Practicing mindfulness during a meal can be a wonderful way to begin to incorporate mindfulness practices into your daily life. In this post I will explore some of the benefits of mindfulness when combined with eating, as well as some strategies to begin practicing.
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A quick look at mindfulness…
Mindfulness is present moment awareness of what is going on around you, but also of what is going on inside of you. When we tune into the present moment, we become aware of things like our self-talk, the way we are carrying our body, how we are feeling in the moment, and it allows us to engage more fully with our senses. When we are not mindful, we may be lost in destructive thoughts, holding onto tension, and generally not attending to ourselves and our lives in an intentional way.
Why practice mindfulness while eating?
A quote by Dr. Ann Wigmore states, “The food you eat can either be the safest and most powerful form of medicine, or the slowest form of poison.” When we approach eating mindfully, we change the way we are relating to food and its role in our lives. Through mindful eating, you can experience a shift toward healthier food choices.
Meal time can become an opportunity for self-care in an otherwise busy day. Because we have to eat each day anyways, this becomes a natural space where we can nurture ourselves and take an opportunity to slow down.
You can enjoy the food you are eating on a deeper level by really noticing the textures and flavors. Eating mindfully means eating more slowly, so taking time to chew your food more thoroughly will also help with the digestive process.
As you eat mindfully, you take time to breathe and relax, noticing how your body is feeling as you eat. When we are relaxed while we eat, we are better able to digest our food. Mindful eating, because it takes longer than many people are used to eating, can also help you with overeating by allowing you to notice when you feel full.
How to get started
Eating mindfully for a whole meal may seem like a daunting task, so you will help yourself be successful by starting with manageable intervals of time to practice. Begin with five-minute stretches and build from there. Pick a meal that you want to practice this during and plan to give yourself time to fully immerse yourself in the experience of eating.
Limit distractions that will take you out of the present moment – that means turn the TV off while eating and put your phone away. If you are sharing a meal with others, it can be helpful if they are aware of your intention to eat mindfully, as they could be a support to you. They may also want to participate!
Engage in the sensory experience of your meal. Notice the appearance, smell, texture, temperature, and taste of the food you are eating. Chew your food thoroughly before swallowing.
Set your eating utensils down between bites – this will help to prevent you from mindlessly putting more food in your mouth before you are finished with your current bite.
Actively relax your body while eating through deep breathing. Take long, slow, deep breaths and release tension on each exhale to help ground you in your body. Awareness of your breathing is an excellent way to bring yourself to the present moment, which is essential during a mindful meal.
The more you practice this skill, the more natural it will begin to feel. When you practice mindfulness in one area of your life, like eating, you will likely notice the benefits in other areas of your life. Mindfulness is a powerful and accessible tool not only to improve your mental health symptoms, but to help you live a more intentional life.
Sarah Tronco, LCSW, provides online counseling in New Jersey and works to develop a strong therapeutic relationship with her clients, which helps to create a secure place where individuals can achieve meaningful change.
Sarah Tronco, LCSW, now also provides Online Counseling in Pennsylvania, contact her to learn more.
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