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Stressed Out? Try Habit Replacement Therapy

Illustration with stressed out man walking out of rain cloud

People talk a lot about stress these days. Have you noticed? It’s become a badge of honor. It’s like the folks who unconsciously always talk about being a Vegan or a Crossfitter. No offense. #always.

Whenever I ask the “walking stressed” if they’ve tried mindfulness or meditation, the answer is often, “No. Who has the time?” The answer actually, is everyone.

Looking at how much time the average person spends (read: wastes) in their day led me to create a new faux field of medicine. I call it Habit Replacement Therapy.

How Habit Replacement Therapy Works

Here’s how it works. Pick one of those super important areas of your life and trim just 5 minutes off. Replace that addiction, er sorry, habit with 5 minutes of mindfulness practice. Science shows that just 5 to 10 minutes of daily mindfulness meditation can produce a wide array of health and performance benefits. That includes reducing stress and anxiety, improving sleep and reducing chronic back pain. I bet you can relate to at least one of those things.

Thinking about where to trim may be added stress, so we’ve done a little research on 7 habits to free up 5. Frickin’. Minutes.

1. Television

The average American watches 4.3 hours of T.V. a day. A day. At a minimum, record your favorite shows and fast forward through the commercials (that’s about 15 minutes for every hour of T.V.).

2. Social Media

The average U.S. Facebook and Twitter user spends 42 minutes and 17 minutes respectively, on their daily fix. Here’s a little secret: It can wait.

If you cut 5 minutes out of your habit, you’ll still be able to find the exact same gripes, politics and curated best-life-ever highlights from the people you haven’t (actually) spoken to since high school.

3. Commuting

The average commute in the U.S. is 25 minutes. If you take public transportation, put the news and your apps down for 5. No excuses. Pop in the headphones and get into a daily practice.

If I did this when I lived in New York, I could have replaced loud-talking end-of-the-world Bible guy on my daily subway ride. By the way, he was wrong for the 15 years I lived there. We can relax.

4. Ditch the Insomnia

Fellow vampires, I used to be on your crew. But no more. Quit lying in bed for an hour before you worry yourself to sleep.

Instead, take 5 minutes and replace that non-stop crazy with some goodness to ease yourself into rest. Personally, I found that it’s way better to sleep than seethe.

5. B*tching about stuff

The walking dead tend to groan. The walking stressed tend to complain. The two go hand in hand. Guess what? Mindfulness can help with that too.

Imagine taking 5 minutes back from complaining about your:

Let alone complaining about people who complain too much. Bastages. C’mon… admit it. That’s 5 minutes out of one call a day with your BFF talking about the same sh*t on the daily.

6. Being Dazed and Confused

The average person spends 47% of their time awake with the mind wandering. Says who? Harvard. By wandering, they mean thinking about the past, the future, “Is my boss out to get me?”, “Did I leave the oven on?”, sex… you name it. Everything except what’s happening right in front of you.

Turns out the wandering mind is terrible for people’s health. It’s also bad for relationships, raising kids, business and getting sh*t done. We can all find 5 minutes out of 676 (approximately 47% of your day).

7. The Gym

You’re thinking, wait what? But that’s good for me. Planet Fitness averages 6,500 members per gym. However, most of its gyms can only accommodate 300 people. They bank on most people never actually showing up. Those who don’t cancel their gym memberships because that would be “giving up on themselves.” It’s why the gym industry has done well. It’s the timeshare most people never use.

If that’s you, I estimate that you spend at least 15 minutes a month talking about the gym you never visit. Because those were my stats. Boom. You just got that back too.


There are many places you can find out about live or digital mindfulness training. If you’re stressed, it’s just important to get started. And if you’re paying attention to things like your life, your business, politics, global warming and intergalactic goings-on, you probably have a sense that stress and anxiety issues are going to get worse in the next 15 years. Research already shows that people with “extreme stress” (meaning, they can’t even…) jumped from 18% to 24% between 2014 and 2016.

That’s a 33% jump in 2 years. Imagine half of the peeps you know not even being able to cope. For some of us, that may already be the case. I say that lovingly and without judgment of my family.

Mindfulness meditation isn’t about the 5 to 10 minutes of practice itself. It’s about developing the life tools to more regularly calm and focus the mind, reduce your own stress and anxiety and relax the central nervous system. It’s about applying that practice in the other 24 hours of your day.

Too many of our habits, addictions and predilections do the exact opposite. How many habits do you have that keep you revved up, worried, angry or just escaping from life as the hours slip away? Pick one of your less important habits and try Habit Replacement Therapy* today.

*Trademark Pending.

This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post.

About the Author

Headshot of Joe Burton

Retired Founder and CEO of Whil and former President of Headspace

Joe is an entrepreneur in the digital wellness space, retired Founder and CEO of Whil and former President of Headspace, and spent fifteen years as a global COO in public companies. He’s an alumnus of Harvard Business School and a regular contributor to Forbes, Business Insider and The Huffington Post. He’s worked in over 50 countries and travels the world speaking on topics including disruption, culture, resiliency and mindfulness.

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