Last week I got to chatting about mindfulness with a friend of mine who had just bought a mindfulness colouring book. The book is designed to offer an exercise in mindfulness that draws on the person's creativity and hones their focus. The idea is that the drawer meditates on their artwork as they colour. Such a cool idea and definitely something that I would like to try out.
I first came across mindfulness as past of my yoga practice and immediately loved the idea. For anyone who isn't familiar with the concept, mindfulness is about focusing our awareness on the present moment and being conscious and aware of the present, including our feelings, thoughts and body sensations. I try to practice mindfulness in alot of what I do and have really brought it into my everyday life. It's a constant effort with so much distractions everywhere, but I find it brilliant for easing stress and anxiety. One area where I struggle a little is in the physical act of eating. While I am very mindful in my food choices, chosing healthy wholefoods and preparing them in ways that maintain the nutrients and make them easy to digest and absorb, I am not so mindful in the actually physical act of eating my food.
As I got to thinking about this, it dawned on me that perhaps I am not getting the full benefit of the healthy and carefully prepared food that I eat. Perhaps, I am losing some of the benefit of this healthy food by the way in which I eat it. This would be a real shame considering the amount of effort I put into my food choices. I sometimes eat very quickly, taking large mouthfuls and not chewing my food properly. Very often I don't concentrate on eating, instead focusing on my laptop, my phone or the television or making notes about new plans, or 'to do lists. Before I know it, I have eaten my entire dinner without actually realising it.
So while I feel I have the type of food I eat pretty much under control (although there is always room for improvement), I am not as happy with the manner in which I eat this food. In an effort to address this, I have decided to set myself some mindful eating exercises and really work on this area of my eating. For this weekend's musings post I thought I would share these exercises with you and maybe you can join me in an Honest Project group mindful eating challenge.
Mindful Eating Exercises
1. Make the act of eating a priority.
This exercise is not about making healthy food choices and food preparation a priority as I think I already do this. It is about the actual act of eating. I am really going to try and make time for eating, eating slowly and really thinking about what I am doing. This means chewing my food properly and not scoffing it down quickly. It also means sitting upright while eating and not slouching.
2. Start each meal with some slow deep breaths and a body scan.
Exercise number 2 is to start each meal by closing my eyes, taking some slow deep breaths and performing a body scan. A body scan is a means of checking in with our bodies and any feelings or sensations. In yoga and meditation, I spend up to ten minutes doing a body scan, but before eating, I thought I would take about a minute to try and focus on my body, starting at my toes and working myself up to the crown of my head. The idea is to identify any areas of tension and try to relax them before starting to eat. I want my body to be as relaxed and stressfree as possible for digesting lots of healthy and delicious food.
3. Removing distractions while eating.
I want my concentration to be on the act of eating and not on anything else such as the laptop or the television. Of course I love a good movie night and having some healthy treats while watching a movie. But for normal breakfast, lunch and dinner, my aim is to turn off the television and put away the laptop and phone and devote my total consciousness to the food that I am eating.
4. Have a mini rest after eating.
Our bodies use energy digesting food and therefore I am all in favour of having a little rest after meals. As most of us have pretty busy schedules, taking an hour to sit down and relax after each meal is totally unrealistic. But 5-10 minutes after each meal is much more achievable. So mindful eating exercise number 4 is to sit still for 5 minutes after a meal and allow myself time to relax before rushing back to whatever chore is next on my to do list.
5. Chose to eat lunch alone at least once a week.
I love sitting down to food with family and friends. It is one of my favourite things to do. But I think eating alone and quietly from time to time can be really useful. By doing this, you are can really think about the food you are eating and have some quiet time. As I don't work in an office and usually have lunch at home, it's quite easy for me to do this. But for anyone working in an office, I think one way of doing this is to ring fence one lunchtime a week where you don't meet friends, you don't go for lunch with a colleague, you don't eat in front of your desk, or, you don't rush around doing chores. Instead, take youself to a quiet cafe or park on your own and spend the hour by yourself having some alone time and concentrating on your eating.
The great thing about these exercises is that by focusing on the act of eating, we are much more likely to make healthier choices in terms of the foods that we choose to eat. I am really going to make a big effort to do these exercises and I really hope you will too. It's all about the mindful eating xx