The concept of mindfulness has quickly grown over the past few years. While this practice is relatively new to us in the U.S, mindfulness has always been an essential aspect of the 2500 year old tradition of Buddhist psychology.
To be mindful means to be fully aware of what is happening in the present moment including our thoughts, feelings, both emotionally and physically. We observe them without making judgments.
If someone is unaware of how to be mindful and feeling sad about something, they may well reach for food in an effort to find comfort. They then proceed to eat that whole bag of chips. Then they bash themselves for doing it.
A mindful person may say “Wow I ate the whole bag! I thought it might help me feel better but it didn’t work and I am now feeling sick on top of everything else! Next time I will call an empathetic friend who is a good listener.”
Note there is no negative self talk or judgment. They simply took a step back to observe what happened and offered themselves grace.
The practice of mindfulness is effective in helping us cope with life when it gets hard.
This article focuses on how we can use mindfulness to help us achieve our ideal health, fitness and weight goals.
We will learn how exercise can be more effective and how to gain more satisfaction and pleasure from a meal, and lose weight if we feel a need to, without dieting which has been shown not to be effective long term.
To exercise mindfully means to exercise with awareness. Often we are operate on autopilot. Our minds are in one place, our bodies in another.
We try to escape the unpleasant feelings associated with exercise such as a burning sensation or fatigue in the muscles. We play music, read or talk on the phone while on the treadmill and never increase the speed or intensity to avoid pain!
When we pay attention to exercise it becomes more effective. We learn to push through the pain, working harder each time as it gets easier making the workout worthwhile.
We also look and feel better about ourselves. When we just go through the motions discouragement can sets in when we don’t see the results we were hoping for.
To eat mindfully means to eat with awareness. We experience hunger pangs and respond by choosing to eat soon after. True hunger can be described as a burning feeling or emptiness in the pit of the stomach, and maybe accompanied by a headache or irritability if we wait too long to eat.
If we are mindful that we begin to think about what food would satisfy our hunger and soon after go and get it. We take time to eat slowly, enjoy each bite and stop eating when we feel satisfied, even if there is leftover food on the plate.
In a perfect world we would all practice eating mindfully daily but because of our busy schedules many of us tend to eat as fast as we can, mindlessly and not even tasting the food.
Worse still we skip meals altogether until we get home and notice suddenly that we are famished. We go to the refrigerator to find anything and everything we can to fill our stomachs.
We end up over eating because the brain which is responsible for sending satiety signals to the stomach will not send them in order to get us to eat more so we get the nutrients our body needed during the day.
We keep eating never feeling full. Skipping meals can also lower our metabolism making it very hard to lose weight.
When we are mindful we enjoy the present moment because we are not wasting time regretting the past which we can’t do anything about or worrying about the future which is not here yet.
Mindfulness is also useful in helping us to workout more effectively. We get better results and gain self efficacy. Mindfulness can also be helpful when we are trying to change our eating habits and lose weight.
The practice of mindfulness is effective in helping us to cope with life when it is hard and can lead us to living happier, healthier and more fulfilled lives.