Note from Editor
Habits are what make us successful or not. Regardless of how you define success for you. Habits are the key element of our brains and will always trump discipline!
Most people know that building good habits is a worthy effort. When we give in to unhealthy habits like eating junk food, smoking cigarettes, or watching too much television, we notice the negative impact on our minds and bodies. Good habits are key to finding success in all areas of life, as are routines and rituals. But what is the difference between these three concepts?
A habit is an automatic reaction that you may have developed unconsciously in response to a specific stimulus. Routines, on the other hand, require practice and repetition to become a consistent part of your life. Rituals are routines that require a bit of extra intention in order to fully enjoy the process. While the goal of a routine may be to complete a task, the goal of a ritual is to find awareness and enjoyment in the experience.
This is when mindfulness can be helpful. Mindfulness is the act of guiding your mind back to the present moment whenever it wanders. It takes practice, and has the potential to help you live a more intentional and enjoyable life.
The more you practice mindfulness, the more awareness you can cultivate surrounding your daily activities. Through a lens of mindfulness, you can examine your habits, routines, and rituals and learn which ones are serving you and which are not. You can begin to remove the negative and leverage the positive to get more enjoyment and productivity out of your life.
Mindfulness helps us zero in on the present moment and look at our actions more carefully. We can start to acknowledge bad habits and work toward more productive routines. If you’re working on eliminating negative habits or developing routines to boost productivity, mindfulness can help you achieve your goal and get more enjoyment out of the process.
Before using mindfulness to transform your habits, routines, and rituals, it’s important to know how to incorporate the practice into your life. Mindfulness is the act of staying mentally present with the task at hand, and returning to the present each time your mind becomes distracted. This means you can practice mindfulness at work, at home, or any other time throughout your day.
That being said, it’s a good idea to create habits that deliberately work on building mindfulness. Meditation, yoga, journaling, gardening, or even driving can be great times to work on staying present.
Mindfulness is so much more than just sitting still
Building habits, routines, and rituals is a great way to develop mindfulness and, in turn, practicing mindfulness can help you stick with these activities in the long-term. Read below to continue exploring the differences between habits, routines, and rituals, and how mindfulness can help you leverage them!
Out of our three categories, habits require the least amount of effort and awareness. Usually, a habit is an instant reaction to a certain stimulus. For example, maybe as soon as you get to work, you make yourself a cup of coffee and then turn on your computer. You’ve done this so many times that you are not necessarily making the decision consciously. Good habits may include actions like brushing your teeth in the morning, whereas a bad habit could be frequently checking your social media.
Since habits are often unconscious actions, practicing mindfulness can help you gain awareness surrounding your habits. Staying focused on the present moment will allow you to observe your habits, both positive and negative. You can see which habits are working to your advantage and which are slowing you down. You can decide changes you would like to make, and stay mindful while incorporating new habits into your life.
We form habits by attaching an action to a certain stimulus. This is known as a habit loop. First, you receive the cue. Then, you execute the habit. After completing the habit, you get some reward that encourages you to repeat the action the next time the cue arises. If the cue is arriving at work, then the habit is making coffee, and the reward is the nice taste and energy boost you receive from the beverage.
One way to cultivate mindfulness surrounding your habits is to write them down. Take a day to intentionally focus on your habits, both good and bad, and write them out. At the end of the day, look over them and decide which ones are helping boost your mood and productivity, and which are hindering you in some way. You can use this awareness to begin mapping out and practicing more helpful routines.
Compared to habits, routines require a bit more effort and awareness. While habits are automatic reactions, a routine is something you have regularly practiced to make it a consistent part of your life. A positive routine may be tidying your living room each evening before bed. It takes a bit of effort, but you do it every evening because you know it will improve your mood the following morning.
Mindfulness can help you observe your life on a larger scale, and also observe your thoughts. You can focus on watching how your days go, and which routines may help you boost productivity. In staying mindful, you can make sure to practice the daily actions you hope to turn into routines. Through a lens of mindfulness, you can observe your thoughts surrounding the routine to ensure that it is helping you gain more enjoyment from your life.
You can use writing to employ mindfulness when it comes to your routines as well. By staying present, you can observe your daily routines and write them out. Decide which ones you’d like to adjust and how you plan to do so. Maybe you’d like to meditate in the morning, or read for thirty minutes in the evening. Find a slot when implementing this new routine would make sense, and use a reminder to help you develop the routine. Staying mindful can help you notice any mental resistance you may have to the new routine, and come up with ways to make it more achievable for you.
A ritual differs from a routine in the sense that there is more intention behind it. You may be completing a routine to cross a task off your to-do list, like making your bed or studying for ten minutes a day. A ritual is different in that the goal is to enjoy the process of completing the task. This requires more effort than habits and routines, and also requires more awareness. Mindfulness is particularly useful if you’d like to transform a routine into a ritual.
Since rituals are all about enjoying the process, you need to be mindful in order to complete a ritual. If you are operating in autopilot, with a distracted and unfocused mind, you will not be able to cultivate awareness. You will not be present, and therefore you will not enjoy the experience of completing your ritual. When you are mindful, a routine like washing the dishes can become a ritual of feeling the sensations of the water, enjoying the smell of the soap, and gaining satisfaction as you watch your kitchen become clean and tidy.
You can use mindfulness to examine the routines in your life, and decide which you’d like to get more enjoyment from. Keep a mindful mindset as you focus on morphing one of your routines into a ritual. If the routine is making a morning cup of coffee, take time to notice the smell of the coffee grounds, enjoy the feel of the warm mug in your hands, and savor the taste of the coffee without other distractions. A mindful attitude will allow you to fully immerse yourself in the experience, and begin getting more out of other daily activities as well.
As you can see, adding mindfulness into your life will help you boost productivity and improve your mood. You’ll be able to observe your thoughts and actions, and curate a daily schedule that allows you to accomplish more while also enjoying more. Instead of living in autopilot with habits and routines that you’re not benefiting from, you can slowly rewrite these actions to create a more intentional way of living.
Once you infuse an air of mindfulness into your day, you’ll be able to create habits, routines, and rituals that you actually benefit from. You’ll also be more in tune with your thoughts surrounding these activities.
This will allow you to be more efficient with work projects, and get more out of quality time with loved ones during shared routines at home. In utilizing mindfulness as a tool to develop these healthy activities, you’ll notice resistance or satisfaction in yourself, and can tailor the activities based on this feedback. With a little effort, mindfulness can help you get more out of your days, and in turn, out of your life, than you ever would have imagined.