You might have heard of this new thing called mindfulness. It’s creating a bit of a buzz! So what is it, and how can it help you?
Mindfulness is an increased state of awareness in the present moment. It's noticing the sensations and feelings we are experiencing in that moment, our wandering thoughts as they come and go.
Mindfulness can take different forms. It may simply be taking a minute to notice our internal thoughts and feelings in that moment. It may involve meditation, journaling, yoga, deep breathing, or even discussions with friends or loved ones about how we’re feeling. The key element is awareness – bringing curiosity to that moment, rather than judgement.
You may be wondering why I’m writing about mindfulness, when as a dietitian, you would expect that I would be talking about food. Certainly there is room for mindfulness in supporting dietary change, which you can read about in another blog post here. However, mindfulness creates opportunities for our health and happiness beyond food choices.
I like to consider myself a holistic practitioner. I care about your overall wellbeing. This wellbeing encompasses your physical, emotional and social health - not just your food choices! And this is where mindfulness can support your journey to health and happiness.
Research has found that practising regular mindfulness has positive impacts on our overall wellbeing in surprising ways, and can:
Reduce stress levels
Minimize chronic pain
Lower risk of heart attack and stroke
Reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression
Improve memory and focus
Improve relationship satisfaction
Improve our overall quality of life
I often discuss behaviours and goals with my clients, and ponder what approaches and tools will support them in achieving long term behaviour change. It can be easy to identify things we want to do better (snack less, exercise more, etc.), but if we don’t understand why, when or how you do certain things, how can you expect to change them? (I'm talking about long term changes, not just for a day or a week!)
Some mindfulness techniques that can be helpful include:
Journaling internal thoughts and dialogue. How are you talking to yourself on a daily basis? How do you talk to yourself about food, exercise; How do you think of yourself as a partner or parent. Is this supportive, compassionate and kind self-talk, or negative and judgemental dialogue?
Taking 5-10 deep belly breaths and noticing current feelings or emotions and their true impact (not burying our head in the sand!)
Body scan exercise (Try this example)
Guided meditation – Headspace has some great 5 minute meditations
The five senses exercise – notice 5 things you can see, 4 things you can feel, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste.
It would be easy to tell you to change a few things in your diet and send you on your way, but in doing so, I would be doing you a disservice. I not only want to support you towards feeling great physically, I want you to be happy and experience great wellbeing! Whatever that may mean for you!
So consider that mindfulness may at least be a part of your journey to health, happiness and wellbeing. Here are some great resources where you can learn more: