With so many self-improvement programs there are many stops and starts. We begin a practice to better our lives and then drift away from it. Maybe you start a running program, and after the initial enthusiasm wears off, one or 2 missed days turns into weeks without a single run. Or you start a gratitude journal, make entries daily and then none for a month. If you were striving for consistency, you may feel discouraged and defeated. But, it’s important to keep in mind that to some extent, starting and stopping things is human nature. And usually, no one is keeping score but you. No one knows that you didn’t get up to run or write in your gratitude journal today.
While it’s interesting to wonder why it’s you drifted away from your practice or routine in the first place, it’s more important to to just begin again. This is one of things I love about meditation. Every time the focus of my awareness inevitably drifts from the breath, to thoughts or sounds, it’s an opportunity to begin again. I simply observe where the focus of my awareness went without judgment or interpretation, and bring it back to the breath. Practicing the skill of beginning again in meditation has helped me become less judgmental of my starts and stops in my other routines. So the next time you found you’ve drifted away from a practice or routine, take note without judgment and begin again. You just might find that by giving yourself permission to start and stop, you stay with your practices longer term.
Dr. Lisa Napolitano is an expert in cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and other mindfulness-based treatments. A licensed psychologist in New York and Florida, she is the Founder and Director of CBT/DBT Associates, a boutique psychology practice group. Dr. Napolitano is an expert in the treatment of stress, anxiety, worry, and emotion regulation problems. She has specifically designed her treatment approach for executives, attorneys, and other high-functioning individuals whom she believes shouldn’t have to sacrifice their careers to manage their stress and work on developing their potential.