Lots of people have tried mindfulness practices like meditation. Despite its many health benefits, they often quit because they can’t commit to a daily practice. So how can you make mindfulness a habit?
Josh Ellis, founder of Maui Mindful Adventures, shows members of his Meetup group how to make mindfulness more enjoyable by combining it with hiking and other outdoor activities. “In terms of building a mindfulness practice, adding some element of enjoyment or reward to it makes it so much easier to come back,” he says.
Ellis says building any kind of habit takes work, but he compares mindfulness to exercise for your brain. The work we do toward better focus, compassion, or emotional control are well worth the effort. “When you're practicing mindfulness doing everyday activities, that makes it easier for the things that you experience during your practice to translate to your life.”
Josh Ellis leads mindful outdoor adventures
Here are a few tips from Ellis, which he adapted from Atomic Habits, to build a mindfulness practice.
- Make it attractive. Attach your mindfulness practice to something you enjoy. If you don't want to sit inside your home, you can still practice. Go for a walk with your dog or watch the sunset on the beach with your family and pay close attention to the sights, sounds, and smells around you. Use these as opportunities to practice mindfulness every day.
- Make it obvious. Attach your practice to an existing habit that you do every day. By pairing, or "stacking," your mindfulness practice with something like brushing your teeth, drinking coffee, or driving to work, you’re much less likely to forget to do it.
- Make it easy. The easier you make practicing, the less motivation it requires. Start with something super simple like one deep mindful breath a day.
- Make it rewarding. Actions that are rewarded are repeated. Put a check mark in your planner or have an accountability buddy who can ask whether you practiced today and give you a high five. Mindfulness isn't always enjoyable, but you’ll get a sense of pleasure from the reward.
As for the time commitment that turns people off from daily mindfulness practice, Ellis says a small amount of time can go a long way. “To build a habit of mindfulness practice, I would much rather see people do one minute a day than 20 minutes, one day a week. The number of times that you do it is more important than the duration when it comes to building long-lasting habits.”
Read more about Maui Mindful Adventures in the winter 2022 issue of Island Scene.
Photos: Tony Novak-Clifford