By Talia Kaplan, PsyD
Mindfulness is the practice of living and being in the present. For people with anxiety, this is an especially important tool to use. It helps a person focus on what they are experiencing in the present moment rather than focus on everything that may happen in the future. While anxiety can make the world feel like a vast forest with unknown danger in every corner, mindfulness helps a person take one step and see whether there is danger on the single spot they occupy.
One of the best ways to practice mindfulness is through eating. We often eat so quickly or “mindlessly” that if anyone asked you what you ate five minutes ago you would be hard-pressed to answer.
We’ve all been there, it happens morning, afternoon and evening. In the morning you’re trying to get the kids out of the house while making sure you have your bag packed for work, so you take a bite of last night’s dessert as you’re running out the door and call it breakfast. During the afternoon you made sure to schedule a lunch break at work but you were called in for a last minute meeting so you try and scarf down your lunch in between your office and the conference room. Dinner may have started with the best intentions but you often find yourself watching the television as your bowl of soup disappears into your stomach.
So how do you eat mindfully? The answer lies in our five senses.
- Sight – look at the food you are eating. What do you notice about its appearance? Have you always noticed the bright colors of your fruit? What sticks out to you about the shape?
- Touch – What do you notice about the texture of your food? What does it feel like in your hand? What does it feel like in your mouth? Do you notice how the texture changes at different points in your mouth?
- Sound – As your chewing your food what sounds do you hear? Is there sound the food makes when you pick it up?
- Smell – Before putting the food in your mouth take a moment to smell it. What smells do you notice?
- Taste – Taste can be complex and different. Notice the various tastes you are experiencing. Channel your inner “foodie” as you pay attention to the hints of taste in your food.
Eating mindfully can help give a person an appreciation for the present in a way that they rarely experience. The powerful senses pull a person’s mind away from what MAY happen, to what IS happening right now.
While this may seem like a lot, it doesn’t have to be. A person can start out by just dedicating one minute of a meal to paying attention to their food. You may notice that a food you never liked actually has some very redeeming qualities. They may also notice that their favorite soda is actually too sweet for their taste. Either way, it can easily allow you to appreciate the moment you are living in, appreciate the food that is sustaining you, and slow down your life by just one bite.