You eat every single day, but how often do you actually pay attention to what you are eating while you are eating it? Do you ever eat while watching TV? While reading a book? Do you usually eat while scrolling through Instagram? Can you scarf down a three-course meal in 12-minutes or less? It’s safe to say that we are all guilty of eating mindlessly some of the time.
Before we jump into the details of mindful eating let’s back up to the underlying concept of mindfulness. If you want more background information on mindfulness practices click here. To be mindful is to maintain a present-moment awareness by fully opening to what is happening in your present experience without judging or resisting it. Mindfulness allows us to cultivate a deep awareness and ability to relax more fully in the present moment. We tend to spend most of our headspace living in the future or the past; regretting a previous encounter, thinking about our task list, or what’s for dinner. Our minds can easily start to control our internal environment if we don’t take over the reins.
It is common for people to experience feelings of stress or anxiety surrounding food in one way or another. Culture and society often put pressure on both ends of the spectrum; if you don’t eat “well” enough it’s shameful, and if you don’t eat dessert at the dinner party you’re an obsessive prude. The stress response can also result in overeating, which can easily turn into a negative feedback loop of shame and stress. Taming your relationship with food can feel daunting and near impossible at times because it can seem hard to maintain control of. The act of eating is a basic instinct of survival and is deeply connected to our most primordial selves. Eating mindfully can help to ground our eating habits and reduce the stress response by redeeming, even elevating the more base qualities of our own nature.
Most of us believe that if we eat what we want, when we want it, we would eat dessert for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. However, the research tells us that when we eat mindfully that is not true. You have an innate desire to eat health-supportive foods that will nourish your body and support your wellbeing long term. Your body is on your team!
Think about what your eating habits were like as an infant. We all come into this world a mindful eater, only eating when hungry and stopping when full. The studies show that individuals who practice mindful eating have an increased preference for healthful foods and decreased preference for less health-supportive foods. Mindful eaters are also less likely to overeat as a response to negative emotions or stress. Taking control of your psychological relationship with food by becoming fully present to it as you eat is an accessible and powerfully healing practice that will change every aspect of your life for the better.
For a deeper dive into mindful eating as well as a short guided practice, grab something to eat and view the supplemental video below.
Are you ready for support with mindful eating, and also get into a regular exercise routine? You are in luck! We would love to invite you to check out our LIVE Epic “At-Home” Coaching Program below, where you can give it a try for 21 days!
Sources: “The Relaxation & Stress Reduction Workbook” by Dr. Martha Davis and Dr. Matthew McKay. Photos taken from Pinterest. The brilliantly zen mind of Thomas McConkie, founder at Lower Lights School of Wisdom.
5-minute Gratitude Practice to Relax & Reboot Your Brain
Why is it important to talk about relaxation?
We talk regularly about various ways to prevent or minimize stress in our lives. If we were perfect at managing our thoughts, time, exercise, finances, sleep, emotions and mother nature, we would always be capable of keeping our stress and anxiety at bay. However, we’re not perfect at these things, and many of them are often out of our control completely. We live in a hectic, fast-paced, go-go-go world, global pandemic or not. Due to the inevitability of experiencing stress,especially during uncertain times such as now, it’s important to have techniques to turn off, or at least tone down, the stress response.
Let’s talk about the word “relaxation.” People often misunderstand or misuse this word. Relaxation is defined as “the state of being free from tension and anxiety.” It’s the restoration of equilibrium following a disturbance.
The relaxation response is the exact opposite of the stress response (AKA fight-or-flight response). There’s a lot of physiology surrounding the stress and relaxation responses I could talk about here that I’ll spare you the details. If you’re interested in learning more about the physiology of what’s going on inside the mind-body connection response to stress and relaxation connect with me and I would be happy to do another post or video.
The relaxation response facilitates an increase in alpha brain waves, which allow us to focus, and, contrary to popular belief, there is actually an increase in physical and mental energy. This is always beneficial to our lives, but especially right now.
4 basic sources of stress
Generally, there are 4 basicsources of stress from which we might currently be experiencing at a heightened level. These sources are taken from “The Relaxation & Stress Reduction Workbook” by Dr. Martha Davis and Dr. Matthew McKay. This is an excellent workbook I highly recommend having as a resource for anyone interested.
Your environment bombards you with demands to adjust. You’re required to endure weather, traffic, noise, a global pandemic or other natural disaster.
You must cope with social stressors such as demands for your time and attention, job interviews, deadlines and competing priorities, work presentations, interpersonal conflicts, financial problems, and the loss of loved ones.
A third source of stress is physiological. The rapid growth of adolescence; the changes menopause causes in women; lack of exercise, poor nutrition, and inadequate sleep; illness, injuries, and aging. All these things tax the body! Your physiological reaction to environmental and social threats and changes can also result in stressful symptoms such as muscle tension, headaches, an upset stomach, anxiety, and depression.
The fourth source of stress is your thoughts. Your brain interprets these complex changes in your environment and body and determines when to turn on the stress response. How you interpret and label your present experience as well as what you predict for your future can serve either to relax you or stress you out more. For example, interpreting a sour look from your boss to mean that you are doing a poor job is likely to be very anxiety-provoking. Interpreting the same look as tiredness or preoccupation with personal problems will not be as frightening. Remember that how you think is how you feel.
Where does stress begin?
Stress researchers argue that stress begins with your appraisal of a situation, meaning that first you ask yourself how dangerous or difficult the situation is. Then, you assess what resources you perceive to have to help you cope with it. More anxious, stressed people tend to decide that (1) an event is dangerous, difficult, or painful, and (2) they don’t have the resources to cope.
Now that we have a better understanding of why and how the stress response is triggered for us, let’s dive deeper into the resources available to create a true relaxation response both mentally and physically.
Over the coming weeks we will review different relaxation techniques and how to practice them whenever and wherever you are. Please know that as you practice your relaxation techniques, you’ll become familiar with how it feels to be truly and deeply relaxed.
Right now, if I were to ask you what you do to relax, you might say that you watch TV, daydream, read a book, apply a face mask, or any other list of activities that are enjoyable and don’t elicit a stress response. However, this is not relaxation. While most of these activities are distractions, they don’t directly target the parts of our nervous system that trigger a relaxation response.
Relaxation is more than just doing something you enjoy, even though as you learn different techniques, you will learn to enjoy them.
Considerations for starting relaxation practice
A good place to start is to practice in short increments of 10-20 minutes per day.
It’s best to seclude yourself to minimize interruptions and background noise. Anything that you can do to minimize distractions will help you stay in the moment and focus on the activity. That said, relaxation practice is a skillful and valuable technique for kids from age 1 to 92. I hope you will consider sharing the various techniques you’ll be testing out with your loved ones at home. I know you will notice a difference in the lives and relationships around you.
Whatever relaxation technique you are testing out, it’s important to keep an open mind. Strip yourself of any expectations and allow the experience to happen. If you don’t think it’s going to work, it probably won’t. If you think it will work, it likely will.
Please know that every technique we’re going to talk about has been proven to elicit a relaxation response. Some of the techniques can seem odd to some people, but if you keep an open mind and allow for the possibility that these practices will help you relax, I promise you will find that there is great power in these activities.
Your attitude plays an important role in maintaining a high degree of mindfulness. This means that you’re engaged in the moment without judging it to be good or bad. Rather than forcing an experience, you’re just allowing it to happen. In other words, you have a passive attitude. Allow and accept. Don’t get frustrated with yourself or the experience.
Not everyone will have the same experience with relaxation practice. Take time to experiment and find what works best for you. For example, different times of day might work for different people. You may find that you get the best relaxation response in the morning so you can calm your mind and get yourself focused for the rest of your day. You might find that the afternoon works better as you start to feel tired and run-down. You may even find it’s best when you’re already in bed to help you fall asleep and get deeper, higher quality rest. Like I said, take time to experiment and find what works best for you.
The goal of stress management and relaxation practice is not merely stress reduction. After all, life would be pretty boring without stress. There is a common tendency to think of stressors or stressful events as negative, but stressors are often positive. The physical exertion of a good workout or the challenge of doing something new for the first time are great examples of good stress.
Performance and efficiency both improve with increased stress as long as the stress level doesn’t become too great. Stress management involves finding the right types and amounts of stress, given your individual tendencies, priorities, personality, and situation, so that you can maximize your performance and enrich your life experience. You can learn how to cope with stress more effectively while including more positive stress, challenge, excitement, and pleasure to your life.
Are you ready to not only relax, but also get into a regular exercise routine now that you are stuck at home, with no gym to go to? You are in luck! We would love to invite you to check out our LIVE Epic “At-Home” Coaching Program below, where you can give it a try for 21 days with ZERO risk!