As moms, our days and hearts are filled with a desire to nurture those we love. In the business of it all, nurturing ourselves can be challenging. We do not always remember to take a few moments to care for ourselves. Deep down, we want to fill our being and our homes with greater calm and peacefulness. We want to feel a depth of gratitude for our lives and less stress in our days.
Yet, the reality is that with too much to do and too little time to tune inward, feeling calm and connected to life’s simple pleasures can seem like a treat, rather than a natural flow in our days.
Here are some ways that mindful eating--coupled with gratitude for just a few moments each day--can cultivate calm, leaving us tasting our food with delight and more inwardly connecting to what is positive and delightful. How we eat can be a portal to health, self-compassion and gratitude.
This article offers some insight into how just a few moments daily of eating mindfully can bring us more joy by transforming ordinary moments into special moments and cultivating inner qualities that renew. Without changing what we are doing, but rather how we are doing it, we can support well-being in our minds, hearts and body with self-love. We can have fun each day by saying “yes” to a quiet moment of gratitude and slowing down. It is a moment that all mothers deserve.
When we are mindful, even for just a moment, we elevate our experience of eating to something extraordinary and alive. We cultivate the qualities we wish to nurture in ourselves and in turn, experience those qualities more.
Here’s what mindful eating looks like: Take a raisin, a square of dark chocolate, anything small and appealing. Hold it in your hand, smell it, really notice it. What do you notice and how does it stimulate your senses? Now, slowly take it to your mouth and eat it ever so appreciatively. Stay with the experience and what you feel. Do you want to scream with delight? What changes when you actually fully taste something you adore? How incredibly happy does truly tasting food make you?
Doing this each day makes it a practice. A declaration you value, nourishing yourself and sending an internal message of valuing slowing down and self-connecting each day.
It is a commitment that asks you to bring your full attention to just this moment, just this bite. When you pause, you are cultivating a habit that brings more kindness and care into your being. You are saying yes to cultivating calm and slowing down on purpose. You are actually experiencing what you eat, and making this moment important.
If you do not have a moment alone, do this with kids or others around you. It’s private and belongs to you. If it is right for you, go ahead and eat a meal silently, mindfully, being alive and present in the experience. This practice, cultivated daily even for a few moments, cultivates peacefulness and carries over into the whole of our lives. You may notice you are more connected to your inner wisdom. By getting out of thoughts and into this practice each day, you will purposely plant seeds of the qualities you wish to tend to in yourself and your family. In just a few moments a day, you will till your internal soil, making you the gardener of your own experiences.
Mindful eating and gratitude naturally flow from one to the other. By pausing before eating, and letting our minds flow to something simple that we are grateful for, we fill our hearts with feelings of goodness. We literally touch ourselves with compassion. Positive thoughts beget more positive thoughts. However simple our thoughts of gratitude are, focusing on them connects us to what we appreciate and what is working. We amplify what we notice is beautiful and meaningful. It can be gratitude for warm tea, the sun shining through the trees or a hug. It’s ours to feel and express.
Whatever the challenges are of our lives, focusing on gratitude will support our being more aware of the goodness and beauty around us. It is a gateway to well-being and the more we focus on it, the more we will see, feel and experience it.
To practice mindfulness and gratitude together, pause, really see your food, let your mind flow to something you are grateful for, and then take a bite, fully present, fully in the experience. This whole process may take about seven seconds. It also will help you amplify the positive as you focus on being in your experience with heart. You deserve self-connection, feelings of pleasure and cultivating a calm presence. It is not about getting it right. It is about having a practice that supports self-compassion and well-being. These qualities will radiate out in your lives and into your relationships.
Create the loveliest space you can where you typically eat--or would like to eat. If you can place objects you adore at your special place, go ahead and do so. Think candles, flowers, bowls with fruits or vegetables, spices, anything that will soothe and uplift you. Play music if that works for you. Add what feels like exquisite self-care.
Treat yourself to an object you adore, a mug you love holding, a plate or bowl that just looking at makes you happy. A touch of beauty and whimsy go a long way. Be creative about where you eat, sip tea and find spaces that make you happy. Small gestures can be incredible when savored and can send a message that you are deserving of having your ordinary moments feel more extraordinary and sacred.
Whole foods naturally nourish us physically, emotionally and mentally. They are welcomed by our bodies and leave us more satisfied. Eating more of them is an act of loving-kindness. They have a daily positive impact on her health. Like gratitude, the more often we choose whole foods over processed foods, the more abundance of well-being we will experience. Whole foods are from nature and support us just as they are.
Going for more greens, other vegetables, ancient grains and fruit is a good idea. When eating dairy, meat or poultry, try to buy from farmers who use ethical practices without hormones or antibiotics. Eat dark greens, such as kale, spinach, romaine, collard, arugula and swiss chard. See what you enjoy. Most of us would benefit from including more greens in our diets because they are filled with nutrients and support our health.
As you embark on this practice, you will be cultivating inner qualities of calm, gratitude and being present in the moment. These qualities will naturally amplify over time. You will taste your food and actually experience it, feeling more alive and connected. This will support your eating and feeling well, physically and emotionally.
This is important because each of us grows in positive ways when we intentionally cultivate the internal qualities we value. We literally begin to feel these emotions and qualities more. They take root and grow inside us. Where we focus our attention grows, and when our attention is focused on mindful eating with gratitude, we get more focus on the moment and the positive in our lives.
The flip side is true of eating while distracted. We tend to miss the experience, leaving us feeling unsatisfied and wanting to eat more to make up for the experience we missed. By slowing down, even for a few seconds, we create connection that leads to real taste, satisfaction and joy in our meals. By actually having the experience, we create special moments in our days, without having to go anywhere special or wait for something from the outside to occur. This experience is always available to us, and we can call it forth whenever we choose.
In the end, it is not about being perfect. It is about taking time to remember what you value, and through a simple act choosing to nourish yourself from the inside out. It is a journey that supports loving yourself with greater compassion and experiencing more richness in your life and relationships.
None of us need one more reason to judge ourselves. Treating ourselves with the compassion we would a dear friend lets us start again with more curiosity and understanding. We learn from what we want to do differently, and then do differently. We care, and realize we are a work in progress. It is akin to meditation, where we notice our thoughts and come back to the breath, time and again.
There is no need to be perfect and what your personal practice looks like is unique and just for you. You may let your mind flow to gratitude and take in what is on your plate before eating a meal or snack. You may really see what is on your plate and feel a sense of nourishment before your first bite. It is for you to create and it may change over time.
Just remember each time you come back is a rekindling and a moment to celebrate. As you cultivate moments of gratitude and mindfulness, you will be treating yourself as a friend and sending an internal message of kindness. Each moment is a new beginning, a new way of seeing and a more experienced you.
Rather than dieting, make lifestyle choices that you will want to sustain over time. These choices should nourish you from the inside out, supporting health, joy and well-being.
Know yourself and be authentic in what works for you. If it is an option, go for organic, local and humane. Remember that diets are momentary and finite. Lifestyle choices stay with us, and bring us more deeply into what we truly want for ourselves. Lifestyle choices take time to cultivate because they come from our inner wisdom and genuinely support our health and well-being.
What is health supportive also can be yummy and beautiful. Eating foods that are delicious and make us feel happy and comfortable are our right. Connect to what you want around food and have fun living from that place.
Processed foods are readily available, fill our grocery aisles and provide an easy way to have a meal or snack. They can make our lives easier, but they will not heal and sustain us over time. The unfortunate reality of processed foods is they are less satisfying and often packed with ingredients that negatively impact our health, such as sugar, white flour, unhealthy fats and an imbalance of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. These ingredients have been linked to depression and do not have a positive impact on how we feel and the various systems of our body. We have heard this before, but reality draws us toward what is affordable and easy.
Again, it is about doing our best in the moment we are in and nourishing ourselves when possible in ways we deserve. Do what is right for you and be creative about what real foods can replace processed foods, so that you get more nutrients and positive feelings. You do not have to be perfect. Do what you can and just being mindful of eating whole foods will support your making nourishing choices.
It is hard to be mindful or grateful when our thoughts and actions are elsewhere. Taking time to be with the experience of eating, even briefly, centers us and supports our cultivating the inner qualities of peacefulness, calm and gratitude we yearn for. But eating while on a device does not.
When we become disconnected from our experience, we don’t even take it in. It is gone and we don’t even know what happened. Often, we eat more and more, going beyond what is satisfying. We yearn for taste, connection and satisfaction. We feel empty and hungry.
Sometimes, after eating mindlessly, we will finish eating and realize we feel uncomfortable and wish it were different. There is no feeling of enjoyment. We yearn for more self-connection, wisdom and peacefulness; it is unattainable without our attention.
Being present for even a few bites will strengthen our connection to our moments and cultivate positive qualities on purpose. It is like exercising a muscle. Taking one moment to pause and take a bite with gratitude will bring on feelings of connection and joy that are unquiet to mindfulness and cannot be felt as intensely in our distracted state.
Just remember that each moment brings an opportunity to begin again. Be gentle with yourself.
New habits take time and self-compassion. This is a path we journey. It is not a linear path; rather, it is a path of self-discovery. Over time, we may come to feel more loving-kindness and gratitude than we imagined. Our positive thoughts beget more positive thoughts. Slowly our thoughts will shift toward a positive mindset, creating more focus on what matters and creating more vision. We literally come to see more clearly.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D., (founding Executive Director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School) says that mindfulness is about bringing your attention to what you are doing, while you are doing it. Coupled even for a moment with gratitude, it makes us feel alive and strengthens positive feelings from within. Like the breath, it is always available to us, We can return to it again and again. It is also a lifestyle, a path to self-compassion and a way to elevate the simple act of eating or drinking to something sacred and beyond the ordinary.
Gratitude begets gratitude and mindfulness begets being present. Taking even a few seconds is a radical act of self-kindness and sends a message that your well-being matters physically, emotionally and mentally. Enjoy and find your unique way. Ultimately, the practice is yours to create and explore. You will come to know more about what brings you joy and the simple pleasures of life.
More expert advice about Nutrition
Photo Credits: © Konstantin Yuganov - Fotolia.com; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas - Fotolia.com