you’re striving for a more mindful life, read on… Maybe you’ll have more luck than me with this one.
Listening to: Lucho Ripley - Cosimo en los árboles
Be present. Be still. Just be. Photo by Dave Salter via Burst.
DON’T EAT AN ELEPHANT, TRY A DONUT INSTEAD
A mindful micro habit, you say... What the hell is a micro habit? Picture one really tiny step you can take to help you achieve anything you want, even your most audacious goal. To start establishing your micro habit: take that small step. Take that step again. And again tomorrow. And the next day. And the day after that. Now keep going!
You might've heard the saying:
“How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”
(This quote is sometimes attributed to Francis of Assisi - patron saint of animals - and sometimes to Desmond Tutu - legendary South African anti-apartheid activist.)
Whoever said it, I think of this concept often and, especially when I feel my goals are out of reach, I try to calm my overwhelm by focusing on only one bite-sized chunk at a time.
On a separate note, PETA recommends animal-friendly alternatives to idioms. So… since the thought of eating a majestic creature, such as an elephant, is quite freaky to me, how about this instead:
“How do you eat a donut? One bite at a time.”
Ah, that’s better.
And that ties in nicely to the mindfulness concept: instead of wolfing down your donut - erm, I mean instead of gobbling down your donut - chew slowly, focus on the flavour and the smell and allow yourself to be completely present in the experience, one mindful bite at a time.
BABY STEPS, DARLING
Micro habits are best established when linked to an existing routine. So, for results with longevity, pick something you want to achieve in your life and tie it to an action already part of your daily routine
Want to do the splits? Stretch your hips and hammies before jumping out of bed each morning.
Want to play the guitar? Practise for 10 minutes straight after your dinner every night.
Want to replace negative self talk about your least-loved body part with words of love? Stare into your own eyes or that body part while brushing your teeth, sending nothing but love and gratitude to it.
When I notice my imagination takes over too wildly, I have several practical tactics which serve as continuous reminders to bring me firmly back into my body. My mindful micro habits are scattered throughout my day. One of mine is being entirely present when I pour and drink my first sip of coffee. Otherwise this is such an ingrained action, I can drink an entire delicious cup of coffee without necessarily enjoying one sip. Another one of my micro habits is, whenever I hear the sound of a bell - any tintinnabulation like clanging church bells, my cat's jingling toy or my wind chimes tinkling in the breeze - I pause and be wholly present. My most life-altering micro habit (so far) is drinking a litre of water upon waking in the morning. I’m a thirsty human, so this one feels very natural and pleasurable and has quickly become a cornerstone of my morning routine.
CHALLENGE EXTENDED: THE TRICKY MICRO HABIT I CAN’T SEEM TO HACK
Headspace (a treasure trove of mindfulness guidance) made an innocent-enough looking mindfulness suggestion recently:
Cultivate awareness as you change positions. For example when you change from sitting to standing, or standing to sitting, or standing to lying down, or lying down to sitting.
The idea here is linking present awareness to a repeated movement we (mindlessly) action multiple times a day. Each time you stand, or sit or lie down, use it as a prompt to become present… Pause your thoughts for a moment and choose to focus into your body and on the movement you are making.
Sounds simple, right? I know... So easy!
IT’S TRICKY (TO ROCK A RHYME THAT’S RIGHT ON TIME)
Since committing to this seemingly-simple mindfulness exercise a couple months ago I have managed to achieve it exactly once. Once in about two months. Seriously?!
I bring it down to my ‘ruled by my head’ character. When I’m sitting down and I stand up to move away, I am already thinking about what I’m getting up to do next: make coffee, pop to the bathroom, check the fridge to see what to make for dinner tonight. I simply forget that I’ve personally committed to being aware of my body and its presence as I change over.
What I’m missing is: the coupling with another already-established routine. But sitting down, standing up, lying down… These are need-to-do actions which are automatic and not necessarily thought through. I want to do this better. I want to establish this mindful micro habit so I become aware of my body as I change positions… Every time.
This is where I ask for your advice: try this mindfulness micro habit and please let me know how it goes.
If it worked for you, how did you establish it as part of your day?
If it didn’t work for you, why not? And what other ways do you benefit from establishing mindful micro habits in pursuit of your goals?
The value of mindfulness adds amazing new dimensions to our lives. In addition to bringing ourselves toward ourselves, it evokes a gentle reminder to really enjoy that first cup of coffee, that well-deserved donut, finding joy in realising you’ve established a healthy micro habit into your daily routine… And with simple joys such as these, what could be better?
With love, the Self Love Club x
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We write about Self Love practises, habits to establish joy and musings on living a fabulous life.