By Saffie Ng
Our new social challenges of lockdown, global solidarity and beyond, drive us to seek ways to cope with waves of intense emotions. We shop, feast on a private mountain of potato chips, binge-watch Netflix, deep dive into virtual worlds… Unconsciously, we do everything to avoid discomfort and engage our spiritual and emotional crises. Little do we realise that deep down we have a strong hunger for a more considered life (to truly live life to its fullest) instead of sitting with that feeling of groundlessness and lack of control.
“Always look on the bright side of life”. No matter how living has been radically changed, there are upsides as well. Our new hermit lifestyle gives us significant amounts of extra time to reflect and explore new contemplative practices, like mindfulness and meditation. It also offers great opportunity to rethink our habits and routines and make changes to strengthen our forces and keep fighting for a better future.
So, what is Mindfulness and Mindful Eating?
Mindfulness is no longer a mystical concept nor an esoteric practice. It is a powerful activity that can fit into our day-to-day routine and can be as simple as taking a few deep breaths to help our days be better. A simple explanation of mindfulness is “compassionate and intentional awareness”.
Which means, we deliberately pay attention to our internal feelings, thoughts, our bodily sensations, our surroundings and the people around us, with an attitude of kindness. This tenet of mindfulness applies to mindful eating as well. As a mindfulness teacher and certified health nutrition coach, mindful eating is my favourite practice to teach. Perhaps you will agree with me, eating is a pleasurable experience we LOVE to do always. It is a very easy practice (as we eat few times a day) and we can turn eating into a far richer experience every day. All we have to do is to be fully present when we are eating and eat what we are truly hungry for. When we are eating intuitively, we are nourishing not just our physical needs but satisfying our deeper feelings.
It’s very simple to do this every day and bring this attentive awareness into smaller rituals through our daily eating habits. I have narrowed this down into 5 fun activities that can easily fit into our routine – regardless of culture and diet:
- Mindful Grocery Shopping
To begin eating mindfully, we should rewind a little to bring our attention to our food choices. Our primal instinct drives us to eat to survive; the more food we see, the more we eat. That means when food is around, we eat it. Needless to say, it is crucial to pay attention to what we bring into our kitchen because it will directly affect what we put in our mouth.
Therefore, we should be careful when sourcing our food. Rather than blindly picking the advertised “best deals” from the shops, I find that the most effective way is the old-fashioned shopping list. Whether you use paper and pen or your phone, take the time to write down “What do we need at the store?” Spend time to go through your food choices and consider their health value. Be aware of the thoughts and feelings that arise from each item: whether it’s a wholesome choice or an indulgent one. Listening to these emotions will help you understand the motivation for wanting to buy and eat it. Bring awareness to your decisions and decide what serves you and what doesn’t. Be sure to stick to the list and avoid impulse buying.
- Take time to allow the cooking mediation to unfold
With many of us working from home, we are given more opportunities to cook. Not only is Cooking a method for finding inner peace, the finished product comforts us (when getting a sense of satisfaction for having control over something) as well as bringing joy to the people who is receiving the delicious outcome. For this reason, the process of cooking and eating as a mindful experience is a rewarding one. Rather than swiftly heating up the pan, slow down to absorb each step on hand, it will help banish all the wandering thoughts and reset our mind:
Nature can reveal its beauty in all places and at all times to the eye that knows how to look for it. So slow down your pace and be mindful at each step to observe the uniqueness and beauty of each ingredient. Because, this experience of beauty is one of the bases for valuing nature along with expressing our appreciation to those who dedicate their lives to make our meal. Once you’ve finished considering everything that goes into your meal, it becomes an effortless practice of gratitude and mindfulness.
Eating mindfully is a worthwhile practice that will help us engage with ourselves and give ourselves a better understanding of why we eat the way we do and the thoughts that drive our choices. There are no rules, just be kind to yourself, without judgement. By knowing ourselves more deeply and accepting what has been affecting our eating habit, we allow ourselves to foster a healthier lifestyle. We are cultivating compassionate and purposeful awareness, regaining the feeling of control and most importantly: a real sense of wellbeing and self-care.