Eat, Savor and Be Mindful
Every April 22, communities around the world celebrate Earth Day, a focused time to honor our planet and renew efforts to safeguard its health. This year, on the forty-ninth Earth Day, we suggest combining mindfulness with eating as a path toward greater public health—supporting healthier families and communities, right here at home.
If we think of the environment as everything in the world surrounding us, then it seems fair to say that the condition of our environment plays a pretty big role in our ability to live safe, healthy and satisfying lives. Our minds and physical health are deeply affected by the quality of our air, soil and water. The quality of our environment can speed or slow healing. And in turn, our dietary choices have an impact on the environment.
One small step we each can take to both value and preserve our natural resources is to cultivate mindfulness about how and what we eat. Jon Kabat-Zinn, who founded a center for mindfulness within the University of Massachusetts Medical School, defines mindfulness as, “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally.”
Mindfulness is a powerful concept. Like any change, it takes time to integrate it into your life. Learn more about the power of creating a mindfulness practice below.
With dining, eating mindfully means, on one level, the act of slowing down to savor each bite. When you eat mindfully, you are engaged in the present moment. Dining becomes a conscious and deliberate and enjoyable act. A mindful approach to the table also means eating because you are hungry and stopping because you are full. Some simple mindful eating habits include setting a place at the table, consciously choosing to eat slower and putting your mobile phone off and in another room. (For more ideas, explore Nutrition by Carrie, by Carrie Dennett, MPH, RDN, CD.)
On another level, mindful eating means paying attention to the environmental aspect of food. Consider where a food item came from and the impact of its transportation on the environment. How much energy did it take to process a food item? You might also take a thoughtful look at packaging: is there another product with less plastic or a simpler container?
In our busy lives, it can be easy to rush through a meal and move on to the activity. When you intentionally take time for a meal, focus on the ingredients and savor the flavors, you can also support and celebrate our wonderful planet.
How do I create a mindfulness practice?
A mindfulness practice can solidify a fleeting sense of contentment into a deeper sense of unity and presence. There are fabulous, sometimes-free resources available to help you develop a mindfulness practice. To learn more about the benefits of mindfulness, explore the 10% Happier podcast. The popular Headspace app at www.headspace.com offers guided meditations, practice on breath awareness and basic tips. The entry level is free. A good book to start with is Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness for Beginners. Sharon Salzburg offers a 28-day plan in her book Real Happiness.