Its that time of year when lots of occasions are food focussed. Going into the office you come across cakes and sweets. Nights out focus around meals. Every meal has a special pudding. Every cuppa is accompanied by a cake.
Most of us are alert to the danger of eating too much and the emotional baggage that can follow. Guilt and anxiety are common feelings when we have over indulged. Less common in our thoughts are perhaps those who are caused anxiety and stress by the idea of eating because of an eating disorder.
I met a lady last week who told me that she was anorexic and she asked how mindfulness might help her with her approach to food. She said before and after eating were the difficult times for her and that was when her stress became hard to put up with. We had a chat and I told her I would do a blog to explain…
Mindfulness helps us to deal with thoughts, feelings and emotions. It helps us to realise that none of these three are permanent. They arise, reach the peak of their intensity and then fade again. That can be a really liberating thought because you realise you aren’t stuck with an worrying thought. You aren’t doomed to always be anxious. You aren’t always going to feel sad. All of these emotions come to us at particuler times and then they fade away and happiness, enjoyment and relaxation come our way too.
Meditation exercises help us to know our own minds and when we get more familiar with the way our minds work we get more familiar with this constant pattern of thoughts and feelings coming and going. Once we know this is how it works we can learn to wait for thoughts and feelings to pass rather than getting even more anxious about them. We know they will pass and this is a relief!
So this pattern applies no matter what the thoughts and feelings are about. For someone who has food worries this can be really useful. If anxiety arises before and after eating then learning the skill of mindfulness and watching and being aware of our thoughts can provide a real coping mechanism.
An intense thought that prevents the person consuming healthy and nourishing food may come but it will also fade. There is no need to act on that thought. Free will is still there. Fresh thoughts will come.
An intense thought of regret following food consumption may come but rather than taking any action simply waiting for that thought to pass will relieve the mental anguish. Waiting for the feeling of fullness to fade will reduce the physical concerns too.
The realisation that we are not our thoughts and feelings means that we can decide whether to act on them. We have real choice and we are not stuck with pattern of behaviour. We can change our mind!
To get to grips with learning to know your mind come on a Revitalise Day. The skills you learn will help you to cope with all sorts of personal challenges.