Creatures of habit

Forming and maintaining a habit of mindfulness practice.

Given we are in times of huge uncertainly, pressure, bewilderment, fear .. you name it .. we perhaps have more need than ever to attend (literally) to our habits - the good, the bad, and the ugly. 

Here is advice from James Clear (author of 'Atomic Habits') who addresses the age-old issue of habit and habit change - this time in the service of developing/restarting or maintaining a mindfulness practice of some sort. From his talk with Sam Harris (Waking Up app).  

Using his '4 laws of behavioural change'

1. Make it obvious/visible where you're going to practice. Try to carve out a spot in the environment that can then be associated with your practice. Have a space, pillows, a stool. If it's in a room where you normally e.g., watch tv, make a change in that room - eg bring in a chair. Make it special. Connected to this we could form an 'implementation intention' - a sentence to write down .. "I will do x minutes of practice here each day at this time". (my note here - if you cannot for some reason do your practice, then don't dwell on your failing thereafter, accept it, and begin again).

2. Make it appealing, attractive  For example, when choosing the type of practice, you might (initially anyway) go for a guided meditation by a favourite speaker. You can branch out later.

3. Make it easy  For example, if 30 minutes is daunting, then choose a shorter practrice - even 5 minutes to start with will get you going, establish a routine which will form a habit (again).

4. Make it satisfying   Keep a diary, keep track on an app - make it visual. (my note - you could 'buddy-up' with someone else on-line, exchange your practice experience, do your own inquiry).

NB As Sam Harris points out, meditation is different from forms of self- improvement where you are reaching for a goal, mindfulness practice is not per se about becoming a meditator -  we want our practice to enter our lives, bringing peace, equanimity, happiness .. so 'coming to' -  even for 5, 10, 30 seconds - many times in the day  - can be powerful, literally life-changing. (cf Rick Hanson's brain- changing/neuroplasticity approach in eg 'Just One Thing'). 

So we can always work on (re)establishing a formal practice using habit-building tips like the ones above - and at the same time remembering we can use the everyday lives we are leading, maybe using a handy trigger such as when we move from one room to another, climb the stairs, sit down, go for a walk, have a meal, watch the sky from our window, to come back to an awareness of this moment, this being here, accepting and inhabiting it as it is.