There’s no right or wrong way to practice mindfulness, as long as you are trying. Here are some guiding principles to help you accomplish it each and every day.
BY: VINCCI TSUI, RD
Mindfulness and mindful eating often get a bad rap for being “new age” or “woo-woo”. However, there’s a growing body of research that shows the vast health benefits of incorporating a mindfulness practice into our modern-day life.
Whether you are planning to engage in a formal practice like meditation or mindful eating, or simply wanting to bring more mindfulness in your day-to-day, here are some principles to help you anchor your practice.
1. Press Pause and Be Present
Most of us live our lives at breakneck speed, always thinking of the next step and wearing “busy” like a badge of honor. Mindfulness is an invitation for you to switch gears – to temporarily let go of thinking about the past or the future, and focus on the present moment.
You might find it helpful to create a small ritual, such as moving to a specific location or taking a few deep, cleansing breaths as a way to signal to yourself to begin your practice. A mindfulness bell app, such as Lotus Bud, can be set to ring randomly throughout the day as a reminder to “press pause” throughout the day.
During the practice, it’s normal to notice your mind wandering off to another thought throughout the practice. Simply “press pause” and bring yourself to the present again.
2. Curiosity, Not Judgment
As you go through life, you bring along years of lived experiences. This serves you by making your life richer and more efficient — if you had to learn everything all over again every day, you wouldn’t get anything done!
In the context of mindfulness and mindful eating, your personal catalog of experiences can hold you back. For example, you may be used to eating in a certain way that it can be hard to change. Or perhaps you’re used to eating certain foods so much that you don’t even think to take the time to savor the taste. Invite yourself to enter the situation as though you were a child with curiosity. This new perspective may help you let go of your preconceived notions and be present in the situation.
3. Sensing, Not Slowing
The purpose of slowing down is to give you the opportunity to use your senses to experience each moment. What do you see, hear, smell, taste, and feel in your environment and in your body? Allow yourself to cycle through each sense from moment to moment.
At the same time, you may notice different thoughts and emotions coming up. (Contrary to popular belief, the goal of mindfulness is not to “clear your mind” and think or feel nothing.) You may find it easier to cycle through your thoughts and emotions in addition to your senses, or you may want to simply focus on your physical sensations. Either way, the practice lies in being in the present, whatever that may mean or feel like. Over time, you may find that you don’t need to slow down to get the information you need.
4. Practice, Not Progress
We live in a culture that discourages us from “learning for the sake of learning”. Instead, we’re taught that learning is about achieving milestones, getting good grades, bettering ourselves, and so on. As a result, it can be easy to get caught in the trap of thinking that you’re not “getting it right.”
Mindfulness is not a practice where there are set rules, restrictions, and a clear definition of “right” and “wrong.” Instead, you’ll be trying to undo lots of ingrained habits and beliefs that are often reinforced by society. So give it a try, and see what it would be like to practice without any expectation of an outcome.
Adapted from the original post and The Mindful Eating Workbook.
HEADER IMAGE: MICHAL BEDNAREK
Vincci Tsui, RD is a former bariatric dietitian turned certified Intuitive Eating counselor and Health At Every Size(r) advocate. Based in Calgary, Canada, Vincci specializes in helping people untangle their messy relationships with food and their body, and works with individuals in-person and virtually through her private practice. Read more from Vincci at www.vinccitsui.com.