We all know the phrase “You are what you eat,” but try this one: “You are what you believe.” How much do your thoughts, feelings, and judgements impact your behaviors and overall state of well-being? In short, a lot. The practice of mindfuness is growing in popularity because it emphasizes awareness and acceptance of the present moment. By staying in the moment, we can focus on what we are doing, rather than chastise ourselves for past mistakes, regrets, and negative feelings. And when we start to judge ourselves, which is inevitable, a short mindfulness exercise can quickly take us out of it. Here are two mindfulness exercises to help us stay in the moment and recognize and be grateful for the good things we have.
Eat at a table without distractions. That’s right, turn off the TV and put your smartphone or tablet somewhere else. Notice the time that you start eating your meal. Take a bite of food, and chew 20 to 30 times before swallowing. Close your eyes while you eat each bite to fully notice the taste, smell, and feel.
Put down your fork in between bites. Savor the flavor and consistency: Is it savory, sweet, sour, bitter, rich, or salty? Which bite is most enjoyable? What are the colors of each food? Repeat these steps until your plate is half empty. Notice the clock again. Have 10 to 15 minutes gone by? If not, slow down and wait.
Pay attention to your body. How do you feel before you eat? How can you tell you are hungry? What sensations do you experience? Notice how you feel after each bite. How can you tell when you are full and satisfied? Before each bite, ask yourself, “Do I really want this next bite, or am I mindlessly eating it because it is in front of me?”
Engage in conversations or take a few deep breaths. Aim for 30 minutes to eat your entire meal. Clean off the kitchen table and put flowers, decorative placements, and perhaps even candles on it to remind you that mealtime is meant to be both enjoyable and relaxing.
Use snail mail more often. Write out a thank-you card and send it to your walking buddy. Dedicate a small amount of time per week to write out recognition for work colleagues.
Keep a daily personal journal. Focus on writing down the best part of your day, every day. Expressing gratitude for the people in our lives may help us experience compassion for ourselves. Start focusing on creating positive thoughts, and watch them multiply!