Mindfulness and Habit Change

Mindfulness is a great tool for changing habitual behaviors that are causing you problems. The key is the Victor Frankl quote:

Between stimulus and response, there is a space.
In that space is our power to choose.
In our choices lie our freedom and happiness.

Mindfulness practice – the ability to be present with what is actually there for a moment before reacting to it – lets us get in that “space between” Frankl talks about, and in that moment/space choose to react the way we wished we would. And then – pay attention to how we feel after acting in this new way. This last step is crucial – by noticing how we feel (and eventually, we will feel better) we start to rewire our habit so that the new reaction becomes the default.

Another way to look at it is this: most human behavior follows this sequence:

Stimulus -> emotional response to stimulus -> reaction based on how we feel

There’s nothing wrong with this sequence, assuming our emotional responses are healthy and helpful. And it tells us what to do if we don’t like the reaction: we have to change the emotional response. To do that we switch the second and third steps, we choose a new reaction, and then see how we feel:

Stimulus -> chosen reaction -> notice how we feel

If often doesn’t take long to change the habit once you notice that you feel much better about yourself when you act in the new and healthier way.

Habits and Habit Change