How to Become More Mindful
By Barb Brathwaite, RN MSN CS
Do anything day after day, every single day for a period of time and before long, it's bound to become a habit. Eating is no different. When was the last time you really paid attention to what you ate? We’re all guilty of rushing through our meals without enjoying them the way we should.
But, what if we made a habit of being more mindful of when, why and how we eat? Instead of plowing through a bag of pretzels, what if we take our time and listen to what our body is telling us. The trick is to commit to doing these things habitually, then this mindful approach could mean less overeating and more enjoyment of your food.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a state of mind occurring when we pay attention to the present moment. This means focusing on our senses, thoughts, feelings, and worries-- letting our thoughts enter our mind and calmly accepting and allowing them, without judgment. Allow them in and let them pass. Think about your surroundings. Keep returning to the present. Focus on the moment.
Applied to eating, mindfulness means simply paying attention to the food you are eating. Notice the colors, smells, flavors, and textures of your food. Savor the flavors, eat slowly to allow yourself to enjoy each and every bite. Appreciate the health benefits of the food. Think about how you are nurturing yourself with healthful food. When we focus on eating, we are much more aware of our feelings of hunger, fullness, and satisfaction. And, as a result, we feel more content and tend to eat less.
Many of us eat when we are anxious, stressed, or upset. Mindfulness helps to reduce negative emotions which allows us to make better choices and to eat healthier meals.
Here are a few mindful eating tips to try:
1. Before eating, pause, and focus on the present moment for a while.
2. Think about how you are feeling right now. Are you upset, stressed, angry, lonely, tired? Do you want to eat in response to any of these emotions? Think about it.
3. Remove distractions while eating like watching TV, going through the mail, reading, or talking on the phone. When we eat while doing other activities, we tend to eat mindlessly.
4. Make mindful food choices every time you eat. Consciously choose what you want to eat.
5. Pay attention to what you put in your mouth. Ask yourself, “Do I need to keep eating?”, and “Am I satisfied?”.
Eating mindfully can have a very positive effect on our well-being and our health when we make it a habit. But, it does take practice. Like with anything else, the more you practice mindfulness, the more it will become second nature and the better you’ll get at doing it.
Just remember, old habits are often hard to break. Those familiar behaviors call us when we are upset or stressed. We may go back to them because they provide comfort. But, if we are mindful of them, it will be much easier to just say no.
Now don’t think of making mindfulness your New Year’s resolution. It is November and with all of the holidays in front of us, mindfulness will be your key to avoiding weight regain. So start today and your habit of mindfulness will be a part of your life before the New Year.