Raise your hand if you’ve met all your health goals and are in perfect shape. Anybody? Okay, how about those of you who are never self-critical and love the way you look every time you look in the mirror. Any takers?
Let’s get serious for a moment: most people have long since abandoned their New Year’s health goals, and a whopping 79 percent of Americans feel at least occasionally unhappy with how their body looks. Rather than being stifled by unmet goals or struggling with our reflection though, what if there were a gentle and effective way to encourage healthier behaviors? Let’s take a closer look at how mindfulness practice can help us improve our physical, mental, and emotional health.
3 Ways to Live Healthier with Mindfulness
Eat, Drink, and Be Mindful: Whether you’re cooking a meal at home or grabbing a quick meal on the go, you can do so with mindfulness. At home, you can take the time to practice mindfulness with each step of your meal preparation. Cutting vegetables? Feel the sensation of your hands slicing and dicing; hear the crunching, crackling sounds the veggies make under the blade; smell the aroma of the fresh juices that emerge; pop a piece or two into your mouth and explore a whole world of sensations and flavors.
Apply mindfulness to cutting, stirring, mixing, cooking, baking – anything at all that you do to get your meal ready. Hone your mindfulness skills while giving yourself space to appreciate your food and drink at a whole new level. And this doesn’t just apply to cooking at home.
When you’re eating on the go, you can still take the time to mindfully appreciate your food and drink. Give your mindful attention to all the people that made it possible for your food to be in your hands right now – from the farmers, to the truck drivers, to the stock people, to the cooks, to the cashiers, and so on. Offer mindful gratitude to them all as you enjoy your food. Savor each bite, focusing on the aromas, flavors, and textures. Sip your drink and notice the sensation of its temperature and how the liquid feels and tastes as you sip and swallow it.
When we eat and drink mindlessly, we are more likely to overeat or eat foods that don’t really feel good to our bodies – which we might notice if we paused long enough to tune in! The more mindfully we nourish ourselves, the more empowered to make healthy choices we become.
Let Mindful Movement Inspire You: Unless you are one of the lucky few who truly enjoys working out, you could probably use a fresh infusion of inspiration to get moving. Let mindfulness inspire you! Whether you head to the gym or simply walk out your front door to stroll around the neighborhood, do so with mindfulness. Feel the sensations of your arms and legs as you move. Listen to the many sounds around you, whether natural or manmade. You might even choose to let music be a part of your mindful movement. Make a playlist of songs that inspire and invigorate you, then use mindfulness to hone in on the sounds within each song. See how many layers of sound you can hear. Listen, then listen deeper.
Look mindfully at your surroundings. Practice seeing without judgement, whether it’s your reflection in the mirror while you’re on the treadmill or the faces and bodies of others you encounter wherever your movement takes you. Make movement an adventure and you will enjoy it more! Add mindfulness to keep your brain engaged, and enjoy the added bonus of making this activity a judgment-free zone.
Embrace your inner worthiness: There’s no such thing as perfect, so let yourself know you are always enough just as you are. One way to do this is by practicing mindful self-compassion. This is especially helpful when we’re feeling self-critical. Next time you catch yourself internally running that inner critic tape that always brings you down, try saying Loving Kindness phrases to yourself. For example: “Oh, it’s tough to feel this way. I’ve got your back. You are going to be okay.” Or, “I feel you. It’s tough to feel this way, but you are smart and resilient and worthy of … (love, knowing your own worth, etc.).”
The process of loving and accepting ourselves better is an ongoing lesson. The more we lift ourselves up and care for ourselves, the healthier and happier we have an opportunity to become. So rather than browbeating yourself into that next trip to the gym, take a walk in the woods or along the shoreline instead. Instead of guilting yourself into healthy food choices, practice your mindful eating skills regardless of what you’re eating and pay attention to how your body feels and what really makes it feel good. Mindfulness is a gentle yet powerful way we can each take our wellness into our own hands.
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