May 6, 2020

DAILY LIVING WITH MINDFULNESS PART FOUR

How mindfulness enables us to build new healthy habits and create a more positive thinking pattern

In Part4 of the Daily Living with Mindfulness series, I will be diving into how mindful living has enabled me to build new healthy habits in my daily routine.

Practicing meditation and adopting a new way of mindful living has allowed me to release the problematic behaviors and negative thinking patterns that have been troublemaking in my life, trading them in for a more positive way of thinking and behaving that helps me to feel happier and more fulfilled.

My goal in sharing my story, as well as some practical meditation advice through this series, is that it can help us to make the mindful choices that improve our overall quality of life both mentally and physically.


By Becoming Mindful of Both Our Positive and Negative Habits, We Can Take Our First Steps Towards Growth


We’ve all been there… In a place where we notice those habits in our lives that are not “good” for us. Yet we often continue to maintain them anyways out of familiarity.

Of course, some habits that are not-so-good, yet not necessarily destructive for our personal well-being, like having a sweet desert after a meal, can be okay… Yes? No? Well, at least for me personally ;P

What I’m referring to are the habits that consistently lead us towards emotional burdens and negative consequences. Like allowing ourselves to become anxious over a particular issue. Having a tendency to procrastinate, or stressing out about work, certain social situations, or relationships with others that are out of our control.

All of these are negative habits that don’t help us any, so why do we continue to allow them to recur without changing them for the better?
For the most part, we often allow bad habits to remain unchecked because it’s simply easier to do so. Even though we’d be much happier if we put in the effort to change them.

Whether it be big or small, we’ll always have areas in our life where we can use some improvement. That’s just a normal part of being human, living life, and growing. But, it’s through that regular mindfulness in our everyday actions, that we learn to make the choices that bring happiness and harmony to us.


What does mindfulness in action look like?


Our mindfulness “kicking in” can be seen in a simple action such as avoiding an impulse purchase on a weekend shopping trip.

It might seem like a little thing, but by not purchasing that cute dress and mindfully reminding yourself that you have a similar dress in your wardrobe is a sign of mindfulness kicking in. While that might appear to be simple in nature, my point in sharing this example is that our mindfulness will start to show its effectiveness on the little things first.

Those slightly easier to change habits that might not be so deeply ingrained within us. But the more we practice mindful living, the more our mindfulness muscles will grow. Which means that eventually we’ll be able to tackle those more difficult habits that are deeply ingrained in our lives.

At the end of the day, we all have different values and attachments we naturally gravitate towards, whether they’re positive or negative in nature.

For some of us it might be simple to say “no” to eating that dessert, but on the other hand we might have an incredibly hard time saying “no” when faced with the option to impulsively purchase that beautiful dress. Or the reverse might be true of us…

Either way, being mindful and saying “no” to the things that we are not so entrenched with on a case by case basis is an exercise that builds up our mindfulness muscle so we can eventually tackle those more deeply rooted thinking patterns or behaviors that we would like to replace or get rid of altogether.


As It is with Exercising to Grow Stronger, We Need to Remind Ourselves to be Patient as We Practice Using Mindfulness to Overcome and Change our Habits


When we set out to re-design or makeover our habits with the goal of replacing the old thinking patterns and behaviors with the new healthier improved ones, we’ll need to naturally expend more effort over a longer period of time to get this truly rewarding result.

To be more precise, it’s more like going through many points of realizations, some “true” some “false”; it’s a process of trial and error, pivoting and figuring out how we, as unique individuals, will best handle various situations that place real challenges upon us, tempting us to revert back to our “unhealthy” patterns and habits.

To put things into perspective and to hopefully make these lessons more relatable, let me share with you my personal experience with this…

I come from a hardworking Thai-Chinese family from whom I’ve learned a lot of valuable lessons about working hard and being productive.

Over the years some of those lessons in hard work morphed into a negative thinking pattern where I would start to feel bad about myself whenever I couldn’t finish my work on time according to the plan.

When I wasn’t able to clear my to-do list out at the end of the day, which is incredibly normal in business life, I would leave work feeling rather unaccomplished. And sometimes, during a very busy period, when I repeatedly failed to check off the list at the end of each day, I’d start feeling bad about myself, and would chide myself for supposedly “not trying hard enough.”

During those times, I was pushing myself to try harder to get all things done. But another side of me was “pouting” for I felt I did not live a life! I was living with conflicted feelings, but I knew that there must be a balanced middle path somewhere.

I was observing myself going through that pattern. Although I was “aware” of it, I did not know exactly how to get myself out of it. It was a process of many trials and errors trying to get out of that loop. I did this mostly through writing diaries and journals where I would check-in with myself about how I felt at the end of the day. I also wrote down that underlying negative self-talk so I could rephrase it to kinder and more positive growth-oriented words.

As time and life went on and I kept practicing this process, it became more obvious to me that the root cause of feeling bad was NOT even about the actual end results of my work. To my own surprise, I felt bad because I could not keep the promises I put on myself, to complete my to-do lists before the end of the day. I was essentially feeling bad because I let my own self down, nobody else.

With this new self-realization, I felt way more hopeful  😀

It’s just like the common saying goes, “Solve the right problem!”

So once I realized it was not about the actual work itself, or how I worked, I was able to look deeper into the cause of why I constantly failed to check off all the boxes on my to-do list. Going through solving the right problem this time, I came out realizing one more thing about myself…

I was being too ambitions in my planning of each day, and was not leaving “enough free space” to manage unexpected incidents, which are extremely common when you manage many projects at the same time.

That was one of those eye-opening moments where I realized to admit that I sucked at planning!, despite the fact that I have regarded myself as an organized person by nature. Kind of counterintuitive, right? To find out that those years of feeling guilty and like I wasn’t trying or doing enough, when really I was doing what I could and needed to simply improve my planning skills.

This might seem super obvious from an outside perspective, but it wasn’t obvious to me for many years. I can finally laugh about it now, and I hope you can do the same when you find the root cause of some of the habits you struggle with. 😊

Once I found the root source of what was causing my negative thinking pattern and habit, a new path opened up for me allowing me to build out a more balanced and productive planning schedule.

I was able to do this by analyzing my work week, counting how many hours I spent at work on unexpected tasks, and making sure I built those hours into my new schedule and daily to-do lists. With practice, I learned to be more proficient at accurately planning out the right amount of time for projects and tasks, and now I’m a pretty good planner if I say so myself.
;P

This experience opened up more opportunities for improvement as well, allowing me to work smarter and spend less time on those time-consuming tasks and projects. Basically, the ball got rolling once it was set in the right alley; and once the big picture was set on the right solid foundation the rest became easier to manage.

Now that I’ve learned to plan sufficiently to get the momentum going, I can “check-off the boxes and close the drawer,” so that at the end of the work day I can ease into a relaxing and calming evening later on.

The key is to prioritize in order to make our plans robust and full in capacity; not planning too much or too little. Through persistent effort of mindfully checking in with self and objectively evaluating a situation, it became easier overtime without much effort. It became second nature to plan more moderately and productively, replacing planning too ambitiously and feeling bad as a result of not being able to deliver everything.

To come to this invaluable realization from where I was had required me to keep showing up and mindfully checking in with myself – practically, logically and emotionally. I constantly try out new solutions in order to get out of negative patterns when I find myself in them – shifting from a negative and deficit mentality, to a moderate, positive and growth-orientated mentality.

In case you are interested in learning more about how I navigate my growth path, I have written a specific series of blog posts on this topic that you can read here.


In Conclusion of Part Four…


My last words before ending this part, is that we are all faced with different equations and problems to tackle since we come from different backgrounds and situations. How tenacious we are, and how much effort we will need to put into changing our habits, depends on how much we want to save ourselves from a particularly negative pattern.

So, I invite you to navigate at your own pace.

What I share with you are simply tools and examples to relate to, but you still have to navigate your own quest, walk your own journey, to arrive at your own set of answers.

“It is not solely about the destination. It is also about the journey itself, so make it as enjoyable and valuable as you can.”
—Mim Chawimon

In my next and final post of this series, we will be exploring some common questions you might have for getting your mindfulness journey started.

Talk to you soon!

…Oh, and please don’t forget to be kind to yourself and others always!

With Love,

Mim

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