First I would like to apologize for my absence the past few weeks. Life caught me off guard, and I found myself in a whirlwind of things to do. My mind was racing with planning time to develop meal plans for my clients, preparing nutrition lessons for my inpatient clients, doing research and writing a paper for my Masters class, family issues, and on top of all of that figuring out the Healthcare Market Place…ugh!
I didn’t have time for my fiancée, let alone myself. I became irritable, I wasn’t sleeping, and my mind was constantly preoccupied with the things I needed to get done. Simply put, I was stressed. Then I thought “I write about being mindful, taking time for your self, and ways to be happy in life, so why am I not practicing what I preach?”
This just goes to show that no matter who you are, you need to take the time and be conscious to be mindful. So in order to start enjoying my life again, I figured I needed to start from ground zero, and SLOW DOWN.
If I didn’t, and continued the go, go, go mentality, I could have fallen into “hyper-stress”, which is a contributor to the increased growth of serious health issues in our country today. Many people might use medications for stress and anxiety, or mindlessly indulge in large amounts of caffeine, sugar, and junk food to provide “energy” to get them “through another day”, instead of taking a more simple and mindful approach to addressing the issues they face.
By taking the opposite approach, such as slowing down and becoming “unhurried” has substantial benefits to our health; physically, spiritually, and mentally. By taking time to slow down, we might actually give ourselves more time and accomplish everything that we need to. Which is exactly what I knew I needed to start doing, once again.
So let’s start somewhere simple. How about taking the time to set the table during mealtime, and actually chew our food. We have all been there. The meal is prepared and placed on the table, and within minutes the meal is gone and so are your dinner companions.
We have been conditioned to get as much done in our day as possible, and if that means cutting back in areas that are not as “important” to our productivity (i.e. actually sitting and enjoying a meal) than so be it. But we forget that every part of mealtime is important, because if we skip even the smallest part, it could have negative effects on our health.
Let me explain. We start the process of digestion in our mouths. Our teeth are meant to break down our food so we can easily digest it, and our saliva it has a purpose too. It secretes an enzyme that signals for the digestion process to begin. By taking the time to mindfully chew our food fully (I don’t mean until it’s mush, but until it is properly broken down) we can reduce the bloating and gas that many of us complain about, strengthen our teeth and gums, increase our digestive enzymes for improved digestion, and to relax, calm, and clear our minds. In addition, when we eat in a hurry it inhibits the amount of nutrients our bodies can absorb, because our anxiety it usually heighten. This causes stress hormones to be released, and when our stress hormones are released we are usually in a Fight or Flight scenario. Our physiological response in these scenarios is to “book it out of there”, rather than sit and enjoy a meal.
So as you can see, it is actually beneficial to our health to slow down and be more mindful at every meal. I know whenthings start feeling out of whack for me; this is the first thing I start to do in order to realign.
To go along with slowing down during mealtimes, how about getting everyone in the family involved in preparing the meal and setting the table. I know you might be thinking, “What does this have to do with slowing down, and improving my life? Yes it would be nice for the additional help, but I don’t get it.”
Well, mealtime is a very intimate and sacred experience for families, which is overlooked because of the go, go, go timeline that we live by. Mealtimes allow us time to reflect, share, and show gratitude to those we love and care about. Consistently, studies show that families who take the time to eat together have better communication, a sense of belonging, and are overall healthier and happier.
Another way to slow down (and this is one of my favorites) is taking a walk in nature. I’m originally from West Michigan, and if any of you have been there you might be aware of the vast and beautiful trails that follow the lakeshore. Often times, when my mother and I were overwhelmed with school, work, and all around life, we would escape in the trails of Rosy Mound. There is something to say about breathing in fresh air, filled with light and energy, and it’s healing properties. We wouldn’t talk to one another; we would just walk and meditate, listening to the birds, the wind, and as we approached the beach, the waves crashing the shore. This always lifted my spirits, centered my mind, and filled me with a sense of peace. I could start the walk frustrated and angry, and as we finished I felt that there were no worries in the world.
The beauty and grace of nature humbles me. It reminds me that I’m only one small part of something so much more. So why rush my precious time here?
Finally, with the Holidays just around the corner, I’m sure that many of us will fall victim to the go, go, go mentality. Especially when it comes to Holiday shopping. This may even apply to the rest of the year, but how quickly are you willing to slap down your credit card every time you see something you want or think you might need? Do you ask yourself, “Do I really need this?”, “Can I afford this?”, and “Will I actually use this?”
The next time you’re out at the mall, try practicing mindful spending. Yes, you can be mindful in every aspect of your life, even shopping. Mindful spending is taking a moment before that impulse purchase. Maybe you leave the store, or walk away from the computer. At that moment ask yourself one of the questions above. If you answer “No” to any of them, there’s your signal to not buy. Believe it or not, but sometimes the less we spend the happier we are.
So the next time that you start feeling overwhelmed, and caught in the rat race of life, stop, slow down, and be more mindful. Start with one of these simple steps to realign yourself. Yes, it might take more time in your day, but it’s worth it. You’re worth it!
If you would like to learn more about how to slow down, and start living a full life, contact the Inner Door Center at 248-336-2868 for more information on our treatment programs or visit www.innerdoorcenter.com