Scientists have found that when we learn new information, new neural pathways are formed. They have also found that when we practice the new information that we’ve learned, the neural pathways grow exponentially. With regard to quality of life, this seems like important information, particularly if I am not satisfied with my quality of life. The possibilities are exciting! As I start to think and behave in new ways, I create a new mind, and a new way of being. I replace old thoughts and behaviors with new ones. In short, I re-invent myself.
The opportunities for re-inventing myself are infinite, and it seems important to set myself up for success rather than failure. Studies show that only 92% of people making New Year’s resolutions will fail. Rather than make New Year’s resolutions I like the idea of making short term resolutions, that grow as I grow, evolve as I evolve. Research shows that it can take between 21 and 66 days to learn new habits or behaviors, which makes sense because neural pathways become stronger the more they are used. Therefore, if I want to change an aspect of my life, I need to not only learn new information, but also actually engage in the corresponding new behaviors, repeatedly.
This lines up well with my experience with clients, and myself. I have been noticing with clients who take my courses and work 1:1 with me that when they actively “do their homework”, their behaviors shifts in profound ways. This is radically different than clients who come for sessions and courses, but pretty much stick to the same ways of behaving in between sessions. Likewise for myself, if I keep new behaviors in my attention and engage in them frequently, they become the new habits that add to my quality of life. I have started to call these kinds of behaviors “useful behaviors”. These useful doings seem to influence a more present and quality infused state of being.
I have been playing with the frequent engagement of newly learned behaviors, and with useful behaviors. I notice that the two often go hand in hand. Newly learned behaviors can turn into useful behaviors. For example, science tells me if I repeatedly practice mindful breathing when I start to become stressed, I will be more likely to engage in that behavior, as opposed to the old ways I’ve been previously handling stress- many of which may be considered harmful behaviors. The useful behaviors replace the harmful behaviors, directly influencing my quality of life. In order for this to happen, I have to be an active participant in my own life. I have to be ready and willing to put the learning into actual behaviors- useful behaviors. And, as already stated, repetitively.
New behaviors/useful behaviors are plentiful, and will be highly personal to your situation. Here are some useful doings that most people can benefit from exploring, and engaging in:
- It’s been around forever, but there isn’t just one way to meditate. Find what works for you.
- Rest. This is akin to meditation but is not necessarily the same. Rest can be done anywhere, at any time. In short, it is bringing attention to your experience/moment of being. This can be done by noticing the thoughts (auditory), images (pictures), and sensations (kinesthetic) in any given moment.
- This is another vast topic. Find a breathing technique, and put attention on it. My favorite of late is to follow breath with attention, all the way from inhalation to exhalation back to inhalation. I play with attention within this experience and it is always profound.
- Walking meditation/walking with mindfulness. Walking is something most of us do, at some point in the day. As you walk to <wherever>, bring attention to the movement of the walk. Notice what you notice! Experience the space of the body as you bring attention there.
- This is another tried and true way of bringing more quality to your moments. Find a phrase that works for you. “Receive and release” is one that I have enjoyed. “Hello <what is here>” is another one.
- The possibilities of playing with curiosity are endless. In short, bring a simple child-like curiosity into attention. See what happens.
- Real time noticing. This can be done silently to yourself, out loud, or with a friend. You simply notice what is happening in/as your experience, in real time. This brings your closer to the moment of now, as opposed to automatically engaging in old behaviors.
- Sitting quietly and noticing feelings.
- Living Inquiry inquiries (unfindable inquiry, anxiety inquiry, or compulsive inquiry).
- Self-compassion. Soft words and a kind touch- to ourselves- decrease fears, fight, flight or freeze, and works to lower the stress chemicals in the body, and heighten the feel good hormones.
- A behavior which calms the nervous system and makes you feel safe. All of the above have great potential to influence quality of life as they help to support our physiological nervous systems and increase our sense of being safe. Maybe you have one that I’ve not listed. Please feel free to send me an email- I’d love to hear what is working for you!
Take a few moments to consider what new behaviors might be useful behaviors for your life. Start simple. Try new ones each day, and repeat at least one each day so that you can start to build new neural pathways and new useful habits. If you have any questions about any of them, please email me. If you are ready and willing, these new behaviors will re-invent you. Happy new universe day!
 I am assuming that some behaviors are more useful than others. So, for example, if I want to relieve some stress, I’m going to assume that it’s more useful to bring attention to breath, than it is to shoot up heroin. Note that I can’t actually know if it is actually true that mindful breathing is more useful. Generally speaking, I can have a high amount of certainty based on what we know about heroin, and from what we know about mindful breathing. This blog will be moving from the assumption that some behaviors are more useful than others, so if you can’t play along with that assumption, you might find your time spent in a more useful way (pun intended). Harmful behaviors depend on the person, and may include binge eating, alcohol or other drug use, cutting, and so on. These are doings we experientially play with during the courses I facilitate. The next course begins January 10th! In the Living Inquiries we often refer to rest as natural rest. I facilitate natural rest meditations weekly. Send me an email if you’d like to learn more. firstname.lastname@example.org