5 Ways to Live a Mindful Health Journey
These days, "being mindful" has become somewhat of a trendy topic in the health and wellness space. When people hear "mindfulness" they think they need to run off into the woods to become a monk and meditate for hours on end. I mean, you could do that if that is what calls to you — but it's certainly not the only way to be mindful in your health journey.
To be mindful with food is to be consciously aware of your body — and listening to it. Whether you follow a particular diet or simply eat nutritiously, it means taking the time to listen to your body and what it instinctively needs.
It does not mean pushing your body to extremes, like only living off of celery and water, just because a particular diet said so. Some diets work for some people, while others do not. Listen to your body — it is wise and intuitively knows how to heal and nourish itself.
So, how can you be more mindful in your personal health journey?
Focus on your long-term health goals of feeling fit, happy and healthy, rather than what you may consider "quick and easy" wins — like losing those last extra kilos. Our society thrives on the thought of instant gratification, but healthy long-term health is for life. And who doesn't want that?
Instead, try shifting the mindset from "losing weight" to building your body in a healthy way, feeling strong, and empowering yourself in confidence and good health.
According to Rebecca Gladding, MD, psychiatrist and co-author of You Are Not Your Brain (1), after 8-12 weeks of a daily meditation practice, your dorsomedial prefrontal cortex becomes activated. “This part of the brain helps you see things neutrally,” says Gladding — which is why you develop more empathy, and as a result, more compassion for yourself and others.
Don't bank your idea of 'success' on an abstract number such like your weight or waist line. Be kind to yourself and know that good health is a lifelong journey, not a quick destination. By practicing compassion in our lives, we take time to recognize that sometimes it's okay to 'cheat' or that you may eat something that doesn't always follow your diet.
If you follow a strict diet such as Keto, but you find yourself traveling in a foreign country — indulge yourself in exploring the local food! Even if it may not fall within your diet. Let's be real.. locals probably don't even know what diet is (or care!), so why not make a human connection with another beautiful Soul and bond over their customary food
Food is meant to be taken pleasure in, not restricting. Practice compassion for your own Self in knowing that you are already perfect, exactly as you show up now.
All human beings are capable of eating intuitively - meaning you do not need to kill yourself by desperately trying to follow a super extreme diet. “We can, and must, develop dialogue and relatedness with our body because it’s talking to us all the time,” says Joshua Rosenthal MScED, founder of Institute of Integrative Nutrition, the largest nutrition school.
When your body wants a certain type of food - usually there is a deeper story at play. Take a moment to pause. Ask yourself, "What is this craving? Is it really sugar that I want? What does my body actually need?"
Usually when I desperately want an entire pint of ice cream, it means that I am hungry and have not had enough nourishing food to provide energy for my body. I mean, I definitely could grab an entire pint of Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey and eat the whole pint in one sitting — but I'm pretty sure that's not what my body is actually telling me. Instead, I make myself a colorful salad full of greens, quality protein, nuts and seeds, and my craving instantly goes away.
“The real issue in this relationship is not whether your body loves you, but whether you love your body,” Joshua says in his book, Integrative Nutrition: Feed Your Hunger for Health and Happiness (2). “In any relationship, if one partner is loving, faithful and supportive, it’s easy for the other to take that person for granted. That’s what most of us do with our bodies.”
Take time to listen to your body and hear how it actually wants you to nourish it. I guarantee if you take the time to listen, she will tell you exactly what it needs - and more often than not, you'll know exactly why!
4. Observation and awareness
In meditation, teachers often ask you to become aware of your thoughts and become a witness to them. According to a study on meditation on the mind (3), conducted by Jeffrey M. Geeson, Ph.D., M.S., one can develop a heightened sense of “awareness and acceptance through meditation practice” and even “lower levels of psychological distress, including less anxiety, depression, anger, and worry.”
It is the same when being mindful in your food journey. Take time to become an observer in your life and how you can bring more acceptance and awareness into your health journey.
Do you know where your food comes from? Are you supporting your local farmer or are you supporting a commercial supermarket that imports foods from far away? Is your food organic or does it contain toxic chemicals?
Dig deeper and learn more about the foods in your life. Find a farmers markets near you, where you can support local, organic farmers with real, happy and healthy foods. If you are a meat eater, take time to consider how your animals were raised - look for organic, grass-fed and cruelty-free meats. How these animals lived their lives will transfer to you, from fork to mouth.
5. Keep an open mind
Lastly, always keep an open mind in your health journey. Feel free to experiment with different dietary theories, nutrition regimens and even new foods. You will never know if you like something (or not!) until you try it!
Challenge yourself to experiment with one new food every week - whether it's a new protein, a new type of olive oil or a new vegetable - try something new! Find new recipes and ways to cook something or be creative and find a new way to combine the things you already have in your refrigerator.
In the end, there is no right or wrong way to practice mindfulness in your health journey. It is simply about becoming aware of your journey, showing compassion to yourself and keeping an open mind knowing that your health journey is simply that — a journey to your inner Self.
1: Schwartz, JM. You are not your brain. Avery, 2012.
2: Rosenthal J. Integrative Nutrition (Third Edition): Feed Your Hunger for Health and Happiness. Integrative Nutrition Publishing, 2014.
3: Greeson JM. Mindfulness Research Update: 2008. Complementary Health Practice Review, 2009.
How do you practice mindfulness in your health journey?
Let us know in the comments below.
About the author Josie Ng
Josie Ng is a certified yoga teacher, Reiki practitioner and holistic health coach in training. She helps the modern day human to become the best version of themselves — by bringing the Mind, Body, and Spirit, into happy harmony. Currently residing on the beautiful island of Hong Kong, you will often find her making friends with every stray kitty on the street, stretching at the local yoga studio, or eating her way throughout whichever country she finds herself in.
Josie writes on different health-related topics, always from the heart, with the aim to make your health journey more fun, mindful, ánd simple.