A daily meditation practice is one of the best things you can do to help you develop discipline and peace of mind. However, it can take years to build a practice that is deep enough to help you resist bad habits and behavior you may not aspire to. Sometimes, you need a quick fix. Here are five techniques you can use to help you achieve your New Year’s resolutions. They can be used on a one-time-only basis, or repeatedly. Remember, like all things: “practice makes perfect.” The more you use these techniques, the more helpful they will be.
- Take a moment- this is exactly what it sounds like. Get a timer and set it for two minutes. Anytime you are about to engage in behavior that is counter to your resolution (eating a piece of cake or smoking a cigarette), simply close your eyes and remain still for two minutes. Unlike other meditation techniques, don’t even try and control or observe your thoughts. Just give yourself two minutes to remove yourself from the situation. Often times, this is enough for you to “reboot” your mind and resist a craving.
- Mindful eating- this is particularly helpful for those that are trying to lose weight. Have you ever noticed that the first few bites of food are the best? There’s a scientific reason for this: your taste buds are chemical sensors that tire quickly. In fact, after awhile, your brain does not notice much taste at all. This meditation technique will help you exploit this fact. Start by eating three raisins, each time observing all the sensations the raisin gives you (for a complete description of the technique you can visit this link: http://hfhc.ext.wvu.edu/r/download/114469). Begin practicing this technique before meals- you’ll soon notice that you are more satisfied with less food. Eventually you can use it to constrain yourself to small indulgences.
- Candle gazing- this helps you focus your thoughts, which can be very difficult for those new to meditation. Find a quiet spot, and light a candle. Set a timer and spend five minutes simply staring at the candle flame. This is a good technique for helping you develop the discipline to create a special time and space for yourself. It is also good for people that are trying to quit smoking who miss the ritual of lighting a cigarette and taking a few minutes completely for themselves. In fact, when you think about it, smoking a cigarette is often a way for people to take a few minutes for themselves to relax and think about nothing but smoking. This technique substitutes the candle flame for the cigarette (and there’s even fire involved!)
- Become the observer- this is the root of something that has become very fashionable lately (even Google employees are doing it): Mindfulness Meditation. Sit quietly, close your eyes and focus on the spot about an inch above the space between your eyebrows. The purpose here is to observe you’re thinking. This technique is particularly useful to help you learn what triggers certain behaviors. Discovering, and managing, your “triggers” is key to helping you maintain your resolutions (for more on this see http://theriverclubtn.com/2016/01/10-tips-to-help-you-keep-your-new-years-resolution/)
- Walking meditation- this is a great technique for those trying to commit to new fitness routines. It involves simply walking for ten minutes. Set your timer and start walking. While doing so, spend your time really focusing on each footstep. Notice how your feet hit the ground, and how each step feels. Think about how your feet feel in your shoes- notice if they feel comfortable, loose or tight. Notice the terrain under your feet, and how your body feels when it walks on concrete, dirt or grass. Notice how your ankles, knees and hips feel after taking each step. Do this for 10 minutes. When your mind starts to wander, return it to your steps and your breathing. This technique is great for helping you calm your mind. It is also an excellent way for you to get some light exercise on days when you feel like skipping your workout routine altogether.