I’ve been reading Ruby Wax’s latest book ‘Frazzled’. It’s a follow-up to her previous book New Sane World. That one was about her own depression battles and her studies of psychology. It was a mixture of humorous tales and science, making a difficult subject very approachable.
This new one is much the same except it’s all about Mindfulness, a subject I have written about before. I have also shared my attempts to follow a regular practise. Like many people I know, the winter months see most of my hard developed habits disappear in the gloom of the dark days and long nights. Scottish winters do not lend themselves to joy, early mornings and silent contemplations.
Not for me anyway.
I need comfort food, bed, and cosy snuggling on the sofa watching good films and tv.
But, I wonder if I truly had the habit, would it sustain me through the difficult months?
Ruby’s book talks about a factor I had read elsewhere. That actually doing mindfulness strengthens the area of the brain that is used for willpower, and yes, habit forming. So the more you do the easier it becomes to stick to things. Including the mindfulness itself. Apparently the brain can be strengthened, just like a muscle.
The key is therefore to start.
Which is the hard bit isn’t it?
Starting, and then managing to keep going beyond a couple of days. Some people say it takes 21 days to form a habit, others say 90 days. I think it’s more than 21 but hopefully less than 90. Because I don’t think I have ever stuck at anything for 90 days on the trot. Although I have felt that I was in the habit of things for less than that time. Perhaps they weren’t true habits, this is the ultimate goal for me, real habits that I stick to regardless.
So, now that the weather is brightening, the mornings are lighter, and it’s not quite so cold, this is my intention, to start forming the habits I know keep me happy and healthy – creativity, mindfulness, yoga, running, juice. I’ve done all of these before, I can do them again, but…the start is hard.
I know from past experience that mindfulness is indeed a key element in me getting started. Doing that, or running, seem to be triggers for the other good habits to come more easily. Unfortunately, they are also the hardest ones to begin.
However, I have found that many of my creative interests are ‘mindful’. So I don’t necessarily sit and ‘do mindfulness’, but I am aware of it as I go about my day. Writing, for instance, with focused attention on my writing or editing, that’s mindfulness for me. Or when I am playing the guitar, I can’t think of anything else, I am focused, and forget about troubles, worries and stresses. So that is mindful too.
Basically, anything that you are focused on, and paying attention to can be a mindful exercise.
So, that’s how to begin, find the things you love to do anyway, and try to do them most days, for at least 5-10 minutes.
If you need help finding the time, and developing the habit, join in Time Tamer week, it’s free, or sign up to the ‘Find Your Creative Freedom’ course. It’s all about developing the habit, finding the time, and yes, training yourself to allow mindful activity into your day.
And, if you get a chance do go and see Ruby in person, as she tours this new book. I saw her last time and it was a very entertaining, brave and enlightening show.