‘Practice The Pause’ is a simple yet powerful exercise to boost your mental health.
It’s a concept I recommend to many of my clients in my role as a life coach.
In this post, you’ll discover what ‘Practice The Pause’ is and the best ways to apply it.
Let’s dive right into it.
What Does “Practice The Pause” Mean?
It means to deliberately pause from whatever you’re doing or feeling.
Most of our mistakes come from being overwhelmed with emotion, and reacting to this too quickly.
By practicing the pause, we can ease this feeling of being overwhelmed. Then, it’s easier to take more intelligent actions based on logic, rather than an emotional reaction.
However, this isn’t just about deciding to not call your boss a moron…
When we practice the pause, other people tend to perceive us as more intelligent and confident. It can also make it easier to enjoy our day-to-day lives.
Who Said “Practice The Pause”?
The phrase is most commonly attributed to Lori Deschene, the founder of the Tiny Buddha self-help website.
Her full quote on this topic is: “Practice the pause. Pause before judging. Pause before assuming. Pause before accusing. Pause whenever you’re about to react harshly, and you’ll avoid doing and saying things you’ll later regret.”
What Is A Mindful Pause?
This type of pause requires you to stop whatever you’re doing to take a deep breath in and out. Focus on your lungs expanding and contracting. There’s no rush to finish this process. Take more than one deep breath if you need.
This type of breath is perfect for when you “practice the pause”. It gets you out of your head and into your body. As such, it’s a great process to help you reset any overwhelming emotions you may have been experiencing.
19 Ways To “Practice The Pause” That Will Benefit You
This list of examples illustrate the various ways that practicing the pause can improve your life.
1. Count To Ten Before Losing Your Temper
There is almost nothing positive to be gained from losing your temper. Often, it just results in you saying or doing something you’ll regret, as Lori Descheme put it.
Counting to ten prevents an angry reaction, gives you time to think and creates space for you to respond rationally. So, do it whenever you feel anger bubbling inside you.
This includes while you’re scrolling social media. It’s rarely ever a good idea to respond to a social media post you disagree with. You’ll rarely change an anonymous stranger’s mind. You’re a nobody to them. Plus, your angry comment remains published for the world to see forever.
So, why post a response at all? Forget about this person’s dumb comments, scroll to the next thing and carry on living your life
2. Seek To Understand Before Being Understood
This next tip is from Stephen Covey’s classic self-help book ‘7 Habits Of Highly Effective People’.
In a disagreement, always seek to understand the other person’s argument first, before sharing yours. This makes them feel heard. Suddenly, they feel obliged to do you the same courtesy.
Now, instead of two angry people yelling their opinions and not hearing each other, you have two people thinking about both sides of the argument.
Ultimately, it becomes easier to reach an agreement.
3. Pause Before Answering A Question
Unless you’re on a television quiz show, there’s no advantage to rushing an answer.
When you practice the pause, you give yourself time to think of a good rebuttal. Most likely, this’ll make it easier to respond confidently. More importantly, you’ll stop yourself from blurting out the first emotional response that comes into your head.
4. Practice Speaking 20% Slower
If you speak too quickly, that’s a sign of nerves.
When you speak slowly, it creates space for people to absorb your words. You also come across as more confident. This is true in all situations. A family dinner. A best man’s speech. A podcast or live radio broadcast. A first date. A job interview.
If you want people to respond better in these scenarios, make a conscious effort to speak 20% slower.
This is something anyone can do, even if you consider yourself as shy. Give it a try and watch how people react.
5. Make Dramatic Pauses
This is a great tip to become a compelling speaker. Dramatic pauses add power to your words.
6. Pause When You’re Triggered To Break A Habit
We adopt most bad habits as a way to deal with stress.
Your first job is to identify what triggers the desire to engage in these bad habits. Then, either eliminate these triggers, or do something else when they pop up.
A mindful pause could be just the cure to prevent destructive actions when these triggers happen. In many cases, you’ll no longer feel like engaging in that bad habit after you’re done.
7. Wait 24 hours Before Making A Non-Urgent Purchase
Looking to shake your impulse buying habit? Make yourself wait 24 hours before completing any non-urgent purchase.
In most cases, the emotion of wanting that unnecessary item will have worn off by then, replaced by the logical thoughts of not being able to afford it.
8. Use The Pomodoro Technique
This technique suggests you should work flat-out for 25 minutes, then take a five-minute break.
During this short pause, you allow your tired brain to recover.
The idea is that you’ll get more work done using this technique, compared to working for several hours with no break.
9. Practice The Pause To Destress
Just as deep breaths can help to calm your anger, it can also ease stress that has been building steadily from hard work.
10. Think Before You Speak
Apply this before any negativity leaves your mouth.
During these few seconds, ask yourself: “Does this add any value to the conversation? Would I want to hear this?”
You may feel a dirty little high when you’re gossiping with friends or spreading rumours about another person. But there are no long-term benefits beyond that.
11. Stop And Smell The Roses
This catchphrase is associated with the idea that you should move through your surroundings more slowly, so you can appreciate the magic of the world around you.
That’s a serious power move for enhancing your mood! If we were all living our lives this way, I know we would all be much happier.
So, consider leaving your headphones at home, and keeping your smartphone in your pocket when you’re out and about.
12. Eat Slowly And Enjoy Every Bite
Consciously eating slower would be one way to ‘smell the roses’.
Good food is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Yet, so many of us are too busy to enjoy this. Instead, we’re pummeling it down our throats because we have something else to do afterwards.
13. Write A Gratitude List
A daily gratitude list gives you the opportunity to pause from your daily routine, think about what you’re grateful for and write it down.
There are gratitude diaries available, which give you prompts for what to write about.
There are gratitude smartphone apps that also do this. Some even send you gratitude reminders at random times of the day.
14. Take A Digital Detox
A lot of people are constantly checking their web-connected devices.
By doing so, they’re not giving their mind one moment to pause.
These devices also stop us from ‘smelling the roses’ and being present with the world around us.
That’s why a lot of people consciously limit their usage of these devices. Some take a daily digital detox between certain hours. Others engage in a 24-hour digital detox every now and again.
Meditation is the practice of seperating yourself from your thoughts and emotions.
There are many ways to meditate, but a popular method involves taking deep breaths and focusing solely on your body.
Practice meditation regularly – and it becomes easier to let go of your thoughts and emotions in your day-to-day life.
Once you learn to do this, it becomes easier to know when you need to engage in a mindful pause.
16. Practice The Pause During Moments Of Impatience
When you’re stuck waiting for another person, that’s a perfect moment to practice the pause.
Instead of feeling the stress of impatience in this moment, you can experience the relaxed state of meditation.
17. Go On Holiday
Burnout is a real problem. Everyone occasionally needs an extended pause from the grind of their careers to avoid it. So, give yourself one. Spend some quality time with the family without feeling guilty. Make yourself completely unavailable to your work colleagues during your holiday. This is called basic self-care.
The daily hustle can distract from life’s bigger questions. Am I living the way I want? Am I truly happy? Am I tired of my daily routine? In a way, that’s comforting because these questions can be difficult and uncomfortable.
But, without asking them, you grow old without ever achieving what you really wanted.
Daily journaling gives you time to ponder over how things are going and what you’d like to change. You can also review your progress towards certain goals, and how to move forward faster.
19. Conduct A Life Review
You can consider a ‘life review’ as a time for sustained thinking about how you want to live and whether you’re on the right path.
Those who work with a life coach will face these big questions throughout their one-on-one sessions. If you don’t have a coach, aim to ask yourself these sorts of big questions three or four times per year.
Thanks for taking the time to read my post!
If you’d like to react or have any more questions about how to practice the pause, you can leave a comment below. If you have another example to add to this list, leave a comment below!
I really like reading your comments and will do my best to reply to your posts.
“Practice the pause. Pause before judging. Pause before assuming. Pause before accusing. Pause whenever you’re about to react harshly, and you’ll avoid doing and saying things you’ll later regret.” – Lori Deschene quote