10 Ways To Use Mindfulness To Create New Habits

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That’s A Nice Habit You Got There

10 Ways To Use Mindfulness To Create New Habits

Mindfulness is one of the most powerful tools we have for creating new habits. Mindfulness teaches us how to turn our attention on to our thoughts. And this allows us to tap into an amazing ability to learn from our experience.

This is one of the reasons I advocate so strongly for using mindfulness as part of any fitness plan. Getting healthier is pretty simple, exercise more and eat better. But changing your habits and your life style is more challenging.

Change starts with your thoughts and ends with your actions. Mindfulness gives you the tools to make those changes from the mind up. And fitness helps you create change from the body down. Which is why combining the two means you can generate change that is truly transformational.

Quitting Smoking

I recently attended a webinar with Zen Habits creator Leo Babauta. During his talk, he shared with us how he discovered the power of mindfulness. He also shared 10 ways to use mindfulness to create new habits.

Leo quit smoking on Nov 18 2005. He had spent the week before turning his attention towards the urge to smoke. Every time he wanted to smoke, he would take out a small piece of paper and make a mark.

He did this every time the urge arose, whether he smoked or not. He learned  to notice the urge smoke and was able to see what triggered it. But he also saw that the urge wasn’t permanent. It came up but after a while it also went away.

He figured out that he could stop smoking by noticing and waiting out the urges. This simple practice of noticing helped him so much that it became part of the inspiration his blog Zen Habits.

The Challenge

Creating new habits can be challenging. But luckily mindfulness can help us see what obstacles stand in our way and how to overcome them. During the webinar Leo talked about 10 ways we can use mindfulness to create new habits, by watching ourselves and our thoughts. 

1. Watch Your Energy Level

If you energy level is low your discipline is low, your enthusiasm is low, and habits are hard to stick to.
If your energy is low and you feel like you can’t complete your habits, it’s ok to be compassionate and take a break. But don’t stop there.

During your break look and see why your energy level is low. Maybe doing your habit would have given you more energy. Maybe you to need to shift your priorities. Or maybe you need to get more sleep. Watching your energy level will teach you a lot about what obstacles to avoid and how to make your habits sustainable.

2. Watch Your Negative Thoughts and Feelings

If you fail to do your habit you might have negative thoughts or feelings about yourself. Because we try to avoid feeling bad it may seem easier to give up rather than of try again. 

But instead of avoiding these feelings, we can use mindfulness to look at them. Mindfulness can help us accept those feelings in the same way we accept burping and farting. They may not be pleasant but they’re part of being alive. Once we’ve accepted our feelings it’s much easier to let them go and get back to our habits.

3. Watch Your Fears

Sometimes fear can keep you from trying or sticking to new habits. Maybe you’re afraid of failure, so you never start. Or maybe you’re afraid you won’t get enough done today so you skip your habits. No matter what the case, we can use mindfulness to look at these fears straight on and overcome them. 

4. Watch Your Resentment

When you are working on a tough habit you may start to resent your commitment. And along with that resentment, comes a desire to rebel.

But instead of rebelling, we can use mindfulness to see what’s going on. Often all we need to do is change our perspective. Instead of seeing the habit as a limitation we can try to see the habit as a blessing. If the resentment stays, we might need to consider if we are doing the habit from an authentic place.

5. Watch Your Failures and Successes

Learning a new habit isn’t about being perfect. You can learn just as much from not doing the habit.

Let’s say you want to eat more vegetables and when you do you notice your stomach is calm, you have more energy, and you feel good about yourself. But one day you are tempted by some greasy fries and you eat them. If you pay attention, you might notice that greasy food feels heavy in your stomach, you feel tired afterwards, and you feel guilty about eating them

By noticing what it’s like to break your habit, you can learn to make better choices next time.

6. Watch Your Rationalizations

We often come up with lots of excuses and the justifications for not doing a habit. But instead of believing these rationalizations, we can learn from them. By learning how we convince ourselves to break our habits, we can stop falling into the same traps.

We may also discover parts of ourselves that were nourished by our old habits. And find ways to nourish those parts using our new habits.

7. Watch Your Self Trust

When we fail we don’t trust ourselves as much. This lack of trust can be painful and it can keep us from trying new and difficult habits. But we can use mindfulness to reestablish trust in ourselves. 

By paying attention to how it feels when we stick to a habit and how it feels when we skip it. We can learn that our short term satisfaction has a long term cost, which will help us stick to our habits. But we can also notice how small mistakes can drag us down and choose to forgive our small mistakes so we can give ourselves the chance to build more trust. 

8. Watch Your Little Crying Kid

Sometimes when we get stuck it’s because, we have a small winey voice that doesn’t want to change because it’s afraid. But when we use mindfulness to bring attention to this small crying kid, we can find a way to soothe it.

We can give that little kid a hug and let it know that it will be OK.  And then make a choice from a bigger perspective.

9. Watch Your Compassion

It’s hard to know how hard to push especially with exercise. Doing too much exercise can be harmful so in some cases resting is compassionate. But if we never move it can make us cranky and unhealthy, so doing some exercise is compassionate as well.

In any given moment, we can use mindfulness to ask what is the compassionate choice. That way we can learn to make a wiser choice instead of giving in to our ego or our inner slacker.

10. Watch Your Desire To Not Change

When we take on new changes anxiety can arise. But change happens whether we like it or not. By acknowledging this tendency and working to calm our fears, we can learn to see change as both inevitable and positive.

Mindfulness Tools
Now that you have a good framework of the ways you can use mindfulness to create new habits, it’s helpful to have some tools to help you implement these new skills. Leo suggested two key tools to help you be more mindful. 

1. The Mindful Pause –

The mindful pause is the practice of taking a pause between activities or whenever we notice the desire to not do a habit. This simple practice can give you the space and time to notice what you’re feeling or  thinking when you want to break a habit.

2. Meditation –

Meditation is the act of picking a focus and putting our attention there. Meditation is one of the fundamental tools of mindfulness and has benefits too vast to list them all here. 

Try the following meditation

  • Sit upright
  • Imagine your head is attached to a string that is pulling you gently upward
  • Lean from side to side to find you center
  • Turn your mind onto your body
  • How does your spine feel in your body?
  • How does your breathing feel?
  • Are you feeling impatient?
  • There is no right or wrong way. 
  • You are just paying attention.
  • Pay attention to your breath as it comes in your nose.
  • Notice it as it expands your belly.
  • Notice the sensation of the air as it travels out through your nose again.
  • You don’t have to breathe slowly.
  • Just breathe normally and watch your breath
  • After a few rounds begin counting your breaths
  • Inhale – exhale – 1
  • Inhale – exhale – 2
  • 3 and so on.
  • If you notice your mind wandering come back to 1
  • After a few mins, slowly finish the meditation.

Final Thought

Leo left us with some final thoughts.

Be compassionate with yourselves.
We will all fail at some point and that’s ok.
Give yourselves a hug.
And do the compassionate act of moving forward.


Mind Fit Food – 5 Tips for Keeping a Mindful Fitness Journal

Nourish Your Soul

Mind Fit Food – 5 Tips for Keeping a Mindful Eating and Fitness Journal.

Today one of my clients shared her story about how she avoided prescriptions and medical bills simply by using awareness.


Before we started working together, she had noticed her energy waning. She didn’t have the spunk she once did. And so she called her doctor to talk about it.

He told her she should come in for some tests and set up an appointment. But as soon as she got off the phone a little movie popped into her head.

The Movie

In the movie she went to the doctor’s office, was tested, and received inconclusive results. The doctor admitted they weren’t sure what was wrong, but gave her a prescription just in case.

She imagined trying this pill and that until she was on a bunch of medication she didn’t need. As soon as the film ended she realized there had to be another way.

Soon after she signed for Mind Fit Move distance coaching. When she called her doctor and told her the plan, he replied skeptically. He told her good luck but to call back when she wanted to set up an appointment.

Mind Fit Food

At the end of out first meeting her what I call a Mind Fit Food log. It’s a simple journal that helps my clients track what they eat, what they do, and what is going on in their minds.

It’s little more than a Google doc with dates and instructions. Yet, I’m amazed again and again with the power of this simple tool.

She took to her journal more than any other client I’ve had. She recorded what she did, ate, and thought religiously. And the change with amazing.

She started to recognize all her eating patterns. Her tendency to alternate between vegging out and moving about frantically. And how gardening made her sore.

Every time we met over Skype she had a new insight and a deeper understanding of who she was and where she could make a change.

She learned not only what was out of balance in her life, but also which parts of herself she loved and wanted to keep that way. And she did all this just by keeping a simple journal.

When we spoke on the phone today she told me that her energy has returned. But that she felt calmer and more spacious then she had felt in a long time.
Hearing her story reinforced in me the belief that the simple act of keeping a journal can be truly transformational.

Mind Fit Food – 5 Tips for Keeping a Mindful Eating and Fitness Journal

1. Do it at the same time everyday –

The key to consistency with any habit like journaling is to do it at the same time everyday.

When I write my personal mission statement the first thing in the morning I get it done. When I put it off, it often doesn’t happen.

I try to write in my Mind Fit Food journal at the same time every night. I take a few minutes to reflect on the day and write down what I ate, what I did, and how I felt. If I miss the evening, I do it first thing the next day along with my mission statement.

The key is to pick an already established ritual or habit. Whether it’s your bedtime routine or your morning coffee, the key is to add it to something you already do. That way you will remember to do it everyday.

2. Keep It Simple –

Keeping a journal can be a complex and overwhelming task. But it doesn’t have to be. You aren’t writing a memoir you are taking lab notes. Your journal should be simple to write and easy to read.

If you can keep it simple, it will make it easy to review and notice habits and tendencies you may not be aware of.

These are the 4 categories I include in all of my clients journals.



Write down a summary of your mood today. You can list morning, noon, and night. Or just write a few words or a sentence about the day.


Write down any physical activity you did today. Even if it was just a short walk write it down.


Write down what you ate today. Write in broad strokes. The purpose is to get a general picture not every crumb.


Write down anything else you noticed about the connection between these things.
If you didn’t notice anything you don’t have to write anything down.

For each of these the amount you write is up to you. You can write one word for each category or a paragraph a piece. The important thing is that you do it consistently.

3. No Judgment –

For many people this is the hardest part about keeping a journal. It’s essential you do your best not to judge what you write down.

And here’s why:
Guilt is not good fuel for change. If you’ve ever guilted someone into doing something you know this. They may do it, but they do so begrudgingly. They may resent you and ultimately the trust between you erodes.

When we try to make a change using guilt the same thing occurs. Our trust in ourselves erodes. We begin to doubt our ability to take care of ourselves and make better choices.

So try to keep your journal like a scientist might. You are merely observing yourself dispassionately. Think of your journal like the lab notes of a benevolent observer.

4. Share Your Journal

Sharing your journal can be scary but it’s important. When we share our journals, we let other people into our world.

When we share our journals we not only honor others with our vulnerability, we also learn to accept ourselves. Most of us have a secret fear that if others see who we truly are they will reject us. This fear drives a lot of unconscious impulses and habits.

But when we share ourselves willingly we uncover many of these hidden agendas. Sharing is an act of bravery certainly, but it’s also an act of deep faith in ourselves.

Share your journal with someone you trust who will be gentle and kind. Their job is just to read your journal at least once a week and ask about anything they notice. Ask them not to make any statements of judgment, but just to ask question about any patterns they see.

Just like you the more scientific and kind they can be the better.

(If you can’t find anyone send me an email and you can either share your journal with me, or I’ll help you find someone else who can support you.)

5. Review Your Journal

One of the best things about keeping a journal is doing a regular review.

Looking at one day in someone’s journal is like looking at one square of a map. You get some information but you can see the whole picture.

But when you look at a week, a month, or even 6 months of someone’s journal you start to see patterns emerge. And it’s these patterns that help you see your unconscious habits, your hidden tendencies. And these are the very things holding you back from living a balanced life.

Bonus Journaling

In addition to the 5 tips above there are a few things I encourage many clients to add on to their Mind Fit Food journal.

These little extras add more happiness, order, and peace to the habit of keeping a regular journal. I recommend you don’t pick more than one to start with. And drop any of them if it makes you less likely to journal.

  1. Gratitude – Write down 3 things you are grateful for.
  2. Positive event – Describe one positive event in your journal every day.
  3. Act of kindness – Describe one act of kindness that you did today or one act of kindness you will do tomorrow.
  4. Victory – Write down one thing you did well today.
  5. Forgiveness – Write down one thing you would like to let go of. It can be something you have done or something that someone else has done.

Get started.

The process of keeping a Mind Fit Food journal doesn’t have to be complicated or time consuming. I usually write my journal in the matter of 5 to 10 mins. And I include many of the bonus suggestions in my morning reflections.

The key to successful journaling is to just do you best to observe yourself with the love and compassion like a good mother would. A good mother see’s their child as beautiful and perfect, but also see’s that their child has room to grow.

Be gentle and kind to yourself. Notice what you can about your life using this simple tool. Because what you notice and learn about yourself is more powerful and honest than anything anyone else will ever be able to teach you.

Click Here for A Template of Your Own Mind Fit Food Journal


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