We like to think we approach each new person we meet with a clean slate. “We’ll give them a chance; we can totally be objective,” we think to ourselves as we’re swiping through potential matches. It turns out a lot of the time, our past has a stronger hold on our present than we like to think.
You might have noticed yourself repeating behaviors left over from a previous relationship. If a current person in our lives has a certain mannerism that reminds us of someone from our past, that can be a trigger for us. He may cut his steak in the exact same way as your well meaning but eccentric great-uncle and subconsciously put you off. She may use the same weird expression your ex did and make your hair stand on end.
Luckily, there’s a way to fix this! It’s called mindfulness, and we can use it as a tool to shift our attention to the present moment. Mindfulness is a process where you intentionally choose where to place your attention. When a situation in your daily life triggers a reactionary behavior from you, you can intentionally choose to place your attention on something that’s happening in the moment to anchor you to the present. This can be anything from trying to describe how an emotion physically feels in your body to counting the number of objects in your eye line.
This process gives you a moment to take a breath, step back, and evaluate whether your reaction is proportionate to what’s going on. When you do it enough, the mindfulness process provides your mind with new information relevant to what’s happening in the moment instead of flinging your brain into the past. Instead of flying off the handle at your SO or your BFF for doing something that triggered a memory, you can react proportionately.
Your attention is powerful. Using mindfulness, you can rewrite the old experiences that have been running your life and take back control.
Every time your SO leaves the dishes in the sink and you feel the urge to blow up at them (because your ex used to do it on purpose to make you mad), stop, take a breath, and evaluate. You’ll find yourself much calmer and happier in the long run if you do this consistently!
At the end of the day, we all want to be better, happier humans. When you feel yourself getting annoyed or pissed off, stop for a second, harness your attention, and ask yourself what you’re really mad about.
Make the first move toward better mental health. You got this!