Let me start this by saying, I just had to turn my phone over and move into a different room of the house to be ALL IN while writing this post about mindfulness. The topic is one that is near and dear to my heart. Last week I took a much needed getaway with the fam to a beautiful home in upstate NY. I felt calm and centered the minute I took a deep breath of that fresh country air. While I was up there I was perusing the book collection in our rental and came across a pocket sized book called “The Little Book of Mindfulness.” It was indeed little and a perfect reminder to be totally present on this time away with my crew.
The way most of us are living in this day and age means constant stimulation by several things at once. It is very hard to fully enjoy one thing at a time when there are too many tabs open everywhere from our brain to our desktop. What does this mean for our health? Well for one thing it means stress and burnout are running rampant.
These factors play a major role in:
Why we get sick – stress messes with our gut which messes with our immune system. Think getting more colds, tension headaches, stomachaches in the day to day. In a more long term situation high stress levels can lead to serious illnesses such as heart disease, depression, anxiety, diabetes and certain cancers.
Why we have weight gain – mindless eating as many of us eat lunch at our computer not even chewing our food. This leads us to overeating because we are not paying attention to our body signaling that we are full. Other people sometimes skip meals because they are too busy but then the next meal is a total binge.
Why our mental health is suffering – not focusing on the task or situation at hand leads to sky rocketing cortisol levels, overwhelm and anxiety. It is hard to appreciate what we have when we are constantly in go mode and not fully enjoying the moment. We have all been there, hanging out with a friend that we haven’t seen in a while but checking our email / going through our mental grocery list / wondering when our next car payment is due etc. What about when you down your hot coffee that has now turned cold only because you want a caffeine jolt but you have not savored one bit of the way you intended to in the first place?
There is one science backed way to bring our stress levels down, raise our gratitude, avoid burnout and benefit our health to the max. It is the practice of Mindfulness. This is a bit of a buzzword in the wellness world but don’t assume it is just a trend. This can be practiced on a broad spectrum from yoga and meditation to tai chi. For the sake of simplicity lets keep it to this, the word mindfulness is derived from the Pali word sati, which means having awareness, attention, and remembering (Bodhi, 2000)*. These words: awareness, attention and remembering speak volumes in our efforts to be present.
As a health coach, most of my clients goals and concerns are focused around food – what to eat, how much to eat, what not to eat etc. I challenge all of those who want to start eating better to first start eating mindfully. What does eating mindfully mean?
-Before eating and in between meals drink water, enjoy how refreshing it is and really feel it hydrate you. This way your body will not confuse hunger and thirst.
-Start each meal or snack with a simple “why am I eating this?” Is it because you’re hungry or because you’re bored. This will also bring your attention to the food and take your eyes off of your phone or computer.
– Show gratitude. While many of us are lucky to choose what we want to eat, there are many people who are not so lucky. Be grateful for the food, the person who bought the food, the farmers who grew the food, the person who cooked the food etc.
-Slow down and savor it. Enjoy all of the details, flavors, textures, spices and ingredients. More often than not your food is made with love.
When you chew slowly and thoroughly you not only enjoy your food more but you aide your body in the digestion process. What is the rush?
-If you eat something indulgent be fully present while you eat. Again, take your time eating. Let it be indulgent and delicious rather than rushed and not thoroughly enjoyed. If I am ever eating ice cream you better believe I am truly enjoying every last bite S L O W L Y. You will not feel deprived if you truly enjoy those moments. Remember, there is room for comfort food when you are mindful about your diet as a whole.
-Take note on how you feel as you eat and after you eat. This is a top notch way to notice what foods work for your body.
-Lastly, when you eat – eat. Do not watch TV, do not sit at your desk, do not keep your eyes glued to your phone. Be present.
Let’s all make an effort to be mindful every day. Even if it is 2 minutes of conscious breathing before you start your day, being grateful for the food on your table, or doing one task at a time during the work day. If nothing else, leave your phone in another room for one hour. Start somewhere, anywhere but just start.
If you are hoping to make mindful eating a part of your daily life email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a copy of my mindful eating food diary.
*Bodhi, B. (2000). A comprehensive manual of Adhidhamma. Seattle: BPS