Have you ever wanted to make an internal transformation but felt stuck in the process? The best part is when your friends give you the "easier said than done" advice such as "just think happy thoughts" or "you just have to know you are good enough," and you're left thinking "if it were so easy to do those things, don't you think I'd be doing that by now."
So the question becomes, how do we make it easier?
I remember the time I wanted to eliminate processed sugar from my diet. I was at home watching TV and I started to get hungry, or bored shall I say. All of a sudden a few minutes later I find myself eating a bag of marshmallows on the couch, completely unaware of how the bag even ended up in my hand. I just remember laughing at myself because I couldn't even last a half a day without unconsciously eating sugar, so of course forever seemed impossible.
The main problem is, most of the time we don't even know we're doing the thing we don't want to do until after we've already done it.
Making transformations to your way of being can be one of the most challenging things you can do. It's a dance of taking two steps forward and one step back. Every time you feel like you take a step back, it can be frustrating and you feel like giving up. Think about it though, you have lived your whole life a certain way up until now, and although the want to change is a great start, it usually requires a little more effort, in ways that may not be so obvious. You can read all the books in the world, attend every seminar, and learn many different strategies to help you "know" what to do, but without one important thing, transformation will be near impossible.
That one important thing is AWARENESS.
Let's face it, these days, with all the new phones, new apps, new games, and new social media outlets, we are practicing everything but awareness in the present moment. The great news is, with practice and consistency, the ability to stay aware and make different choices when necessary, becomes easier and easier.
When it comes to transformation, whether you are trying to change your thoughts or your diet, present moment awareness is going to be the key to your success.
Here are five daily practices that will strengthen your awareness muscle and literally transform your life.
5. Develop an "It Can Wait" Attitude
Between TV watching, emailing, texting, status updating, tweeting, hooting, hashtagging, Instagraming, filtering, and Candy Crushing, we are pretty busy, and that's only the beginning of the list. Some of us do all of these things at the same damn time. Practice focusing on one thing at a time. Each day, make a list of things you absolutely must get done that day and do only those things. While you are doing those things, give each your undivided attention and avoid task switching when possible. To aid in this practice do simple things like turn off the notifications on your phone. When you get off of work, leave work at work. When you're talking to someone, look them in the eye. Unless an emergency, Everything else can wait.
Why This Works: Plain and simple, the less distracted you are, the more aware you can be. The reason I ended up unknowingly eating marshmallows when I was supposed to be cutting processed sugar out of my diet, was because I simply was not paying attention. By saying "it can wait," not only do we practice prioritizing the things that are important, but we also learn to stay focused on one thing at a time. The more we consciously remember, the less we act unconsciously.
4. Create Daily Intentions
"An Intention is your reason or motivation for acting. It is the consciousness behind your action." -- Gary Zukav
Each morning before you fully start your day, set an intention for how you would like your day to go. For example, "I am consciously choosing my actions and reactions, while remaining present throughout the day." Say your intention out loud and even write it down. You can even call a friend and share it with them. Anything that will help anchor your intention in for the day.
Why This Works: We are setting intentions all the time whether we are aware or not. The act of consciously creating intentions allows you to start the day with a clear and present focus in mind. Throughout the day, as you remember this intention you set, it will help you become aware and redirect your attention in the direction you wish to go. This way you can act out of consciousness and less from habit.
3. Write, Write, and Write Some More
"Writing is thinking. It is more than living, for it is being conscious of living." -- Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Purchase a nice journal that makes you feel good when you look at it. I like to buy journals that have inspiring quotes on the front so when I look at them, it reminds me of my purpose. To start, you can write in your journal for 10 minutes before bed to reflect on your day. As you start to develop a daily practice, you can carry your journal with you and write in the morning and throughout the day as you go. If you find yourself experiencing a behavior you wish to transform, write down your current thoughts, feelings, fears, and what was going on leading to the behavior. During your end-of-day reflection, don't forget to write what you wish to cultivate and eliminate, and rate your day.
Why It Works: Keeping a journal is a great way to strengthen your awareness because with all that is going on in our heads, writing allows you to consciously taking time to focus on your specific experiences and reactions. It is helpful in making transformations in your life because it gives you the opportunity to notice any patterns going on. If you find that you are more irritated with your kids on days you work late, you can learn to prepare more and become more aware of what you can do differently as that situation comes around. Writing what you want to cultivate or eliminate, particularly allows you to notice if you are taking action in creating that of which you wish to create.
2. Talk Less, Listen More
"Most people do not listen with the intent to understand, they listen with the intent to reply." -- Stephen R. Covey
The next time you are in a conversation with someone, make it an intention to be fully attentive and listen when they talk. Notice the voices that go on in your head as the other person is talking. Hear yourself thinking of what to say next. Pay attention to if you are gazing off or thinking about something else. And when you catch yourself, bring the focus back to them and the words they are saying and the message they are trying to convey. When our own voice is rattling off in our head, it can be hard to really listen to others. Don't worry about what you are going to say or how to reply, yet just listen as much as you can. The more you practice this, you will notice those voices start to get quieter.
Why This Works: When you can learn to effectively listen, you are practicing quieting the voices in your own head and paying clear attention to what someone else has to express. This practice will strengthen your ability to be aware of what is going on and choose to focus on something else. Not to count, it will most likely have a profound impact in all of your relationships.
1. Calm Your Mind
"You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day, unless you're too busy, then you should sit for an hour" -- Old Zen Saying
Meditation IS the most powerful way to practice being present. You'll hear it over and over again, because it works. Find a quiet place, close your eyes, slow your breathing, and bring attention to something specific. You can imagine an image of something like a tree or animal, continuously repeat a mantra, or focus on your breathe entering and leaving your body. There are millions upon millions of thoughts that go through your mind unconsciously every single day, so if your mind starts to wander, that is OK. When you are aware, bring your attention back to your point of focus. Start small and do this for just 5 minutes a day. You can increase the length of time as you continue to practice.
Why This Works: If you think about it, consciously being able to make different choices then you have been used to in the past, IS meditation. Consciously noticing your wandering mind and bringing it back to a focus while in silence, will help you tremendously in being able to do so while awake. You will be able to effectively observe our experiences and reactions as they happen and switch gears to choose the action that you prefer.
***BONUS*** Set Reminders
"Sometimes, you need to step outside, get some air, and remind yourself of who you are, and who you want to be." -- Anonymous
Set reminder alarms to go off throughout the day to make sure you do what it is you need to do. I mean, we are talking about strengthening your awareness in the first place right? You have to make sure you are aware enough to even complete some of these listed suggestions. If you find its hard to follow through, it's OK to be reminded throughout the day. It's not cheating I promise. In the beginning it may take a few reminders, but as you get used to developing specific practices, you will find that eventually you will no longer need reminders. Eventually being conscious and aware of what's going on around you and within you will be a new part of your being and you will then reap the benefits of the transformation you were always hoping for.
Transformation is all about course-correcting. When you become aware you are off your path, you grab your shit and get right back on, even stronger than before. There is nothing wrong with taking two steps forward and one step back. In the bigger picture, you are still moving forward and that is what counts. Try these practices for the next 30 days, and just witness how your life changes. Growth is a process, not an event.
What are some things you practice that help you stay aware? Would love to read other suggestions in the comment section below.
HuffPost's GPS for the Soul app is based on two truths about human beings. First: We all have a centered place of wisdom, harmony and balance within us. Second: We're all going to veer away from that place, again and again and again. What we need is a great course-correcting mechanism -- a GPS for the Soul -- to help us find our way back to that centered place, from which everything is possible.
Because no one knows better than you what helps you de-stress and tap into that place of peace inside yourself, it's important for you to create your very own GPS guide -- a personalized collection of whatever helps you course-correct. Email us at GPS@huffingtonpost.com and we'll set you up with your very own HuffPost blogger account to share your guide on the site. If you're already a blogger, we encourage you to upload your personal guide today. We can't wait to see what you have to share.