Today, I’m answering the fourth question in WEGO’s Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge:
Creature of Habit: What good habits, (health or otherwise,) do you have? Do you have a routine that you follow every morning? Are there any bad habits you wish you could break? #HAWMC
I recently started practicing mindfulness, which has helped me develop some new habits. But first, I should say that after being sick for many years and spending half my adult life bedridden, I developed some bad habits. Fighting chronic fatigue and pain can be lonely. Sometimes I watched television shows I hated just to keep me company, which amplified my loneliness. I didn’t realize it at the time. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with watching TV. But I was watching mindless shows I never would have given a second look had I been healthy like True Tori (Tori Spelling’s ubiquitous reality show about her divorce)! I’m pretty sure I lost a lot of brain cells watching that last year. Another bad habit I developed was playing too much Candy Crush. When I was a child, I didn’t even like playing video games.
Two Turning Points
I had two turning points that made me want more for myself mentally and spiritually. The first was last Christmas when my cousins gave me Arianna Huffington’s book, Thrive. Huffington wrote about mindfulness, which helps us live in the moment and drown out white noise. I never thought meditation was for me. But Huffington said there are different kinds of meditation for people of different backgrounds and creeds. As a Christian, I related to the method used by Quakers and I modified it. For fifteen minutes a day, I started meditating. I focused on a concept with my eyes closed. I focused on something like gratitude or God’s ability to provide for my needs. I remembered a time when God provided or relived a funny, happy memory.
The second turning point came when I briefly met World Champion Boxer and Congressman, Manny Pacquiao in January on HuffPost Live. (This was before the Fight of the Century was made; I can’t wait for May 2nd!) I was impressed with how many Scriptures this guy could recite off the top of his head considering he only started reading the Bible in 2012. At that time, I had memorized somewhere between 80-100 verses and passages, half of them as a child. Meeting Pacquiao was the first time I met someone who could recite more passages than I could. Pacquiao is a congressman in the Philippines, philanthropist, professional basketball coach, and the only boxer in history to have won titles in eight different weight divisions. Meeting him made me realize that I haven’t fully applied myself spiritually in a long time.
For Lent, I gave up Candy Crush and I memorized the book of James, which has 5 chapters and 108 verses in it. My friend, Carol, and I have agreed to read and memorize literature together. We’re going to start with Emily Dickinson.
New Habits & The Results of Mindfulness
- I appreciate silence more–I don’t check my email first thing in the morning. I have my breakfast in silence. And I love it.
- I enjoy life more–If I’m watching a favorite TV show like Scandal, because I’m not playing Candy Crush, I enjoy it more. I’m more present, and Shonda Rhimes does not disappoint.
- I check my phone less–Now, when I’m having dinner especially if it’s with family or friends, I do not check Facebook or gmail. I just enjoy the meal.
- I’m sharper mentally–I was an award winning speaker in high school and college. Now, I coach high school debate. The past few months, I’ve been modeling principles for my students. We have twenty subjects to study for every competition and the students do not know which subjects will come up. But we must research every subject whether that’s foreign aid to Yemen or science literacy or bituminous tar sands. The past few months, I’ve been writing, memorizing, and delivering speeches during practice. The students scores have increased. Modeling the principles I teach has helped them conceptualize abstract concepts and learn how to memorize vast amounts of information. Without mindfulness, I would still be able to write and memorize great speeches. But practicing mindfulness has made doing so almost effortless, which is an accomplishment, since I’m not 18 anymore and I’m on plenty of medications.
Stay Tuned! I’ll be answering one question everyday this month in WEGO’s Challenge. You can join here.
–Your Stylist, Jessica Gimeno