Posts Tagged ‘mindfulness’

Setting a Mindful Eating Intention

In the interests of not being a slave to the voice in my head that has always suggested that I do unwise (aka: stupid) things that kept me stuck for years in a pattern of overeating and hating myself for it, I offer this blog. It is an attempt to suggest some ways of bringing mindfulness into your life so that you might begin to  live your life as if you are in charge.  You can’t change what you’re not aware of.  Mindfulness is about being aware.

Every AM I try to set an intention to do what is in my best interests when it comes to food.  Setting an intention has to do with how you would like to be moment by moment in your life.  It differs from setting a goal which is about an outcome.   An intention is ideally aligned with your values, that is, what you think is important in life.

This idea of setting an intention is a pretty simple thing, but I find that it is extremely powerful in helping me to see that I’m doing my best to live a life of integrity and clarity. ( I set intentions about other ways of being in my life beyond food, but this is a big one for me.)

So, in my case, setting an intention to do what is in my best interests when it comes to food means that I am mindful of the voice in my head that tries to convince me that having a candy bar right now would be FUN.  I acknowledge that voice and I might assume that it’s “the little girl in me” who equates fun with candy bars.  I don’t yell at myself for having that thought nor do I ignore it.  I might wonder if I’m being too serious or working too hard and this sudden craving for a candy bar  for fun is really more about needing to bring fun into my life by lightening up and taking an enjoyable break.

Another example would be when I’m eating something that is really delicious, notice that my body is telling me that I’m satisfied and should stop and I hear myself saying, “But this is so good.  I don’t want to stop.”  Remembering my intention (no easy thing at this point), I remember how disrespectful it is to ignore my body to disregard its signals of fullness and I also remember how uncomfortable I will feel if I continue.

I acknowledge the desire to keep eating, the feeling that it’s never enough, but go ahead and do what I believe is in my best interests.

In these examples I’ve tried to show outcomes that would align with my intentions.  However, we all know (well, let’s say I know from years of working with this food issue in my life) what can sometimes happen to the best of intentions.  If I stray from what I intended and get the candy bar and/or eat beyond fullness, I do my best to be kind toward myself, but firmly remind myself of my intentions and get back on track without beating myself up.  I’ve personally discovered, and research supports the idea, that being mean to ourselves at these times serves no useful purpose.  As a matter of fact, it just sets us up for the next over-eating experience.

What is your intention?  Try to set an intention each AM upon waking.  This will help you start to take charge of your life.

For me, setting an intention and doing the best I can to follow it is the underpinning of living a rewarding life.

Mindful Politics

It’s getting to be THAT time of the year, actually THAT time of the 4 year cycle leading up to another presidential election.  Can you feel it in your body?  Maybe it’s just me, but I know that I can.  There is a tightening in my stomach which usually signals stress and/or anxiety for me.

I’m aware of the political ads that my husband and I are trying to dodge by prerecording everything we want to watch, so we can “fast forward x3” through the ads.  There’s always some that somehow get through our filtering attempts.

I’m noticing that my clients are becoming more concerned about the outcome of the upcoming election.  They have plenty to say about each candidate.  Of course, as a psychotherapist,  I need to be neutral & resist the urge to add my 2 cents’ worth.  That comes with a price.  Whenever I stuff down thoughts and feelings I have to pay afterwards.  What does that mean?  For me, it means that unless I am able to clear that energy, I will notice that I have urges to eat food when I’m not hungry.  In my life, food has been my drug of choice.  I no longer allow it to have it’s way with me, but I do still feel the old familiar siren call when I am stressed &/or anxious.

You see, food, or any other addiction can help us “change the channel” on an uncomfortable feeling that we don’t want to experience.  We go on a search for the food, devour it mindlessly and then fall into remorse about having overeaten.  In the process the stress, anxiety, depression, anger or whatever has been forgotten. (Apparently remorse is preferable to the other uncomfortable feelings, perhaps because it is so familiar.)

In order to not have to pay the price, I have to invite myself, mindfully, to experience the original uncomfortable stress or anxiety.  I “let go” of the story line of why I’m feeling that way & just notice the stomach tightening or tightness in my throat or wherever I am feeling it.  I slowly & mindfully breathe while I am doing this.  Eventually the feeling will dissipate.

I have also learned that it is a good idea for me to limit the amount of political pundits I watch on TV or online.  It just gets me stirred up.

Apparently I get stirred up because I believe that my candidates have to win!  Now, I have been around long enough to have many of my candidates not win.  I have always thought that it would be the end of the world.  Obviously I was wrong about that.  Somehow life goes on and things settle down again.

This year my plan is to remind myself that it will all be workable even if the “wrong” folks get into office.  Life is too short to tie myself into knots for months.  I can do my part by voting and even working for a particular candidate if that is what I choose to do.  I can mindfully trust that life will continue to provide wondrous experiences, no matter what,  if I remember to bring myself into the present moment and notice those wondrous experiences.

Seasonal Optional Suffering

As far as I know all human beings suffer during life.  We lose those we love, we lose our youth, the list goes on.  We all know that suffering is not fun.  But I have noticed that many of us engage in what I call optional suffering.  This is suffering that seems to make sense to us, but really gets in the way of life enjoyment.

Even though I grew up in Rochester, New York, I have never enjoyed winter.  I like lots of sunshine and lots of warmth the way it is here in St. Louis, MO. in the summer.

Every year around this time (August) I start noticing “signs” of summer drawing to a close.  I notice, for example, that birds are no longer in their breeding behavior where they are highly intolerant of other birds in their territory.  I see that large groups of them are on telephone lines, side by side, and flying together in flocks.  I notice that the sun is lower in the sky.  It appears to me as though I am wearing my sunglasses as I walk through my home (when I’m not).  Goldenrod, a late summer flower, is beginning to show up in fields.

Every time I spot one of these telltale signs, I feel a cold stab in my gut.  An intense feeling of dread spreads throughout me.  “Oh, no!  Winter is almost here again!  It’s going to be freezing cold and dark and dreary.  I’ll have to put on tons of clothes every time I step out of the door.  The sidewalks will be treacherous as they’re covered with ice.”

It’s important that you understand that it is 88 degrees outside with a bright blue sky as I write this.  This is the kind of weather that I love, but here I am whining about something that has not yet happened.  This is optional suffering in at least 2 ways.

First, I am not enjoying the present moment.  I am up in my head imagining what I predict will be the winter to come.  I’m missing what I love which is here right now in this very moment.

Secondly, I am not accepting life on it’s terms.  I am resisting what will “probably be” in a few months.  I want things to be different than they probably will be.  That is definitely an uphill battle.  I have been fighting this uphill battle for decades with the same results.

But there is a better way to look at this.  This better, mindful way is to develop an acceptance of what is, an acceptance that life is going to unfold on its own terms no matter how much I fuss about it.

When I settle myself down into this awareness, I begin to relax and invite myself to enjoy this present moment of my life.  This immediately lowers my stress level.

I then am able to remember how invigorating the crisp autumn air can be, how glorious the turning leaf colors are, how the variety of winter is a part of what causes me to savor summer, how grateful I am to be able to be  warm and comfortable in my home during the cold weather, how delightful it is to see the neighborhood children playing during a snowfall.

Once again I recognize that life  is all good when I am able to quit putting on my parking brakes in anticipation of the parts of life that I don’t approve of and remember that I will be able to deal with whatever arises when it arises in that present moment.