Many people look to the new year to change their behavior and experience for the better. We want to be healthier, make more money, have more happiness, success and joy. We make resolutions that are only as successful as our commitment to them. As commitment requires discipline, our resolutions often fail if we lack the discipline to apply them. However, being mindful is a commitment as well and that often requires that we change our behavior and thinking habits. Here are some tips that will help you get into the right thought patterns and behavior to have more mindful relationships with your family, your lover, your employees and your boss.
- BREATHE. Stress and anxiety are often exascerbated by shallow breathing. It is a physiological survival pattern known as “fight or flight”. When we are threatened or stressed we start to breathe shallow breaths which causes our frontal lobes to shut down and we start using our lympic or reptilian brain to react to the perceived threat. If we make it a practice to breathe deep, regular breathes at designated times during the day, we can help our frontal lobes deal with the problems we are facing and reason through to a solution. When we focus on breathing deeply, we are actually activating the higher functions of our brain and solutions will present themselves. Simply breathing deeply for ten minutes three times a day will have a profound effect on your well-being, blood pressure and patience.
- PAY ATTENTION. We often lose sight of our goals and our journey because we do not pay attention to what we think, how we behave, or how fast we may be changing. One of the facets of paying attention is listening to what people are saying to us. If we do not pay attention to what someone is saying and our mind is wandering all over the map, we will not hear what they are saying to us. Most of us are thinking of our response to the other person even before they have finished their statement. When we go off on our own tangent then they will feel ignored and your chance to have a meaningful communication is lost. Oftentimes it is a good idea to repeat back to the person what you thought you heard them say so that they will feel heard and there is no misunderstanding of the communication. Saying “what I just heard you say is…, is that correct?” will let them know that you are paying attention to what they want to say. It also is a good way to avoid being triggered by what they are saying and will give you a chance to breathe deeply and avoid feeling threatened. If what you heard is not what they meant to say, you can avoid a potential argument that didn’t need to happen. It is crucial to be aware of what you are saying. What comes out of your mouth is much more important than what goes in it. If you are conscious of what you want to say and focus on saying that accurately and with integrity, your relationships will florish.
- JOURNAL EVERY 30 DAYS. A really good technique is to journal your thoughts, feelings, situation and progress on the first day of every month. This way you can see what is changing in your life and can show you what is not changing in your life. For example, many people want to have better relationships but they have no markers or guideposts to tell if the relationship is getting better. You can keep track of your breathing practices and see if your practice of paying attention is changing your journey. You certainly can journal more frequently than once a month, but it is meaningful to see how your life is changing from month to month, and what is working or not working. It usually takes 30 days to make a meaningful change in your life, whether it is to change a thinking pattern or your behavior or replace a bad habit with a good habit. Many times when we look back at what was happening in our lives or thoughts 30 days or so ago, we will be pleasantly surprised how we have improved our lives and behaviors.
- AFFIRMATIONS. Otherwise known in the East as Mantras, repeating certain words and phrases can help us get on track. For people who like to overthink situations, the affirmation “I am not my thoughts” will help us get out of habitual thinking patterns and be more positive. For people who are struggling with stress and trauma, we often focus on the worst case scenario and make our situation worse. To keep telling yourself a positive statement (“affirmation”) will help get out of worst case scenario thinking and you can focus on the solution instead of the problem. Affirmations like
“my desires are coming true” (to remember everything changes), “perfect timing”(to remember that everything happens exactly when it is supposed to), or “I am healthy, wealthy and wise” (when you are caught in worst case scenario thinking) can help you get out of depression or anxiety and into positive thinking.
- BE COMPASSIONATE. Compassion is the ability to understand what someone else is going through. It involves the effort to understand what the other person is thinking, feeling and doing. Many people make assumptions about other people that aren’t true simply because they have not made the effort to understand their situation. When someone is being hurtful, it often means they are hurting. When someone is being unkind, it often means someone has been unkind to them. We oftentimes assume that it is our fault when someone is being unkind and hurtful, but the truth is we have done nothing to deserve that behavior. If we have compassion, we will not be victimized by other people’s behavior, and we may be able to help that person get through whatever pain they are experiencing. If someone I love is being critical, it is absolutely imperative that I not take it personally, but try to hear what they are saying. If I can find out why they are suffering, we have a better chance of resolving the problem.
These tips are not all of the ways we can become more mindful and conscious about our lives and relationships. Any practice that helps you be more aware of what you are thinking, expecially if that thinking is causing depression and emotional pain, will help you have a much more satisfying and fulfilling life. In addition to the tips listed above, guided meditation, taped self-hypnosis, and spiritual music can have dramatic results in waking up your consciousness.