Humans are, by nature, creatures of habit. The Experts Blog from the Cleveland Clinic tells us up to 95% of our thoughts are repeated every day–habitual thoughts, and they can take root in our lives without our conscious realization. Habits help us get through the day. Imagine having to wake up each morning and decide what you should do next. Knowing that you need to shower, eat breakfast, brush your teeth, etc. saves us some major brain power. Problems can occur when our habits unknowingly become incongruent with our values and goals. Many of us have habits that no longer serve us, such as smoking, the way we respond to our spouse or the thoughts we have about ourselves. These habits can keep us stuck and they don’t leave much room for creative thought and solving problems.
The obvious question is “how can we break free from obstructive habits?” Committing to just 10-15 minutes of meditation per day will create changes in the brain that allow you to increase the time between stimulus and response, which will give you greater freedom in how you respond and react. The cultivation of conscious awareness through meditation, therefore, can help us break habits that are unhealthy or that are no longer serving us. Just by recognizing our habits and placing our attention on them they will begin to soften. With commitment we can begin to see these habits change.
If you want to try an experiment, pay attention to the choices you make and your reactions over the next few days. Make a mental note of these thoughts and reactions and decide if they are in line with your values. You may also begin to notice what triggers precede these habitual responses. If they are thoughts or actions you’d like to change, make an intention to respond differently next time. No one can break these deeply rooted patterns all at once, but by noticing and deciding what you’d like to do differently, you will be taking a huge step forward in the process.