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Helping to bring awareness to our 'habits'

By Joseph Pond

I remember talking to a smoker once many years ago while she told me that she wanted to give it up but couldn't. Since she found it so difficult to stop smoking, I mistakenly assumed that she enjoyed smoking. See, this was years before I become a hypnotist and I didn't understand much about these matters. So I asked a stupid question. "Do you love the ritual of taking out your cigarettes and lighting one?"

No, the woman explained. In fact, she went on, it's usually half smoked before I even realise what I'm doing. It's almost as though I want to get it finished with so quickly that it's over before I have time to stop myself.

Over the following 30 years or so, this story has become common to me. It's not unique to smoking. Over-eaters will also say that they 'find themselves' comfort eating before they've even had a second to stop and consider alternatives. It would be nice if there was a way to bring your awareness to your habits?

Oh yeah, there already is. It's called mindfulness and it works. I use the word 'habit' advisedly here, because with any automated behaviour that you wish to change, there are at least two components: the emotional and the habitual.

Everyone knows that comfort eaters have an underlying emotional discomfort that they feel is temporarily alleviated by food. Smokers typically have similar issues. Mindfulness can help to address these emotional needs, but it's not the only way of course. It may not even be the best way. If a person is lonely, for example, making a friend is therapeutically far better than practicing mindfulness alone in your room.

There is that second component that sometimes lingers and makes things harder on us. This is the habitual. If you've ever found yourself staring for the umpteenth time in front of an open fridge, you know what I mean.

Ex-smokers will reach for non-existent packs of cigarettes over and over again. Mindfulness is excellent for bringing awareness to our habits. So next time you smoke, or reach for those biscuits, do so mindfully.

  • Joseph Pond is a clinical hypnotherapist, an acupuncturist and a mindfulness instructor. He is co-founder of Hypnosis Explorers NI and conducts workshops in hypnosis with PowerTrance. Reach him at or at Hypnosis/ ?ref=hl/?ref=hl

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