What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the state and act of being deliberately conscious about your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors within your surroundings. It is a state of being aware and observant while withholding judgmental analysis and critique. This is done by focusing on one’s physical presence, breathing, and environment while allowing the thoughts and feelings pass through you via meditation. Meditation is the process of relaxing the mind and body through controlled breathing and releasing the tension from within the body. Built up tension is often the result of avoidance of thoughts and feelings.
People, in general, have a hard time with mindfulness in Western societies, because there is such a huge focus on productivity and balancing a busy schedule that relaxing and self-reflection often get pushed into our lower priorities. This means that sometimes we get so wrapped up in the rush of life that we become overly stressed and pick the fastest and most convenient way to do things despite it not always being the healthiest option. This is quite prevalent in the standard American diet of prepackaged and processed foods which are heavy on the simple carbohydrates and fats.
What is Mindful Eating?
Mindful eating is the act of applying mindfulness to how we eat and our nutrition. Remember, how we think and feel have a significant impact on our behavior and how we cope. When we are not in touch with our thoughts and emotions, we will tend to say and do things without much reflection and often neglect what our bodies are trying to tell us. This manifests itself through stress eating/overeating, nutritional deficiencies, depressed mood, and/or overlooking other health issues.
Here are five practical steps for mindful eating:
- Assess your intent for eating – Are you hungry, bored, sad, socializing?
- Assess your mood and hunger level – are you sad, stressed, happy or neutral? How hungry are you?
- Start out with smaller portions – picking smaller portions will allow you to think about what you’re eating instead of aiming to finish off the plate.
- Eat slower and pay attention to the texture and taste of the meal, which is called savoring.
- Pay attention to what your body is trying to tell you. – How does your body feel?
Although there is a focus on paying attention to what one eats, it is also important to enjoy the food and not get too bogged down on the details. This can actually become the opposite of mindful eating if you are focusing on perfectionism and critiquing your technique. Mindfulness is an ongoing process and not just something that is mastered and forgotten. When we allow ourselves, the mind becomes a vehicle for a stream of consciousness (thoughts and feelings that just flow through our minds which aren’t tied down into “shoulds”, “coulds”, and expectations).
What Are Some Tools for Mindful Eating?
Pay attention to your thoughts and feelings – we can fall into the trap of eating whatever is in front of us without putting much thought into it. Or we stress eat as a way to distract ourselves from our problems.
Savor the food and company – take the time to enjoy the taste and texture of the food you’re eating instead of treating eating as a task to be quickly checked off the list. This can also be applied to company. When we focus on the people around us instead of being on our phones, we will tend to be more mindful of our surroundings and our behaviors.
Engage in self-care – although life can get busy, it is important to take time for yourself on a regular basis so that you stay in touch with your thoughts and emotions rather than being on autopilot. This helps us to stay more conscientious of what we are doing and eating.