Human beings learn from experience, especially experience that leads to some sort of reward. It’s aptly referred to as reward-based learning. But what kind of experience does one need in order to break bad habits, unhealthy behavioral urges that seem to repeat themselves over and over again?
One of the basic tenets of mindfulness is to be more curious about what is going on in the mind and body, moment to moment. Formal mindfulness practices like meditation make the informal practices of being aware of our internal experience more accessible. With greater awareness, one might enjoy more of life’s precious moments, respond more thoughtfully to triggering situations, listen more carefully to others, pay closer attention as things unfold, and feel more in control overall.
Mindfulness practices tap into our natural capacity to be curious, and create a little space for new patterns to emerge. In a very general way, everyone experiences triggers (the cake/the cigarette/a situation that makes you angry). We follow with habitual behaviors (eat the cake/smoke a cigarette/yell and scream). Then we reap the rewards (it tasted good, it felt good, you make your point.. in anger).
With mindfulness training, we cultivate nourishing habits that aren’t steered by cravings, unhelpful thinking patterns, or habitual reactions. With a regular mindfulness practice, we begin to notice triggering thoughts or events as they emerge and tap into our natural capacity to be more curious. Who knows? You may see more clearly what you actually get from certain behavioral urges, begin to let go of old patterns, and cultivate a whole new part of you.
Be curious. It’ll do your mind and body good.