The Search for Happiness…It’s like the Holy Grail! We are obsessed as a people to seek it out everyday. This has been at the base of humanity through the ages, we seek happiness and avoid pain. But, the quest for Happiness has reached new levels in the last few decades as we indulge in all things good, even at the cost of long term consequences. Immediate gratification drives our daily actions, so it’s no surprise that we EAT HOW WE LIVE, and WE LIVE HOW WE EAT! Overfilled plates, foods that don’t nourish, multitasked eating, and fast food options dominate lives. It’s a total reflection of lives that are too full, too fast-paced, spending too much money, unfulfilling relationships, and generally not focused in the moment! It’s time to have a total paradigm shift to MINDFULNESS!

What is Mindfulness you ask? The whole movement was largely popularized through Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program (MBSR), developed  at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in 1979. Rooted in Buddhist traditions of spiritual enlightenment and focused on minimized suffering, Mindfulness has become largely popularized in Western cultures as a way of minimizing psychological, physical, or emotional conditions…stress! What’s great is that the practice of Mindfulness applies to our eating and how we think about nourishing our bodies just as equally as it does to calming the mind. What’s more, they actually go hand in hand!
At the root of Mindfulness is plotting space between your inner mind and your actions. It’s the peaceful place that connects you in a holistic manner so that healthy choices are made, forgiveness is practiced, deliberate actions are performed, and we are able to live fully. I apologize for those of you, who are getting scared over this existential and philosophical jargon. Stick with me here, I’m about to break it down! When you practice Mindfulness, your overall wellness improves, and it really boils down to just a few tweaks in your day, starting with food! Yes, it’s that easy!
Have you ever wondered, “what am I eating for?”…Silly question in and of itself. But, this question is at the underpinning of how you perceive yourself, how you use food to treat yourself, and how you fill your plate to fulfill the answer to those two questions. Case in point, my old daily mantra went something like this, “I need and deserve a Diet Coke!” Who was I kidding? What self-respecting person wakes up in the morning saying they deserve 12 ounces of caramel-colored man-made chemicals and acid? Starting with that mindset, that type of position, I had delineated that my life was bad and that I actually deserved no goodness or anything nourishing. I approached my life with lack of respect.
Enough true confessions! How do you move into Mindfulness in your daily diet? How do you become the Mindful eater, who lives healthfully and therefore eats healthfully! How do you realize, proverbially speaking, that you “deserve the biggest piece of (healthy) cake?!?!” Truly this is a weeklong or lifelong blog, but for today’s purposes, let’s just run down some of the actions to get you started. And, “NO,” we aren’t talking about the “D” word…In fact, DIETS play no role in Mindfulness; they are punitive and restrictive. In fact with these daily actions, your restrictive Diet will fall by the wayside since the principles of Mindful Eating are at the underpinnings of health and wellness.

Here are some strategies to get started on your journey to quiet your mind, to be in the moment, and to listen to your body. They will carry over to mindful eating practices too! After all, you deserve the biggest piece of cake too…or at least the biggest serving of broccoli!

  1. IDENTIFY YOURSELF. Your position in life and how you perceive yourself is executed though our inner voice. Quiet that ugly, old voice. Forgive yourself for short-comings and imperfections, and start talking to yourself with the language of possibility (“I’m an amazing mom to three children!”…”I’m a great runner!” …”I’m a student engaging in a lifetime of wellness!”…”I’m perfectly imperfect!”). It’s not about who you were; it’s about believing what you can become!
  2. BE GRATEFUL. Take a moment each day to close your eyes and to think about the blessings in your life. Before eating, consider the individuals and their actions that brought your food to the table. Be grateful for their work and the journey your food has taken to arrive beautifully on your plate!
  3. ATTEND TO GOODNESS. We spend far too much time consumed with pain and the arduous relationships or stressful tasks in our day. Allowing pain to be the focus, is like watering weeds in the garden. The pain (and the weeds) will surely grow! Consider the good foods on your plate and the goodness in your life; if they aren’t “good,” then fix it!
  4. LIVE IN THE MOMENT! Breath, meditate, and bring uniqueness to each moment. Before cooking, light a candle, put on soft music, put the phone  and TV aside. As you eat, notice if you are becoming full and satiated. Recognize if the flavors, textures, and tastes are fulfilling. Keep a journal if needed to track cues leading to food or beverage indulgences or binges.
  5. BE INTENTIONAL. Plan your day to include moments, which nourish your soul. Look at your food as you are choosing it. Read the label’s ingredients and nutritional facts.
  6. ACT AS IF YOU HAD GUESTS. Move slowly. Put electronics aside for periods of time. Plate your food on something nice, Sit down to eat, eat slowly, savoring each bite. Look at your food and focus on its flavor using small bites and by putting your fork down between each bite.
  7. CHECK IN WITH EMOTIONS. Before actions, pause to identify and perhaps verbalize what you are feeling. Ask yourself if you are acting out of good or bad emotion or out of needs. With hunger and eating, emotional eating can be squelched by drinking a glass of water, waiting 15 minutes, and then considering whether you are truly hungry.
  8. CELEBRATE THE SMALL VICTORIES. Perfection is the enemy of progress. Aim to be the person you choose to be (tip number 1) and take one small daily action towards that goal. Then celebrate in your daily successes, which accumulate into big changes.
  9. GET CURIOUS. By operating from a place of curiosity, you walk outside of your comfort zone, which inevitably allows self-growth, self-love, and affirmation that perfection is not the goal. Visit your local Health Food Store or Farmer’s Market. Take a dance class. Try a new vegetable (has anyone heard of Monkfruit?) and research a recipe for its preparation.
  10. PUT JUDGEMENT ASIDE. When we stop judging others, we practice more forgiveness for ourselves too. Recognize that your healthful journey is not perfect, only healthy and the less healthy indulgences or actions are done so without guilt.

To make healthy changes in your life and to begin Mindful Living, schedule your free Health Coaching Consultation with Pacer Kristen today.