Have you ever been in your car heading to a destination and suddenly realized you kind of spaced out on the drive and wondered how you got there? I travel the same route for several different reasons and sometimes marvel that I didn’t even consciously tell myself “turn left here.” “Stop at the sign.” but somehow managed to arrive safely and at the right place!
Our daily routines are a combination of several such habits, which are automatic behaviors about which we don’t often consciously think. We repeat a particular action so much that it becomes separated from the forefront of our minds.
This is especially true with our eating and movement patterns. For a variety of reasons what we eat, when we eat, and how much we move throughout the day are all integrated habits, and the first step to changing them is to become more mindful of why we do them.
Mindfulness involves pausing before reacting, to create an awareness of the present moment in order to fully experience it, and to intentionally decide your next action. Sounds easy enough, but in this fast-paced day and age full of distraction, pausing can prove to be difficult. However if we want to truly change a habit, it is absolutely necessary to take the time to become aware of the underlying behaviors involved.
The need for mind-body awareness is the first step in creating a healthier lifestyle because our thoughts impact our behavior. For example, clients will tell me something unhealthy that they ate, and I will ask them why they ate it. That one question causes a pause to examine the reason behind that particular choice, which helps to understand what specifically needs to be addressed to change that eating habit. Sometimes it’s stress related eating, sometimes it is because of convenience, sometimes it’s due to low blood sugar from gaps between meals. Understanding the reason allows us to truly get to the root of our choices, which also helps us to be more accountable for them.
Taking the time to understand the “why” behind our behavior, creates a self-awareness that allows the introduction of alternative choices that lead to the creation of new habits. Mindfulness allows us to pay attention to ourselves, to be present in the present moment, and for individuals trying to embody a more healthy way of living, is a crucial first step for life-long change.