Five ways to be more mindful

Recently, mindfulness has become a pervasive buzzword. You can find mindfulness used in schools, your job, in yoga and fitness classes, in coffee shops, restaurants, and even in your doctors office. We hear the word mindfulness but what does it mean, and more importantly, how do we become more mindful?

 Skyterra lecture
Co-author Lindsay Ford speaks about mindfulness at Skyterra.

Jon Kabat Zinn, Ph.D, who many consider the founder of mindfulness and mindfulness-based stress reduction, defines mindfulness as: “Paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” 

Here at Skyterra and especially during our Freedom with Food weeks, guests incorporate mindfulness into educational classes and activities each day. We’ve found that being mindful as much as possible helps guests learn how to incorporate it into everyday life, especially when it comes to our eating patterns. 

Developing and incorporating a mindfulness practice into your daily routine is an effective way to slow down and reduce stress. Being able to be fully present with where you are, what you are eating, who you are with, and what you are feeling — all without judging yourself for any of the thoughts and feelings that may come up for you — is what mindfulness and mindful eating are all about.

It is important to remember that mindfulness is not about thinking but about noticing and being aware of your body and the environment around you. Thoughts will come in and out during mindfulness and meditation and that is OK. Let them come and then let them go. Focus on your breath and what is around you and enjoy.

Below are the tips we offer to guests so they can start using mindfulness right away:

Tip #1: Practice mindful eating to slow down during meals.

Practice mindful eating to slow down during meals.
  • Be aware of what you are eating, the environment in which you are eating, and observe how you feel before, during and after you eat.
  • Be present and in the moment when you eat. Sit down at the table, turn off your television and place your cell phone and/or computer in another room while you eat.
  • Savor each bite. Enjoy the food that is nourishing your body. Notice its texture, and how it looks, smells and tastes.
  • Practice non-judgment of yourself while eating. Whatever thoughts come into your mind, place them on a cloud and let them pass by in the sky. Be kind to yourself because you deserve love. 

Tip #2: Create a mindfulness journal.

  • There are many ways to journal. You could start by writing three things you are grateful for each day or begin a feelings journal where you are noticing different thoughts and feelings that come up for you throughout the day. Find what works for you.

Tip #3: Take a mindful walk.

Take a mindful walk.
  • Take a short walk and notice the colors, smells and sounds around you.
  • Move slowly, noticing how your feet touch the ground with each step.
  • Feel your legs moving with each step and how the weight is shifting to each leg every time you take a step.
  • You can even count your steps to keep your mind focused.

Tip #4: Practice mindful belly breathing for 5 to 10 minutes a day.

  • Lie on your back and place one hand on your stomach. Begin by taking a deep controlled inhale through the nose. This can be to a count of 3, 4, 5 or 6. Notice how your hand rises with your stomach. Release your breath with long controlled exhales through the mouth to the same count as you chose for the inhale and again notice how your hand falls with your stomach again. This can be a very calming and grounding practice. 
  • Creating a breathing practice allows you to become more mindful of your breath while allowing your nervous system to slow down so that you are able to begin to respond rather than react to certain situations and triggers. 
  • Becoming mindful of your breath also lets your brain and body know you are safe. 

Tip #5: Incorporate meditation in a mindful way.

  • You can begin with just 1 to 5 minutes each day; try working up to 12 minutes for a consistent daily practice.
  • Meditation supports an increase in mindfulness through heightened observation of breath and the environment around you.
  • There are several apps you can install on your phone such as Calm, Headspace, and Insight Timer for no charge that provide a useful variety of meditations at different time lengths. 

Increasing research shows us that mindfulness allows us to become more in tune with, and aware of, the present moment in our bodies and the environment around us. It helps to slow down our nervous system, boost our immune system, improve concentration and focus, reduce ruminative thinking, support better sleep, support a decrease in disordered eating behaviors, and reduce stress.

Looking for more? Join us for our next Freedom with Food week, Nov. 3 to Nov. 10, where we will dive deeper into the practice and benefits of mindfulness.

— By Lindsay Ford, Registered Dietitian, and Shannon Worley, MSW, LCSW