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Think Before Reacting: How to Use Your Mental Pause Button

“Better than a thousand hollow words is one word that brings peace.” ~Buddha

I used to be the queen of putting my foot in my mouth. I'd say the first thing that came into my head without thinking.

My intentions were always good and I’d never deliberately offend or hurt anyone, but it landed me in trouble more than once.

Being so reactionary also played havoc in my relationships. I was defensive and quick to answer back. I did a lot more talking than listening.

This spread into other areas of my life. I’d put food into my mouth faster than my brain could stop me; I’d impulse buy and make split second decisions before thinking them through.

After a difficult breakup I turned to yoga as a way of finding regular doses of positivity during an otherwise very bleak period.

The yoga studio was run by some very wise yogis who also offered workshops on positive thinking, mindfulness, and self-development.

They had a great bookshop and soon, instead of watching mindless TV, I was engaging with inspiring people and reading life-changing books.

On the same day that I attended a workshop on happiness, I met my husband-to-be. Two girlfriends dragged me off to a nightclub that evening.

He says he was attracted to me immediately. I guess I was radiating some kind of positive aura, as I hadn’t dressed up or done my hair and makeup like my girlfriends had!

Thankfully, by then my personal growth had led me to a greater sense of self-awareness.

I’d discovered my internal pause button.

Living life more presently and becoming mindful resulted in a natural slowing down. It opened my mind up to the art of just being.

Learning to press pause means listening and assimilating before opening my mouth. I often hear a voice in my head saying what I would have normally voiced out loud, but in the few seconds I allow myself to pause, I realize it doesn’t need to be said at all.

I’ve become a mindful eater and spender and now realize that most decisions in my life don’t have to be immediate. I relish in the joy of pondering.

Here’s the manual for operating your internal pause button.


1. Recognize the trigger.

Notice when sensations are building inside of you. Maybe it's a rising heat in your body, a pulse in your head, a knot in your stomach, or a tightening in your chest.

Recognize these triggers as signs to activate your internal pause button.

In an argument, notice your ego rising up to defend its position. A simple awareness of the ego is enough to tame it and send it crawling back into its hiding place.

2. Press pause.

Mentally say, “pause,” as if you're reaching for that remote control.

3. Take a deep breath.

Getting a quick hit of extra oxygen to your brain helps you compose your thoughts and brings you into the present moment.

4. Observe.

For interactions with people, just hold off and listen. There’s no rule that you have to say anything immediately. Notice the thoughts that go through your mind and simply observe them without attachment.

To curb impulse eating or spending, rewind to a goal you’ve set yourself around this kind of situation or a mantra you’ve created. Fast forward to the best possible outcome. How do you want this to pan out?

Again, allow yourself to simply observe the thoughts that pass through your mind.

5. Press play.

Now you're ready to act. Mindfully.

You may be thinking, “Sounds great in theory, but in the heat of the moment all of that is going to take too long!”

Yes, it may feel like that at first. If you're hard-wired to react immediately, it's a case of reminding yourself that it's ok to wait.

Giving yourself even a few extra seconds before reacting can make a difference. Pressing the pause button gives you a chance to rewind, make a good choice, and then press play again to continue in a better way.

It puts the power into your own hands to make good decisions and take control of your life. You gain deeper relationships and learn so much more by talking less and listening more.

Just because you think it doesn’t mean you have to say it.

About Kelly Pietrangeli

Kelly Pietrangeli is the creator of Project Me for Busy Mothers, helping women find a happier balance between the kids - and everything else. Mixing practicality with self-awareness, Kelly helps mothers get on top of their endless to-do’s and see life beyond the laundry pile. Grab her free Life Wheel Tool for discovering what needs your focus first.

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