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Mindful : December 2015
Awareness of habits— before, during, and after Here are some examples of ways we can work with habits in these three different phases. Before Bring awareness to the habit that you want to change and think about the situations or conditions that trigger the habit. Are there actions you can take to avoid act- ing out the habit? What might be an alternative, healthier choice? For example, if you frequently snack on sweets when you’re feeling anxious, uncertain, con- fused, or lonely, ensure that you don’t have sweets in the house. Purchase healthier foods, such as nuts or fruit, to be on hand when a wish to have a snack arises. During Work with the trigger, urge, or craving to act in a habitual way: Pay attention to the context or environment in which the habit typically arises—the place, time, people, sights, sounds, smells. When you first become aware of an urge to act, pause, take a few deep breaths and bring aware- ness to your internal experi- ence. What is predominant? Is it a bodily feeling, such as tight- ness in the stomach or watering of the taste buds? Is it a strong emotion such as anxiety that you have responded to with comfort food in the past? Is it a combina- tion of sensations, emotions and thoughts? Make a conscious choice to remain aware of your direct experience, rather than acting on the craving. Notice how the sen- sations, emotions, and thoughts, begin, stay for a time, and pass when you meet them with kind attention. Learning to experi- ence strong feelings and stay with them is a key to changing unhealthy habits. After If you’ve brought mindfulness to a stimulus or craving that has led in the past to an unhealthy habit but you’ve resisted taking the habitual path, let yourself feel whatever comes up. Perhaps it’s a feeling of relief or release, or gratitude, or optimism. Take these feelings in. Allow yourself to experience with appreciation any bodily sensations, emotions, or thoughts. If you acted upon the urge or stimulus in a habitual way, don’t judge or criticize yourself. Rather, meet whatever feelings come up with kindness. If self-judgment, harsh criticism, or feelings of frustration or pessimism arise, meet them with friendliness. Revisit what matters most to you and how working to abandon this unhealthy or unwanted habit sup- ports your deepest intentions. Remember you can begin again in any moment—and choose to begin again. PRACTICE