Being mindful and mindfulness are terms have become more common in our everyday language; however, the practicing mindfulness is not always commonplace. Mindfulness encourages people to engage in conscious awareness of one action that is counter to our fast-drive culture that applauds multi-tasking and outcomes.
So, what does this mean for your healthy journey? Well, mindfulness focuses on the processes that effect our lives, not the outcomes from our actions. This is a key factor that is central to how I coach my clients. People often focus on the "rules" needed for them to achieve specific measure or goals. For some that may be lowering their blood sugar or seeing a 10% reduction in their weight. But, when their measures and outcomes aren't achieved, many people find it hard to sustain the changes they've been working on.
Mindful eating can be an important change for people who often struggle with non-successful dieting. Mindful eating allows you to be fully aware of your food and your focus to be on the experience of eating, and not restrictive intake. Kabat-Zinn, a pioneer in mindful eating research, identified seven attitudes associated with this practice (excerpted below):
Nonjudging. The first thing you encounter with this experience is your judgments about raisins. Do you like them or not? We have all had experience with raisins, and therefore we have judgments. To start the process of eating by setting aside our experience of the food is our first challenge. Awareness of our judgments is one critical element of mindfulness.
Patience. It is obvious that one must be patient to eat mindfully. It takes time to be aware moment by moment. Rather than the usual method of eating raisins, which is to throw a handful of raisins in your mouth, chew a few times, and swallow, you are slowing your process dramatically for the full experience, letting the experience unfold rather than racing through it.
Beginner’s mind. Approaching your experiences just as a baby does (taking one taste, having one look, feeling an object, smelling it, and listening to it) allows you to experience them anew and to be open to whatever they mean in the here and now.
Trust. With full awareness of our own experience and acceptance of it as true for us, we develop more self-trust. This is our experience; we do not have to have the same experience as anyone else. By noticing and appreciating what we feel and our responses to different foods, we become more accepting of ourselves and therefore more trusting.
Nonstriving. This is clearly in contrast to “diet minded,” which is all about striving for weight loss. Because no specific outcomes are being measured, you as an eater are allowed to be in the moment and to fully appreciate the experience. No effort is required to make something happen; whatever happens for the individual is what happens. There is no expectation of a particular outcome.
Acceptance. Developing a willingness to notice what happens and accept it is at the core of the mindfulness process. This might mean accepting positive things like the amazing taste of just one raisin or accepting more challenging experiences such as our own judgments about our distaste for raisins as we place one between our lips. It is acceptance of whatever comes up in the moment—the difference between full presence and distraction. It is what it is.
Letting go. Mindful eating involves letting go of past expectations such as letting go of resentment we harbor about being made to eat raisins as a child when we really wanted a piece of chocolate. Letting go of whatever we have become attached to allows us new experiences in the here and now without judgment based on past experiences.
To read the full article from this excerpt, click here.
It can take time to put this skill into practice. However, the path to mindfulness starts with taking the time to become aware and the desire to make changes. Below is a graphic I like to show my clients to introduce them to this practice. I hope you utilize this as you work towards your new mindset.