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Use this simple practice to change your relationship tounhelpful habitual urges.
What do you do when you notice an urge to do something that you know is not going to be helpful for your longer term goals? Maybe reaching for that chocolate bar or icecream, buying that bottle of wine or pack of cigarettes, snapping at a child or partner, staying at work a bit longer than you promised your loved ones, opening your social media app, or your web browser for some mindless surfing. In small doses, none of these things are harmful. Done regularly enough your body will suffer. As might your relationships. And maybe your heart and soul.
There’s a tiny window of opportunity between the moment when you have an urge and the next moment when you irrevocably act on it. In that space try this.
1. Pause. Stop whatever you’re doing.
2. Take a few mindfully aware breaths. Inhale through your nose, notice your belly swelling with the inbreath and notice it deflating with the outbreath. Notice the nuances of your breath.
3. Slowly, ask yourself this question: “What do I need?” “What do I actually really need, in this moment, right now?”
4. Notice the answers your mind gives you. Don’t grasp for the first answer it gives you. Nor despair if the answer is a frustrating “I don’t know!”.
5. Let the responses settle around you as you gently breathe and kindly ask again.
Not, “what would I like”. Not, “what do I want”. Not what do I need today, or in this life. Just in this moment, right now, what do I need.
Tune in to your body. This is a question most often answered by the body. What is it telling you when you take the time to ask? Can you give it what it needs?
Here’s some of the answers I get when I ask this question
A glass of cool clear water To move my body
To go to bed and sleep Some sunshine on my skin
A bowl of lightly steamed green vegies To breathe mindfully for a little longer (eg, “3 minute breathing space”)
A shower To go to the toilet*
Sometimes the answer comes from other parts of me. My social self, or my emotional or spiritual self. Or my intellectual self.
To give myself a hug (try it!)
A sense of accomplishment
The scent of something fragrant
To sing or dance
To listen to a piece of beautiful music
To contact nature (put my feet on the earth my toes in the sand, listen to a bird, see the wind in the trees)
The smile or touch of a loved one
To look at the night sky
Repeat as often as necessary.
This practice invites you to step into a place of deep self-respect. It is a practice that recognises your body has needs. And that many of our other needs are not too difficult to meet. It is also quite affirming – it recognises that you are quite capable of meeting many of your basic needs. The practice of responding to what you truly need – in any one moment – again and again - builds a lifetime of self care and self respect. Your body will thank you. As might your heart and soul, and loved ones.
Ask me about my audio recorded brief mindfulness exercise to help you step into a place where you might contact your immediate needs. From your psychologist, Jennifer Grant