We are all in a hurry these days; we want things at a touch of a button and without the added inconvenience of having to wait for it. As we rush around from here to there, we are constantly thinking about the next thing we need to do, the goal we’re striving to reach or the deadline we’re eager to meet.
We can post on social media and get a reply, a retweet or a like in seconds. We can connect with those we see on the television at the touch of a button without the need to navigate our way through media management. We can order clothes, jewellery and household items and have them delivered a few hours later. We can drive through a restaurant have our food handed to us through a hatch and be eating it 2 minutes after ordering it.
Many of us are guilty of eating our lunch at our desk, of scoffing down a sandwich whilst checking our emails; thus not engaging with the act of eating. We watch films and slowly feed our mouths with popcorn or sweets without any connection to the food at all; a mindless passive activity that occurs alongside another activity.
What we fail to do in our quest for instant gratification and consumerism is be mindful. It’s a word that gets bandied about quite often in blogs and philosophy posts, but when we think about what being mindful means it makes sense to seek this approach in the hectic world we inhabit.
What does mindfulness mean?
The term mindfulness is not a new term or practice. It has its origins in Buddhism and has been around for thousands of years but now people are being prescribed mindfulness therapy as a way to combat stress and anxiety brought on by a chaotic lifestyle; a symptom of modern society. This means the religious stigma has been removed from the term and many are incorporating mindfulness into their everyday lives
Mindfulness is described as a mental state achieved by focussing on the awareness of the present moment whilst calmly accepting the feelings we experience.
As we do not always have full control over many aspects of our lives, taking time out to connect to the activity we are doing and fully engage with it – is mindfulness.
How can we be mindful with food?
We can bring mindfulness into every aspect of food from buying it to preparing and cooking it and finally eating it.
Choosing your food correctly and taking time out to look at, feel and experience your ingredients is being mindful. Don’t be afraid to handle and look at your produce, feel and smell the fruit and vegetables you’re going to be using to create your meal.
Consider the provenance
Think about where your food has come from, where it was grown. Think about how the animal was reared and what it was fed on. Consider the land your food was reared on or grown on, have the farmers got a fair deal? Did they use chemicals and fertilisers? How important is sustainability?
Cook for pleasure
It’s not always possible to cook leisurely as we’re usually cooking to a time schedule at the end of the day for a hungry family; but at least once a week, cook for pleasure. Either take time at the end of the day when the kitchen is quiet and prepare a meal that you can finish off the next day or alternatively you can take an hour or two at the weekend to mindfully create a meal. Take your time to chop the ingredients and use your senses to appreciate the cooking aromas.
Savour the flavour
When you sit down to eat the meal don’t allow anything to come between you and eating. Food should not be a rushed experience, it should be about the appreciating the food and the interactions with your friends/family. Make sure you eat at a table together, and relax and enjoy your meal. If you’re eating alone, don’t distract yourself from the food with television, embrace the solitary experience and use the space and time to really be in the moment with your meal.
Whether you are eating alone or with a crowd, as you cut each bite, savour the aroma through your nostrils then think about the textures and flavours you are experiencing as you chew each mouthful.
Why we should be mindful when we eat
Most of us eat without thinking. Eating is natural and primal yet over time we have evolved to eat for leisure and this is how weight and health problems occur. Whether we eat for either leisure or necessity, many of us will finish off a plate of food or a snack without paying any attention to the process. When we start to pay attention to what we eat we are in tune with our bodies. We can home into our emotional and physical needs. Taking our time and savouring the experience means we will automatically stop eating when we are full, we will pay attention to why we are eating, how it makes us feel. Sometimes we only eat to serve an emotional need and this is where cycles of behaviour with negative implications can begin.
Eating mindfully means eventually you can begin to tune into your body’s needs and the emotions that trigger the eating in the first place.
Over time we have neglected listening to the signals our body gives us and if we stop and adopt a mindful approach to our diet and eating habits we can all have a healthier relationship with food that will last a lifetime.