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How to Create a Mindful Approach to Your Health
Do you feel like you’re struggling to keep up with our modern fast-paced lifestyle? If so, you’re definitely not alone. It seems as though we quicken our collective pace with each year that passes. And no matter who you are, you’ll have times when you’re struggling to keep up.
It has become the norm to move quickly from one project to the next without paying your own body or mind any attention. Most of us don’t take any time to think about the impact of our actions on our physical being.
But when you practice mindfulness, you can become more aware of yourself and your own needs. From knowing when to stop eating to realizing when it’s time to take a break at work, a mindful approach can help you become a healthier person, mentally and physically.
There are many things we do out of habit or ritual, and we rarely stop to think about them. For example, you may binge watch your favorite show on Netflix while consuming an entire bag of Doritos. On a deep level, you know these things are bad for your health, but you let yourself run on autopilot.
If you stopped in that moment and asked yourself, “What am I doing?”, you may not continue that habit for very long. If you were mindful of each chip passing your lips, or what's going on in the room around you, you may not eat as much or watch as long.
Mindfulness forces you out of autopilot, so you can take stock in what’s happing in the moment. Mindful eating, in particular, can help you evaluate and change destructive behaviors by forcing you to become more aware of why you're eating. If you have an unhealthy relationship with food, mindfulness can bring this to light.
When you apply mindfulness to your health, you can start making more conscious choices instead of following one emotionally-based decision after another.
When you use a mindful approach to health and nutrition, you may:
- Explore your own likes and dislikes
- Become aware of your body’s cues
- Choose foods, exercises and spiritual practices to nourish the mind, body and soul
Health Benefits of Mindful Eating
The research on mindfulness is mounting, and researchers have even studied its correlation to health.
One Oregon Research Institute study found that mindful eating can lead to significant changes in eating behavior, weight and psychological stress in obese patients. The same study also showed that mindful eating led to a decline in binge eating, depressive symptoms, and anxiety.
According to a six-week pilot study at the Oregon Research Institute, “eating focused mindfulness-based intervention can result in significant changes in weight, eating behavior, and psychological distress in obese individuals.” Results also showed a decline in binge eating, anxiety, and depressive symptoms.
How to Practice Mindful Eating
Mindful eating is a practice that helps you become aware of exactly what your body is doing while you’re eating. It’s like a combination of meditating and eating. As you eat mindfully, you’ll focus all your attention on the sights, sounds and sensations associated with the food you’re eating. You’ll then focus your energy towards digestion.
Your goals with mindful eating are to become more attuned to your body's internal cues about hunger and satiety. You’ll want to pay closer attention to the quality of food and food enjoyment. And, ultimately, you will attempt to identify any triggers you have associated with food.
Now that you understand the whys of mindful eating, let’s cover some tips to eating mindfully.
Take it one meal at a time
Don’t get overwhelmed with mastering the art of mindfulness. Simply do your best to become more mindful at each meal. Pay close attention to hunger cues, and only eat when you’re hungry. Eat slowly so you can savor each bite and give your body time to send signals of satiety. Recognize them and stop eating when you start feeling satisfied.
You can’t always lock yourself away in a quiet room to eat, but this would be ideal to start. Try to sit in a quiet place alone to eat when you first start practicing mindfulness. If you’re at work, you may want to eat at an off time or take your lunch to your car. Over time, you’ll be able to eat mindfully anywhere.
Don’t judge yourself
There really is no right or wrong way to eat, so don’t be judgmental. Even if you’re feeling like you’re not getting it right, just refocus on the tastes and sensations associated with eating. You’ll naturally become more mindful over time.
Savor each bite
Take a small piece of food onto your utensil or into your hand. Evaluate how it looks, smell the aroma of it, and then slowly place it in your mouth. Before you chew, notice the sensation and taste of the food in your mouth. Then, continue paying attention as you slowly begin to chew.
How to Adopt a Mindful Approach to Health
Once you get the idea of mindful eating, you can apply the same principles to other areas of your health and wellness. You can become mindful as you exercise, meditate and interact with others.
Mindfulness is easy to practice, but it can be challenging to master, so be sure to practice patience with yourself as you go through this transition.
Through practice, you can find ways to tune into your body and it will soon become closer to your natural state. It may become so natural, in fact, that you’ll notice changes in all area of your life that you may or may not be able to attribute to mindfulness. You’ll feel stress and tension melt away as you start making choices that align with your health.
You’ll also begin to distance yourself from unhealthy habits that are detracting from your health. You may open your mind to discover alternative therapies for any ailments you may have. When you start paying close attention to what goes into your body, you may not be as excited about taking prescription medications.
Overall, mindfulness can help you start taking better care of every area of your life.
About the Author
Trevor is a freelance writer and recovering addict and alcoholic who's been clean and sober for over 5 years. Since his recovery began, he has enjoyed using his talent for words to help spread treatment resources, addiction awareness, and general health knowledge. In his free time, you can find him working with recovering addicts or outside enjoying about any type of fitness activity imaginable.