A Mindful Lifestyle
posted by Erika Massey
I recently realized that I had to change the way I viewed things. During stay-at-home, I have found it has taken a toll on me physically and mentally. I know that the world is not going to change anytime soon. I decided to start looking at life through a different lens. I decided to adopt a mindful lifestyle. I have used mindfulness while treating my anxiety and depression.
Mindfulness is a type of meditation that focuses on self-reflection. This is done in techniques that you focus all your attention on the present situation and feelings at that time. While this is the general concept over the past three weeks, I have been applying this method to various aspects of my life to really make a lifestyle change. Here are some ways I have been changing to a mindfulness lifestyle.
When I use mindfulness for my anxiety and depression, I find it best to use grounding techniques. Grounding techniques are activities that can help one bring themselves to a more centered emotional state. I was taught in therapy to use the 5-4-3-2-2 technique. In this technique, you focus on your surroundings and forget what was aggravating you.
First, name 5 things you can see and look carefully and closely for little details. Next, find 4 things you can feel. Once you have those four, focus on the way they feel. Are they soft, smooth, hard, course? How much does it weigh, what color is it? Once you have fully examined these objects, you can move onto the 3 things you can hear. Listen to the breeze, the ticking of a clock, a bird chirping in the distance. Identify them and listen for the minute aspects of the sound.
Now, what are two things you can smell? This can be a smell in your surroundings or one that you seek out like the smell of a candle. Let these smells fill your body and let them relieve the tension wound up in your body. Lastly, what is one thing you can taste? In this case, grab a snack or a mint and focus on the flavor of the food. Now once you’ve done that, take a deep breath and exhale. This exercise is great for those overwhelming moments in life that you need a small break from. I personally have been practicing mindfulness in this way for a few years now. I find it very useful when I am having a panic attack.
I remember hearing in the beginning of stay-at-home that people were saying that majority of people will gain weight by the end. I personally gained around 10 pounds during this time. In the past few weeks, I have set goals about weight loss and so far, I have been successful.
The main thing that has been helping me lose weight is the concept of mindful eating. This is a mindset where one does not think about food in how it makes you feel. It is about an in-the-moment awareness of the food. It is a rather simple practice, but it does take a week to get used to it. I personally was hungry and craving food all the time, because my body was used to mindless eating. There are six main differences between mindless and mindful eating. Mindless eating is eating based on when we have craving and/or when our emotions lead us to food. It is a fact people eat more when we are stressed, depressed, or lonely. It is key for mindful eating to only eat when you are actually hungry which is when your stomach is growling, or you lack energy. Eating is not a solution or just an activity to do. Eating alone at random times is a slippery slope into weight gain. I personally found myself snacking all the time.
While mindfully consuming, I eat at set times and preferably with others. This helps control the amount you consume. Though really, the key is not to eat past being full. Eat slowly, it takes about thirty minutes after you are full for your stomach to tell your brain you are full. It is key to listen to your body. To make this simpler, when you are eating, don’t multitask. The second to last step is to stop eating comfort food and view food as what it is designed to do, which is to nutrition.
The last thing to do is think about the type of food that you are eating. Stop eating processed food as much, look at sodium, sugar, and ingredient list. So many foods we eat are terrible for our bodies. Part of this is that we live in a country where the concept of food is not healthy. We have massive portions, excess fat, high levels of sugar, or all of the above in our food. I hate to say it but to achieve mindful eating you must break the American ideas about food. Consume carefully and mindfully, but of course have a "cheat day" once in awhile.
Lastly, I have been trying to be more mindful of my social life. While stay-at-home is still active, I have been trying to be more social with positive relationships and less with relationships that are toxic relationships. I have been focusing on really thinking about how each person makes me feel. I think it is important for self-care to think about these types of things. I have to admit through my high school years, I had enormous difficulty cutting toxic people out. I now believe that it is a necessary part of life to do so. It is also good to be mindful of your own actions and their effects on other people. I think that mindfulness in social situations is a give and take. You must see your flaws and the other person's faults to fully understand the relationship and situation. I also think that by knowing your relationships with other people you can be a better friend and during these times feel less alone.
It has been interesting over that past weeks thinking in a different way. I think that self- reflection can never be a bad thing, and that these past weeks have made me a healthier and happier person. Though I know to keep this up, I will have to have a strong will and really want to continue.