The New Year brings new hopes, aspirations and resolutions. It is the time of the year when we set our goals to achieve for the next year. How many of us are able to actually act on our plans? Be it the promise to hit the gym every single day or make a schedule to socialize more often, even the best promise-keepers may find it hard to keep up with New Year’s resolutions. However, no matter how many times we’ve fallen behind, year after year, we never give up. And I say we shouldn’t! After all, the new year is all about starting new habits (good ones) and committing to the activities that lead to a more positive life — all leading in the direction of better health and happiness.
When thinking about resolutions for the new year, I encourage: "make it simple." Yes, let’s set goals that are achievable. Many times, we are so excited to set a higher benchmark that we often forget what our limitations and soft corners are. So, the most effective way to start out is to make resolutions that are simple and achievable. And, once we are actually able to keep up with our promise, think about the amount of fulfillment and joy it will bring to our lives.
I’ll offer one simple resolution to start the new year: bring attention to your diet.
Don’t get the impression that I’m now going to write a lengthy article about a dosha-specific diet, or a vegetarian, lacto-vegetarian, vegan, or so-and-so diet. As I already said, keep it simple. Our diets have less to do with what we eat, and more to do with how we eat. Of course, what we eat matters, but definitely, the way we eat is just as important, although it is often overlooked.
Below are my simple tips for how we eat, the Ayurvedic way:
To receive the maximum benefit from a Yagya, we want to be in a calm state of consciousness. When we are engaged in other activities while eating, when we are distracted from the process of eating that ideally deserves our undivided attention, we do this process a disservice. While eating, we should be seated in an easy, comfortable position, in a settled, peaceful environment, and be present with our food. In our modern culture of fast food, where we literally may not get a chair to sit in while eating, or we may be eating in noisy, crowded malls, or even eating while driving, we are treating ourselves, our process of digestion unfairly — distraction goes against the principle of healthy eating. We see almost every culture entertain the idea of silence, prayer, or gratitude before a meal. The reason behind this practice is to encourage us to be settled, peaceful and more present with our food. Not only does this silence encourage our digestive system to secrete juices which will digest our food, but also keeping silence while eating brings our awareness to our food. This awareness is very necessary, as we don’t want to miss the taste and quality of food that we are eating, which will bring strength and vitality to our physiology. Those that eat consciously find that they more thoroughly chew their food, eat more slowly (avoiding overeating) and tend to not take in foods that taste inappropriate for their bodies. In addition, paying gratitude to Mother Nature for providing us the food we are eating also adds happiness and satisfaction in the process of digestion. So, we are encouraged to practice the offering of gratitude before a meal.
It isn’t uncommon to have a meeting or lecture during lunch that ends with indigestion. In these situations, by not being fully present with our food while eating, we are distracted and as such we do not fully digest our food.
In Ayurveda it is actually considered disrespectful to our food when we are distracted.
How many of us meet friends and socialize during our meals? Although I agree it is very important to socialize, it should preferably not be done while eating. Even if we are eating with our family at our own dining table, serious discussions, unpleasant news and talks should be minimized, allowing everyone to focus on eating. Mealtime conversation could be about how good the food has turned out, or how well it was cooked (honoring the chef).
Food (aahara) is one among the three sub-pillars of health. So, putting our attention on not only the quality of food but also how we eat is very important. The new year is a wonderful time to observe our current habits and put our awareness on the beautiful act of eating, because after all: "We are how we eat."
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