It was around mile 16 of the marathon that I started losing faith. My adrenaline had worn off, I was hungry, my legs felt like lead, and there was nothing but a mile long incline in front of me. To power myself through the final ten miles of the race I turned my attention inward. Rather than focusing on the distance I had ahead of me, I kept my minds eye on one thing, my breath. Keeping my attention on the simple process of inhaling and exhaling was the only way I could stay present and moving in the moment, thinking of what was left of the race in it’s entirety was far too overwhelming.
Now I know that might sound super Zen and artsy fartsy, but it’s true. There’s a great power in mindfulness, and it has served me in achieving goals from completing the marathon to living a happier life.
Health and Fitness
There are so many things we do automatically out of habit. When trying to make a major change like following a diet or workout plan, the key is to bring mindfulness to everyone of those automatic actions or responses and see if it’s serving the end goal.
For example, every time I go to the grocery store I buy pretty much the same thing. Even the route I take within the store has become routine. Prior to switching to a healthier lifestyle, that grocery store routine included a few habitual grabs like mac n cheese, soda, and frozen toretellinis that weren’t doing much for my healthy living goal. Once those things were purchased and in my home, I certainly couldn’t let them go to waste, and so my poor eating continued as I continued to struggle with weight loss.
It wasn’t until I stopped myself in my tracks, literally, to question in the moment of reaching out for that bag of chips, “Is this going to serve me?” that I was able to make a change. Sure, rationally I knew the chips weren’t helping with the weight loss, but it was only when I could bring that awareness to the moment of habit that I was able to make a lasting change.
Mindfulness is instrumental when trying to curb unnecessary spending. Again, it’s bringing that awareness and asking the question of “Is this really serving me?” in the moment of habit, be it the daily coffee purchase, a retail shopping habit, or ordering another drink after work.
I used to struggle in traditional retail environments like Target and Pier 1. The displays are so beautiful and tempting, my wallet practically opened on it’s own. Now when I walk into a store, I have a very different mindset. Instead of “It’s all so beautiful” I think, “Is this useful, worthwhile, necessary?”- most of the time, I walk out empty handed, which means more money for bigger goals like savings and retirement.
I used to be a pretty unhappy, negative person. While my cynicism and frustration still get the best of me from time to time, I can tell you what a game changer mindfulness has been in creating a happier life for myself.
The most important change I made was bringing mindfulness to my reactions. I can’t do much about the things that happen to me but I can chose how I respond to them.
Bringing mindfulness to that moment of response has changed me from feeling like a victim and blaming circumstances and things outside of myself to feeling empowered and finding ways to overcome and make the best out of every challenge.
It doesn’t come easily or without work, I try to check in with myself as often as possible, and in the heat of the moment, it’s hard to quell an automatic response. But I’ve found that the key to making a change that lasts is cultivating mindfulness until the action I’m being mindful of becomes habit.
So the next time you’re looking to make a major life change, stop searching outside of yourself and simply look inward. Cultivate your mindfulness and you’ll be capable of achieving the end goal, even when it’s still ten miles ahead and all uphill.
How have you realized the power of mindfulness in your life?