You’ve probably heard about the many benefits of meditation, but what do you do when you don’t have time to sit in lotus for half an hour?
Life is busy, and finding even a few quiet moments can feel impossible sometimes.
However, we don’t have to close our eyes and focus on our breath to cultivate mindfulness. In fact, we can become more observant, thoughtful, and aware every time we sit down for a meal. It’s called mindful eating, and it’s here to rock your world.
Here are just a few ways this simple practice can teach us how to savor our life and food a bit more:
1. Slow Down
It takes about 20 minutes from the time you start eating for your brain to recognize that your stomach is full. Yet, most Americans finish their food way before the 20-minute mark. Their speedy, mindless eating habits can easily cause them to overeat and develop serious health issues like diabetes and obesity.
Mindful eating, on the other hand, teaches you to slow down and truly enjoy food—and your life. Instead of rushing through meals and other seemingly tedious chores, you learn to pump the brakes and make a conscious effort to move slowly, with intention. Even in uncomfortable situations, you can choose to savor the challenge and see beauty in the otherwise mundane parts of life.
2. Practice Awareness
Mindful eating is all about developing awareness of the mind-body relationship. However, becoming more aware of how your diet impacts the rest of the world is equally important. In fact, many yogis and holistic health experts choose to follow a vegan diet after practicing mindful eating. That’s because meat, dairy, and other animal products are often unsustainable and can have negative effects on your health and the environment.
While you don’t have to go so far as to restrict your diet, you can pay attention to where your food—and every other product you use—comes from. For instance, you might choose free-range eggs over caged ones, or local, seasonal produce over imported goods. In doing so, you’ll develop more conscious, sustainable habits that can trickle over into every other part of your life.
3. Prioritize Needs
It’s totally acceptable to indulge in sweets or a big bowl of mac and cheese from time to time. However, if you do so mindfully, you’ll likely notice that these foods don’t make you feel so great. Sure, you’ll experience a sugar high, but the subsequent crash will leave you feeling sluggish or even sick. It’s in these moments that you must listen to your body and make a wiser choice next time.
Instead of focusing on extrinsic rewards, which are fleeting and fuel bad habits, try to engage with the process and its intrinsic value. Then, you can choose foods based on nutrition rather than comfort. As you do, you’ll disentangle yourself from old habits and redirect your focus to more satisfying endeavors, including simply savoring life’s moments. Already, scientific evidence is backing these claims as studies show that mindfulness can lead to long-term change, regardless of other lifestyle interventions.
4. Stay Present
Slowing down and practicing mindful eating also allows you the space and time to be present. In these moments, you’ll experience a deep connection to the here and now because both your body and brain will be in the same place. Instead of letting your mind wander, you’ll use it to tune in to sensations. What does each bite look, smell, taste, and feel like?
The art of noticing and staying present can mitigate certain eating disorders because you’ll become more in tune with your body. However, it can also teach you to stay present in every other situation. With your thoughts on the task at hand, there’s no telling what you’ll create or discover.
5. Be Consistent
The new work-from-home lifestyle has made it incredibly easy for people to rummage through their fridge and pantry all day. Yet, constant snacking and eating at random times and places can discourage mindful eating. Moreover, it can create unhealthy habits that ruin both your consistency and productivity.
Renew your determination and cultivate mindfulness by meal prepping and planning specific times and places to eat. As you adapt to a new eating schedule, your body will go on autopilot so you can be present with sensations without worrying about whatever you have to do next.
Eventually, your consistency will pay off and help you create routines in other areas of your life, which will only help you be more mindful overall.
6. Give Yourself Grace
Once you notice the benefits of mindful eating, you’ll want to bring the same awareness to every area of your life. However, it’s rather difficult to be mindful all the time, especially when you first begin. Therefore, it’s best to start small and focus on one thing at a time. Then, give yourself grace when your focus shifts.
This is the true essence of mindfulness: observing and accepting what is, without judgment, and gently guiding your mind back to the here and now whenever it starts to wander.
The more you practice this concept through mindful eating, the more apt you’ll be to incorporate it in every other part of your life so you can savor every moment and experience real, lasting joy. The kind that comes from within.