Living Mindfully

— Written By Janice Fields and last updated by
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Have you ever arrived at work and did not remember the drive? Have you ever gobbled down a meal so fast that you had to loosen your pants button for a little more comfort? Have you ever had a conversation with someone and had to ask them to repeat themselves because you were not listening? I must admit, I have been guilty of these mindless activities and more. Living mindfully means we pay more attention in the moment to the events, activities, and thoughts that make up our daily lives. It means doing things with purpose, not just going through the motions of how we have always done things. If we are more mindful of our relationships with others, we will likely experience healthier, happier lives. If we are more mindful of our eating, sleeping, and physical activity, we will likely make decisions that will improve our health. Mindfulness is a “win-win” activity.

I recently taught a class on living mindfully as it relates to eating and physical activity. The main points of this particular lesson were to practice mindfulness when choosing food and to learn to listen to our body cues before, and during, meals. Since teaching that lesson, I have become more aware of my own mindfulness. I have tried to pay more attention to my interactions with others, to hunger cues, to physical activity, and particularly, to my environment when driving. A class I attended on defensive driving for Robeson County employees reminded me of why we all should pay more attention to our surroundings and interactions, especially when driving. It could be a matter of life or death for you or for someone else due to not paying attention to the moment.

Ask yourself these questions to practice mindful eating:  what should I eat, how much should I eat, how should I eat, and why do I eat? Try a few of these simple steps for mindful eating. Remove yourself from distractions such as television, cell phone, or work. Eat while sitting down. Enjoy your food. Pay attention to the flavor, texture, and temperature of your food. Assess your hunger. Don’t wait until you are weak and light-headed, but also don’t eat that last bite when you are truly stuffed. Eat slowly. Try to make a meal last at least 20 minutes.

Rather than eating snacks straight out of the bag, try putting a reasonable amount of food into a bowl and leave the rest of the package in the pantry. Also, package snacks in small bags for portion-controlled snacking. You are in more control when you eat at home, so eat out less often. At home, you can control the fat, sugar, sodium, and portion size. One tip for home is to use smaller plates and glasses. You will likely consume fewer calories, even if you go back for a second helping. Also, make half of your plate fruits and vegetables, which will give you lots of water, fiber, and nutrients that are not available in other foods.

What would happen if we took more time to connect with each other and to learn each other’s story? What would happen if we all ate and exercised for health? What would happen if we paid better attention to our driving? Just imagine how much healthier and happier we would be if we all lived more mindfully!

For more information, please contact Janice Fields, Extension Family and Consumer Sciences Agent with North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Robeson County Center, at (910) 671-3276, by email at Janice_Fields@ncsu.edu, or visit our website.

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