Happiness is a mental habit.
Of course, so is depression. Both of these emotional states result from our lifelong practices and sequences and patterns of conscious thought.
What’s encouraging, though, is that we don’t have to remain biological slaves to our routines. Cognitive behavioral psychology research indicates that any conditioned habit the human brain has learned, can also be unlearned. Even if we’re predisposed to a particular behavior, we can still train ourselves to act otherwise.
It just takes time. And patience. And forgiveness. And delayed gratification. And the willingness to guard against anything that might weaken our valuable new habit.
Without those elements, we might never give our bodies and minds the necessary time to memorize the new habits we start. We might never be able to engrave habits so deep that they become natural and instinctual.
Rubin’s research on the invisible architecture of everyday life offers a solid suggestion.
Don’t focus on rewards to motivate yourself. That undermines habit formation. Instead, she says, find your reward within the habit itself. Give yourself a sense of advancement, but without the risks presented by a finish line. Continuous progress is more important.
That was my challenge with meditation is for many years. Because as a classic racing brain creative, sitting still was like torture for my mind. But with the help of a brilliant therapist, I learned to stop treating meditation as a tranquilizer that helped me get more ideas for my next project, and started delighting in the daily practice of making the creative container bigger.
There was no finish line. All that mattered was enjoying the race.
And so, whatever habit you’re trying to learn, or in most people’s case, unlearn, find your reward within the habit itself. Be patient with yourself.
Humans always assume things are going to be easier in the future. We think to ourselves, okay, starting tomorrow, I’m going to be perfect for the rest of my life.
But changing habits takes real work.
LET ME ASK YA THIS…
How are you learning to let go of the subtle notions that limit you?
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That Guy with the Nametag
Author. Speaker. Strategist. Inventor. Filmmaker. Publisher. Songwriter.
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