How many times a week do you eat while getting the kids ready for school during breakfast, working through lunch, or watching TV during dinner? If you’re like most people these days, your meals involve multitasking. However this habit often counteracts the otherwise-healthy routines of an all-natural diet and exercise regimen.
According to a Harvard Medical School publication, mindfulness is the practice of purposely focusing your attention on the present moment, accepting it without judgement, and a key element in finding happiness. Mindful meditation originates from Buddhist traditions, but its principles have been applied to a variety of religions and spiritual beliefs. Its purpose is to enable the savoring of life’s simple pleasures, provide greater capacity to deal with adversity, boost self-esteem, move past worries and regrets, and facilitate connections with other people.
Mindful meditation goes well beyond lofty spiritual and philosophical pursuits, and actually has a direct effect upon nutrition and exercise. Scientists have discovered that mindful techniques that create a state of alertness and focused relaxation by paying individual attention to thoughts and sensations have the following physical health benefits:
- Relieves stress
- Lowers blood pressure
- Reduces chronic pain
- Reduces the risk of heart disease
- Alleviates gastrointestinal issues
- Enables restful sleep
Not only can you improve your diet by incorporating more all-natural organic foods, but you can also improve your eating habits with mindfulness. Due to the prevalence of obesity in American society, researchers have begun experimenting with teaching mindful eating skills to obese individuals. These skills include paying attention to the body’s natural hunger cues, learning to savor food, and overcoming tendencies to overeat during times of craving, stress, or emotional pain. Many dieters try to control their eating through willpower, avoidance, and limits. Mindful eating practice allows you to savor foods instead of avoiding them and depriving yourself, which lends itself to “diet cheating” and giving up on healthy habits.
According to Stephanie Vangsness of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the digestive process is 30-40% less effective when your mind is tuned out during mealtime. Gas, bloating, overeating, and obesity are the most common problems caused by mindless eating, although more serious conditions often follow. The same concept applies to exercise, because is it nearly impossible to half-heartedly burn fat, build muscle, and get fit when you’re distracted.
Tips for Mindful Eating
- Take small bites with your eyes closed and note the sensations in your mouth
- Try eating with chopsticks so that you eat slower and with precision
- Eat with your non-dominant hand for the same reason
- Count how many times you chew your food – aim for 30 to 40 times per bite
- Turn off the TV, put down the newspaper, and close the laptop while eating
- Sit down at a table for meals
- Try to make your meal last about 20 minutes without distraction
To learn more about the meditation side of mindfulness and set your diet and exercise routines up for success, browse through the Vipassana Dhura Meditation Society’s guide on “How To Meditate“.