On a quest to be more mindful, I can openly say I am really not vey good. I reflected on my progress thus far and have found that possibly I am focusing on the wrong types of mindfulness. I am trying to battle against my world instead of embracing the necessities and making change over time. The truth is, this world is not built to bask in the glow of a new day, it is forcing us to jump out of bed, race out the door and slog through a days work with maybe a moment to heat up some food as you work through your lunch hour. The fabric of society constantly wants more from us with very little in return other than stress, worry and anxiety of past or future. Being present is more important than ever, particularly if you are the kind of person who wears multiple hats, but it is incredibly hard to do.
What I have found in my time focusing on my mindfulness failures is that you have to be realistic in the changes you are willing to make. I thought at first that I could be mindful while eating, meditate at mid morning and afternoon and perform gratitude reflection at night, all whilst training, working and maintaining social connections. I was wrong. Like all habit change we need to start small and the changes you see most beneficial have to work with your life. The reality is that multi tasking is sometimes essential to get everything on your to do list done. For instance, I multi task by eating my overnight oats while checking my email once I get to work, but I do this to allow me to fit in 8-9 hours of sleep and a morning workout. Those items are just as essential to my health as mindfulness is. Unhealthy examples of multi tasking include being on my phone, watching Netflix and eating my dinner. The first two are not necessary and habits like this should be avoided. So before you get down on yourself that your constantly multi tasking, rushing or lacking ‘presence’ just think about how you are actually using your time. Can you cut out aspects such as technology/work/your to do list? Where can you do one thing at a time? Once you know what areas of your life are non essential then you can easily find time to fit in a few moments of mindfulness.
There is a way you can incorporate a smidgen of mindfulness practice in your day as a starting point and that is through conscious decisions. Being present, having awareness and using acceptance are all cruxes to mindfulness and are the easiest steps to include in a busy life. Let’s be real here, who has time to sit and ponder the five senses or the journey of your spinach from seed to plant whilst you eat lunch at work? Not many of us. A conscious decision is picking when you will allocate time to mindfulness. So when deciding to eat more mindfully maybe it’s accepting the simple awareness of hunger and fullness at the start, possibly during the meal and when you finish. It’s also probably going to be more realistic to do this at dinner when we are in our own environment. In fact, dinner time and post dinner snacking are one of the most troublesome time for bored or mindless eating. By focusing on changing just one meal time routine at first we can make a gradual habit change and we are more likely to succeed. Autopilot around breakfast and lunch meals can actually be beneficial for willpower. You can aid this process by preparing your meals or choosing what to have ahead of time to ensure you have a healthy option available. This will also result in less thinking and ultimately less decision-making. Awareness and presence can still be practiced at these meal times by simply rating your hunger, pausing before the first mouthful with a moment of thanks or reflecting on how that food made you feel post meal. These changes are much more realistic to make in our busy world.
Another form of conscious decision is the choice to eat or not to eat. During a drive to get lunch one day a friend of mine asked me about eating even when you’re not hungry and whether it was detrimental to your health. Like all things in nutrition the answer is “it depends”. What I explained to my friend is that I tell my clients to use the elements of mindfulness to make a decision on whether to eat or not. Part of that is hunger and fullness, it is also past experience, knowledge of nutritional requirements and what your body needs. I used the example of a person with strict break times for work or back-to-back meetings. They may have checked in with their hunger scale and not need to eat, but know from past experience that if they don’t eat know they will be ravenous, on verge of hangry, when they get to the next opportunity which may then result in overeating. This person can make the conscious decision to eat using all their available knowledge, experience and inner wisdom. What we want to avoid in our eating habits is eating without a conscious choice particularly out of boredom, something simply being in front of you or because others are eating. This type of eating can often lead to less nutritious choices or simply overeating. Be realistic about the choices or options that you have available and decide to eat or not to eat with full wisdom and acceptance.
Finally, to incorporate mindfulness it may be best to physically schedule it into your calendar or combine it with a task you already do. Often we say “I will do this” but unless it is physically noted down for the world to see it rarely gets done. This could be brushing your teeth, as you arrive home, whilst you walk the dog or after you turn out the lights. Pairing is an easy way to create a new habit ie you do this task when you do that action. It’s easier to keep in the front of our minds particularly when we are new to forming the habit. When you plan your week in advance take the time to note exactly when you will be making time for mindfulness to ensure it doesn’t slip off the schedule.
In essence mindfulness is only hard when we want to go from stress filled, whirlwinds to Zen filled monks. By aiming to make small, realistic and gradual changes that benefit, not hinder our lives we are more likely to succeed. Remember to strike balance between making changes that will fit into your already busy life and the need to make the change to make your life better. Utilise your inner wisdom, knowledge and past experience to make conscious decisions on how you want to live your life. Focus on your small wins over time and you may find them snowballing into bigger changes.
Peace, Love and Food xx