Habitual patterns and finding mindful and fulfilling ways to meet our needs

Most of us have habitual things we do in our daily lives that get in the way of us being truly present – with ourselves, our children and our partners (and any other people in our lives). Being present can be uncomfortable, and bring up a sense of vulnerability, especially if we have uncomfortable feelings bubbling under the surface. So these habits can help us to distract ourselves and feel more comfortable in some ways. But they can also leave us feeling flat, unsatisfied, disconnected and even numb. And they can be a big energy drain.

Any activity can become a habitual way of distracting ourselves. Some examples might be endlessly scrolling on Facebook, eating sweet foods, drinking coffee or alcohol, buying things, being “busy” or doing anything excessively, such as working, talking, cleaning or even exercising. And often along with the activity, comes a real urge or sense of needing to have or do the thing in order to feel okay. Do you ever notice yourself doing any of these things (or something else) to distract yourself from being in the here and now? If so, I want to offer you lots of empathy, compassion and acceptance! You are certainly not alone!

Interestingly, these habitual patterns usually also help us to meet one or more of our deeper needs. For example, when I’m endlessly scrolling on Facebook, sometimes I am trying to meet a need for connection, other times I might be trying to meet a need for rest and relaxation. But in this way, I’m usually not meeting any of my needs particularly well. Reaching out to a friend over the phone, and lying down or doing some meditation, might be ways of meeting my two needs in a more satisfying way. So, while our habitual patterns can meet our deeper needs to some extent, there are usually other ways to meet these needs that are more mindful and fulfilling. And these other ways are also more likely to leave us feeling energised and alive.

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So, next time you notice yourself about to engage in one of your habitual patterns, I would like to invite you to try this:

1. Pause
2. Take 3-5 deep breaths down into your belly
3. Ask yourself with curiosity, what deeper need would this be meeting?
4. Is there another way of meeting this need that would be more mindful and fulfilling?

And finally, just check in with yourself and ask, is this actually my most pressing need at the moment? Or do I have another need that is more important for me right now? And sometimes the need might just be for presence, to sit with the feelings that are bubbling, focus on our body sensations or let the feelings move out of our body in any way that feels right for us. This could be by crying, journaling, shaking, dancing, walking briskly, punching (a pillow!), screaming or making any other sound (into a pillow?), having a private adult-sized tantrum or talking while someone else offers us presence. Usually, the more we can feel, accept and release the feelings in these ways, the less we will feel compelled to use our methods of distraction.

Image courtesy of Creativeart / Freepik.

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