Have you ever driven somewhere and when you arrive, don’t remember the actual drive? Or, taken a shower and washed your hair twice because you don’t remember having washed it the first time? When was the last time you remember really tasting your food? (There is a clue in this for losing weight that doesn’t involve diets, or drugs, or surgery, which I will get to below).
Everyone has probably experienced a lapse in attention at least once and if you’re an average human being you experience “mind wandering” (a lack of present moment awareness) 46.9% of the time, according to a recent study by Dan Gilbert and Matthew Killingsworth. Nearly fifty percent? Have you been missing half of your life because you haven’t been paying attention? Or half of the experiences that you could have really enjoyed with your kids or your partner but you didn’t because you were engrossed in thought about something that happened in the past, something that you were worried about, or something that didn’t really mean anything to you? According to this study not only are people not present a good portion of the time while their mind is wandering, but during that time they are also unhappy.
How would you like to change that this year? You can by learning to be more mindful. By learning to notice and question the thoughts that make you unhappy your outlook can begin to change. When you do that you have more power and control over your reactions to negative thoughts and emotions. You give yourself a priceless gift – the power to choose your responses and to see what is making you unhappy so you can change it. Chances are that what you think is making you unhappy is unlikely what is actually making you unhappy. What makes you unhappy is how you are thinking about what you think is making you unhappy.
Mindfulness training helps you to become more aware of the present moment so you can live your life more fully, enjoy the precious moments before they are gone, and be happier with yourself as you are. It helps you deal more effectively with physical and psychological pain and illness. And, of course, it helps to reduce stress which is a major cause of pain, illness and suffering. Relationships can get better, work can be more enjoyable and your overall well being improves.
The 8-week MBSR program has been shown to be effective for relief or reduction of symptoms related to:
- Chronic Pain
- Job or Family Stress
- Depression, Anxiety and Panic
- Sleep Disturbance
- Auto Immune Disorders
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- GI Distress
- High Blood Pressure
- Pre and Post Surgery Stress
- Organ Transplant Issues
As promised here’s an eating tip that if you remember it and use it always, you will see results without diets, pills, or surgery. The next time you sit down to a meal take a few minutes before you even pick up your fork or spoon to send gratitude to each entity that allowed you to enjoy this meal. Then, take the meal in with your eyes, your nose, your ears and perhaps your hands (if it’s finger food). How does it look, smell, sound and feel?
How do you feel about this meal? What do you think about it? Make note of that before you start. When you are ready to take a bite, notice how your arm and hand move to pick up your silverware, how you cut the food to take a small bite, then raise it to your mouth. Notice how you begin to salivate in anticipation of the food, how your mouth opens as your fork approaches your mouth, how your mouth closes around it and the teeth and lips hold the food back as your hand withdraws and lowers back to your lap as you begin to chew. Chew slowly and with intention to taste each bite fully. Notice the flavors, the texture, the sound, and the way your mouth and tongue move to chew the food. Don’t begin to swallow until you’ve chewed the food many many times. This helps digestion as well as giving you the opportunity to savor your food. Repeat with each bite. Stop when you are about 70% full.
Try this and let me know what you observed by eating mindfully. What did you notice?
If you would like to learn to be more mindful in everyday life consider taking the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) 8-week course. If there is not one in your area, I will be offering one starting January 12th, live online and you can register here. Register by December 31, 2015 and get $50 off! Seating is limited to reserve your spot soon.