Study says half the time, we're not here
A recent study reveals that 46.9% of the time, yes that's nearly half the time, we are not actually present for what we are doing. instead, we are doing what researchers term "mind wandering". We're getting pulled into mind chatter: the images, memories, thoughts, feelings, and narratives that are constantly running through our minds. We're on autopilot and essentially missing the juice of life now. This study also reports that this inattentive practice doesn't make us very happy. Interestingly, another recent study reveals that mindfulness practice (the practice of paying attention on purpose) is as effective as antidepressant medications in the treatment of depression.
Check out this mindful little guy here, he's fully, 100% present in his experience with these strawberries. He's probably not mind wandering: thinking, should I eat these, will they make me fat, some people are allergic to strawberries, I hope I am not allergic to strawberries, where are we going after this is over, I hope I can have cake for desert ....blah blah blah. Nope, he's just right here, right now, breathing, fully engaged in his experience with the strawberry.
Mindful eating is a mindfulness based practice that can strengthen your mindfulness practice and decrease mind wandering. Remember that mind wandering is a normal activity of the mind; it's what minds do. Mindfulness practices like mindful eating help train our minds to be here now so that we may fully experience our lives.
Mindful eating is not necessarily about eating "healthy" or "good" food per say, but more about being present for what you are actually eating, recognizing when you are truly hungry (what does that feel like anyway?), and responding to that call versus mindlessly or emotionally eating. Jon Kabat-Zinn's infamous raisin exercise provides a brief but potentially deep experience in mindful eating and is often used in MBSR trainings to experientially explain the basic tenants of mindfulness.
Basic Mindfulness and Mindful eating tenants as defined by the Center for Mindful Eating:
Principles of Mindfulness: • Mindfulness is being aware of what is present for you mentally, emotionally and physically in each moment. • With practice, mindfulness cultivates the possibility of freeing yourself of reactive, habitual patterns of thinking, feeling and acting. • Mindfulness promotes balance, choice, wisdom and acceptance of what is.
Mindful Eating is: • Allowing yourself to become aware of the positive and nurturing opportunities that are available through food preparation and consumption by respecting your own inner wisdom. • Choosing to eat food that is both pleasing to you and nourishing to your body by using all your senses to explore, savor and taste. • Acknowledging responses to food (likes, neutral or dislikes) without judgment. • Learning to be aware of physical hunger and satiety cues to guide your decision to begin eating and to stop eating.
Someone Who Eats Mindfully: • Acknowledges that there is no right or wrong way to eat but varying degrees of awareness surrounding the experience of food.
Mindful Exercise: Apply the raisin exercise to your meal tonight, alone, with friends or family. Pretend you've never seen or tasted spaghetti before, just like our mindful little guy above. Examine it, smell it, describe it, experience it. Turn off the TV, shut off the phones, the radio, the newspaper and just eat.
Mindful Tunes:Download this