Lots of us now practice mindfulness – the practice of present moment awareness, using techniques like meditation, breathing and yoga. Whilst research is still growing in the area, evidence has already shown real benefits to health and wellbeing and to helping people with stress, anxiety, depression and even to overcome substance abuse. In 2017, the NHS officially recognized mindfulness and began using it to help patients control depression, anxiety and levels of chronic pain.
...evidence has already shown real benefits to health and wellbeing and to helping people with stress, anxiety, depression and even to overcome substance abuse.
But, whilst many of us may now fit some form of mindfulness into our daily routine, how many of us eat mindfully? Well, it might be worth giving it a go as new research has shown that eating mindfully improves digestion, regulates our appetites and helps us enjoy food more. It’s even said that it can help us make better food choices and stop overeating. So, how do we get started?
What is mindful eating?
Eating mindfully just means being completely present when we eat – simply paying attention to eating and being aware of it, away from the TV or your phone.
How do you do it?
Here’s a super simple six step guide to practicing eating mindfully.
Always sit down to eat.
How often have you had to grab a sarnie on the go and ended up jogging down the street stuffing crumbs into your mouth? Well this goes against everything eating mindfully stands for. Even if you’re just having a snack, try to take a minute to sit down to eat it.
Take time to eat.
Try and eat slowly. Do not gobble down your food! Whether you’re at the dining table or at your desk, try to take your time. Chew it slowly allowing your brain to recognize that you’re eating and in turn, when you’re full. The quicker you gulp your food down, the longer it will take and so will allow the possibility of overeating.
Turn off your computer.
And the TV. And your phone. This is especially important when you’re eating al desko. Allow yourself ten minutes without your computer or your phone as a distraction. Focus your attention on the fact you’re eating and that you have allowed yourself that time.
... the NHS officially recognised mindfulness and began using it to help patients control depression and anxiety.
Eat in silence every so often.
Slightly easier to do this when you’re at home, but on a sunny day, try and take a few minutes away from your desk to find a bench outside and put away your phone. Eating in silence, similarly to eating without something visual in front of us distracting us, allows us to think in more detail about what we’re eating and how we’re eating it.
Make sure you're eating because you're hungry.
For all of us emotional eaters, it’s easy to mistake being bored or stressed for being really hungry. If you think you may be feeling a different trigger, try and go for a short walk or use another distraction.
Ask yourself how this meal will nourish you.
Have a look about what you’re about to eat. Is it something that will satisfy you for a long time? Will it nourish you? We eat with our eyes too, so really looking and paying attention to what your food looks like will focus your body.
And when you’re done, give yourself a minute. Don’t jump up into your next activity. Bringing your body back to a restful state aids digestion. It’s also good to bring your mind round to the fact you’re full. If you become mentally aware of this, you’re much less like to grab something naughty half an hour later!
So that’s eating mindfully. And hey, even if you don’t fancy embracing all of these steps completely, why not try and eat that sarnie a little slower anyway. Life is fast paced as it is, why rush one of the things most of us enjoy the most!