It’s mid-year, and that means only one thing: it’s summer time.
Summer is a time to slow down, to disconnect, to spend more time in nature and mindfulness is the perfect companion for that. Mindfulness also helps you soaking in those summer vibes and savouring every moment. Moreover, it increases your joy, memory, peace and it decreases levels of stress, burnout and even depression.
This summer, whether you are on a holiday or not, try to include some mindfulness into your days. You’ll notice how slowing down improves your wellbeing and how you’ll be able to enjoy more and worry less.
Mindfulness is all about being present in this moment, being non-judgemental, compassionate and taking it slow. So don’t force yourself or worry too much about doing it right, because then, you’re missing the point. Remember kindness is a key component of mindfulness: kindness to others, but to start with: yourself!
Here are some easy and effortless ways to incorporate mindfulness into your sweet summer days:
1. Create a summer routine
What I’ve loved during this summer so far, is having my go-to new summer routine. Routines & rituals change throughout the seasons, depending on what season you are in – depending on your inner weather.
Maybe your summer routine is spending some time staring at the blue sky, sipping your coffee in the morning, taking your time to prepare breakfast and do a meditation or read a few pages. Or, maybe your routine involves some morning stretches and a freshly made smoothie.
How to create your routine
Ask yourself: what do you need in the morning, noon and/or evening? How can you honour yourself and nourish your mind, body and soul throughout the day? When are you willing and able to make time for you? Write a list of things you love to do to take care of yourself, or that might help you wake up, or fall asleep, and then slowly, incorporate them into your day.
How my routine looks like
My routine looks like this: a morning meditation, followed by my skin care routine, a morning coffee and a nourishing breakfast with fresh fruits. In the afternoon, I do my second meditation of the day, just before dinner time, to let go of the day and start fresh. Then, in the evening, I do some gentle, relaxing stretches and I fall asleep to… yes, you guessed it, a sleeping meditation! This routine nourishes me and it feels so good to honour myself three times a day.
2. Slow down
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: slow. down. Relax. Unclench your jaw, your eyebrows, relax your belly. You’re okay.
Nature does not hurry and yet everything is accomplished. Notice the difference between hurrying or rushing through your day versus taking the time.
I love to compare it with a hotel breakfast. Everyone loves a hotel breakfast, right? You wake up, get ready, go to the restaurant and a lovely buffet awaits you. You sit down, have your breakfast, enjoy the morning and it feels so good. Why? Because you take your time and prioritise having breakfast. You don’t multitask, you solo task. And that’s practising mindfulness, too.
How to slow down
Whether you’re on vacation or not, try to slow down just a little bit. You can do this by taking a break, taking some deep breaths (we tend to hold our breath when we’re too focus or rushing) or even do some stretches. Or simply, witness. You don’t have to do so much all the time. It’s okay to just be.
The benefits of doing nothing
The act of doing nothing has proven to be beneficial for our health, especially for our brain. It eliminates distractions and boosts your creativity. That’s why you have those brilliant ideas in the shower, during a meditation or right before going to bed: it’s a time and place where all the distractions fade away and you “empty.” your mind.
I love to describe journalling as: moving thoughts rom your mind onto paper. It allows you to let go of things, but also to get more clarity. Whenever I feel overwhelmed, unsure or like my mind is foggy, I do a free-flow session (writing down everything that comes into my mind) for about 15 minutes and I feel much better.
The benefits of journalling
Journalling has a lot of benefits, ranging from improving your mood, to helping you recognise patterns, set goals, identify negative thoughts, and increase positive self-talk.
If I were to ask you: who is the person you talk to the most? You would probably answer: a spouse, parent, sibling, friend,… but actually, it’s you. You are the person you talk the most with – in your mind.
Journalling brings you closer to yourself. It’s like having a conversation with yourself, as you often do in your mind, but only on paper. This allows you to receive more clarity and awareness about what’s on your mind.
What to journal about
Journalling can look like writing down how your day was, writing down 10 things you are grateful for (highly recommend doing this in the morning or whenever you feel a bit off) or writing down what you want to achieve, do or feel on the day/week/month (setting an intention).
If you are on a trip, you can document and savour the highlights by journalling about them. It will make you feel more appreciative about it, as you reflect back on them, your gratitude levels increase, which increase your “happiness hormones“! You can also write a love letter to yourself, saying how much you love and appreciate yourself, to get through summer blues after a trip or at any given time you feel a bit challenged.
4. Use your senses
To bring yourself back into this very moment, try this exercise:
name 5 things you can see
name 4 things you can feel
name 3 things you can hear
name 2 things you can smell
name 1 thing you can taste
Your senses bring you right back into this moment. And that leads you right to a moment of inner peace. It is sometimes challenging to describe mindfulness, so I encourage you to use your senses next time you are drinking, eating, walking, listening, or during any time of the day you remember to be mindful.
You will notice it automatically calms you mind, as you only focus on what you’re sensing in that moment. There is no space for thinking about the future or the past. And, as numerous studies have proven, time spent in the present moment is time spent in a calm, peaceful and happy state.
How a vacation makes you happier
What does this have to do with vacation? Novelty (experience something new) has proven to increase your brain health. Being in a new environment, our brain automatically takes in all this new information – a new scenery, environment, culture, maybe a few words in a new language -, allowing us to learn new things, which our brains absolutely love.
Resting. It’s such a necessity, but often overlooked in our lives. We are so focused on achieving, on doing, and being busy has become a sort of “proof” to others that you’re important and have a life filled with appointments. But what if it doesn’t have to be this way?
What if you could live a life, getting plenty of rest when you need so, and show up as your best to yourself and others?
A belief I’ve been “unlearning” for a few months now is that our worth is attached to our productivity. The more we do, the more we achieve, the better we feel. But also, we feel like we need to deserve our rest.
What if you could give yourself permission to rest?
Mindfulness is a continuous journey and it continues teaching me so much. Giving yourself permission to slow down, but also resting, is one of those things.
And, as always, it starts with bringing in awareness.
I always say: fill your own cup first, because you can’t pour from an empty cup. Translation: take care of yourself first, because you’re no use even to others when you’re exhausted, and not your best self.
So, in order to know what you need most, you need to ask yourself: where am I pouring out the most and not pouring back in?
Next, it’s time to find the best way to refill your cup. Maybe you’ve got your self-care routine perfectly settled already or maybe you’re not sure what you really need right now. Wherever you are, it’s okay.
One of the tools that might help you is this list of 7 types of rest. Because yes, rest is more than napping – it is replenishing and rejuvenating yourself where you most need it. So let’s dive into it!
Looks like: being physically tired, feeling drained, in need of some extra sleep or movement.
How to: firstly, there’s active physical rest: working out, going for a walk, dancing, but also, there’s passive: napping, getting a massage, laying down. Both give you more energy and replenish your body. It’s up to you to see which one you need more. Sometimes, moving when you’re tired actually gives you more energy. But if you’ve moved too much, it can be time to relax and slow down.
Looks like: feeling like your mind is “full”, feeling tired or overwhelmed after focusing very hard, difficulty concentrating, having a “foggy” mind
How to: noting down thoughts to pass them from your mind onto paper a.k.a. journalling, or meditating to clear your mind and let go of the day, also doing any activity that allows you to focus on something else for example painting, playing a game,…
Looks like: feeling overwhelmed, needing time or space alone, feeling overly sensitive
How to: close your eyes for a few minutes, take some deep breaths, nap, spend time in nature, or other less sensory places – quiet places, without many triggers or people
Looks like: feeling uninspired, stuck, or unsure what to do next, lack of creativity in your projects
How to: take inspired action & release pressure and perfectionism – just start and try something, it does not have to be perfect. Talk/listen to an inspiring person (hello, podcasts!), spend time in nature (when is this not a cure, really?), travel! (this might be the best way to boost your creativity – leave your comfort zone, set foot onto a new land, literally, even if it is domestic travel).
Looks like: feeling emotionally drained or overwhelmed, going through emotional times, experiencing feelings and unsure about where they come from, suppressing feelings you are not sure how to address or you don’t want to feel
How to: take time to feel feelings and express them rather than suppressing them or postponing it – know they are temporary, so invite compassion more than comparison to times when you were feeling better/happier. Take a break from work (if possible) if that is causing you stress and schedule in moments to take a break and tune in with how you are feeling.
Looks like: feeling drained from spending time with too many/certain people that drain your energy more than recharging you, also: feeling drained after being social a lot or spending time with a lot of people, or the opposite: feeling lonely and not nourished by the relationships in your life
How to: spend time with yourself and turn the loneliness into solitude (enjoy your time alone by taking small steps in getting comfortable being by yourself), or try to hang out with people who recharge you and fill your cup, not people who are “energy vampires”
Looks like: feeling lost and disconnected from the world or others around you, feeling sad, having big questons about life and being unsure
How to: connect with something bigger than yourself – it does not have to be religious. I am not religious, but I am spiritual, and that has helped me a lot in navigating through these feelings and realising we are all connected and part of the same oneness. Know that you are never alone, you are part of something much bigger. Try meditation (try a loving kindness meditation or group meditation), try our community involvement or, if you are religious, prayer.
I really hope this has helped you or inspired you to rest, recharge and relax – even when you are not burnt out or exhausted or even tired. It’s okay to give yourself permission to rest, you don’t have to wait until you’re burnt out. And as you see, rest is more than physical or mental, there are many aspects to it. Take care of yourself and remember to be mindful: compassionate, kind, non-judgmental and aware.
Phew. What a month. Am I the only one having experienced challenges where my confidence and personal boundaries were tested? Where my my self-care on all levels got super important and fatigue came to say hi on the regular? I know I’m not alone at this, we never are.
Us humans are a pro at do-ing. Constantly being ON, being active, achieving, ticking off boxes on our to-do lists, reaching targets, crushing deadlines, getting results. After a year of living in a pandemic, with many in and out of a lockdown or quarantine, our nervous system has had the chance to rewind. To slow down. To step back from our busy lives, professional and social, and retreat within our homes, families, and ourselves.
However, now that the line between working from home and living at work got a lot thinner, it’s especially important to set clear boundaries, take our time to disconnect and come from a place of rest and being completely ourselves, more than living in response to our external experiences and keep saying yes to everything and everyone but ourselves.
Exhaustion, burnout, fatigue, stress, anxiety are all consequences of how we react, how we handle our daily lives and how we take care of ourselves before tackling the day. As a Mindfulness teacher, I’m happy to share with you some tips that have helped me and my clients handle fatigue, stress, anxiety, burnout and come back to a place of rest, worthiness and deep inner peace. I bumped into these tips while listening to the world’s greatest leaders on wellbeing, health and personal development, especially the last week and month, when I also needed it the most.
Listen to your body right now: what is it telling you? How do you feel, and where do you feel it?
The first step is becoming aware of those signs of exhaustion and demotivation. You can do this by taking regular breaks, setting a timer every 2 hours to take a deep breath and check in with yourself.
If you’re feeling emotionally drained from work, try checking in with yourself and stop doing things for the sake of doing. Ask yourself: why are you ticking off to do lists? Does it come from a place of have-to, of fear, of exhaustion? Or does it come from a place of get-to, or excitement, of motivation?
My no 1 tip is: take care of yourself first. Fill your cup first, because you cannot pour from an empty cup. You have nothing left to give if your cup is empty.
So, where do you start? Get enough sleep, drink enough water, get some exercise (even if that is gentle stretching, going for a walk or doing some yoga), eat nutritious meals. Take care of yourself. Your body and mind are interconnected, science keeps proving us.
Giving Yourself Grace
What is very important is to practice acceptance and self compassion. You are doing your best. You are only human. You are worthy of happiness, of rest, you do not need to deserve it. We tend to have forgotten about that in our society. It is as if we have to achieve, get results, first, before we can enjoy life and rest. We feel bad if we do so, without any reason – while actually, who says we can’t?
Your worth is not attached to your productivity. If you catch yourself getting off trail and trying to prove yourself, overwork, for the sake of getting approval, or validation from other: be gentle with yourself, and come back. Take a deep breath and come back to yourself. Remind yourself you are worthy, no matter what.
Give yourself permission to rest and go against what society thinks humans are: robots.
Honor what you need. Do you need to tune off social media? Do it. Do you need more sleep? Prioritise it. Do you feel like you need to stretch your legs more? Go for a walk or run. Prioritise your needs.
Retreating within and finding a still space within is something that has become less and less common, but so important. Sometimes, we just want to tune out all the noise of the outside world and find that space within, that space of stillness, of silence.
Your intuition always tells you what is best for you, you just need to listen to it and tune into the right frequency. As with radios, we can be tuned into certain frequencies. We can change those. You wouldn’t listen to a rock radio channel 24/7, right? Sometimes, you want silence or a classical music radio channel. So why don’t we do the same for our minds?
Not only our body needs attention, our minds needs it to: self-compassion, positive self-talk and meditating, retreating within is of utmost importance.
If you/re new to meditation, don’t worry. Even a few deep breaths and a timer for 2 min can get you in the right space and leave you feel refreshed and recharged. The more you do it, the more you will notice the benefits (outside your meditation practise itself) and the more often you will practice, because you will love going back to that place within.
Remember, meditation is a practice. It should not be perfect and it is not perfect. It is about practising taking a moment for yourself to sit down, repeat a mantra, count your breaths or visualise something that relaxes you. There are so many different forms and ways of meditation, I really encourage you to experiment and find what works for you.
Routines & Rituals
Routines serve as the building foundation of your wellbeing and it consists out of the things that make you feel good and that help you be the best, most inspired version of yourself. As I mentioned before, starting with the basic rules of health: getting enough sleep, nourishing meals, hydration, and movement automatically put your body in its best position.
Two routines that have helped me so much lately to come from a place of rest are my morning & evening routine. When I get up, the first I do is meditate. I tune in with myself before I tune in with the world. It allows me to come from my place, my true self, rather than being thrown around like a bottle on a stormy sea, moving from the one thing that calls our attention to the other. It’s about reacting from the inside rather than reacting from the outside.
What will you add to your routines or rituals?
Small habits throughout the day that have the deepest impact: checking in with yourself through deep breathing, sipping some water for hydrating, going for a walk, stretching and taking time for your tea/coffee/lunch/dinner. Do them mindfully, with your fullest attention, instead of rushing through it.
We tend to live with this one belief: whatever comes next, is more important than what is happening right now. Whatever happens next, is more urgent than what is happening right now. If we keep living like this, we always miss out on this very moment. And this very moment is the only moment when life happens.
Happy international day of happiness! With everything that is going on in the world, we can all use a day like this one: to focus on what brings us joy and other positive feelings.
Mindfulness has been scientifically proven to increase positive feelings. As a mindfulness coach, I notice many of my students feel happier, more accepting and more grateful after practicing mindfulness regularly.
Mindfulness has 3 main components.
Firstly, it is all about bringing in awareness to the present moment: to your feelings, emotions, thoughts, sensations, surroundings,… noticing whatever is going on inside and around you. We train our minds to do this by simply exercises and practices such as mindfulness meditation, grounding practices through our 5 senses and more.
Next, we have a certain attitude of openness, curiosity and non-judgement. Allowing whatever is, to be. To be curious on how you are thinking or feeling and allow it to be there, giving yourself compassion.
This is the part of taking in the observer seat. I always say: instead of serving our thoughts or reality, we observe them. This is all about non-identification. When we observe it, we are that which is aware of them. That means we are not our thoughts or emotions but that which is aware of them. And this is where the magic begins. Because then, you can make conscious choices to what you’ll do next.
And then we come to the third component; acceptance. Not fight or resist whatever happens (often negative feelings) but instead allow it to be there. Not making yourself feel bad for feeling this way and not criticizing yourself but rather showing yourself compassion.
Mindfulness is also about compassion. There are 3 aspects to compassion: 1. Knowing you are not alone. 2. Knowing whatever you are experiencing is temporary. And 3., non-identification; knowing you are not your thoughts and feelings but rather the one observing them.
So how can mindfulness improve our levels of happiness?
First of all, when you apply the three components of awareness, attitude and acceptance, you will find that you will be kinder to yourself and others . You will have less stress. You will be a better decision maker. You will be more openminded and accepting of what is happening which allows you to not het caught up in a fast automatic response (sympathetic nervous system) but rather come from a place of rest and your own conscious awareness (parasympathetic nervous system). You will not judge yourself or beat yourself up for feeling a certain way, but you will learn to accept it and show yourself grace with the 3 aspects of compassion.
These benefits are all scientifically proven. Mindfulness has been around for thousand of years. Isn’t it amazing how powerful we are?
You will also notice by bringing in your attention into this present moment, that most of your worries and anxiety float away. They stem from either comparing your situation to the past and being sad over what’s already gone, or worrying about the future and trying to control the outcome of things.
That is why mindfulness has helped me deal with my anxiety so much. When we are present into this moment, we automatically unlock joy and gratitude for that which we have. We snap back from the automatic pilot we are in most of the timed and come back to this moment and to ourselves. When we realize we have a choice: get caught up in our thoughts or watch them pass by, we can take action as we please. Same thing for mindfulness at the workplace, relationships, eating habits/disorder, … the key is to be present. That creates a space in which we have control to act.
Many studies have shown the act of being present / practicing mindfulness increases levels of joy, gratitude, happiness and acceptance of things because of this mindful approach of non-judgement, compassion and curiosity.
Psychology today recently posted a new study in which participants were taught the first part of mindfulness which is called monitoring: the awareness + attitude, simply noticing what is going on and taking in the seat of the observer, non-judgemental, and another group added the acceptance part: accepting what is going on.
This is what they concluded:
Results showed that while all the active mindfulness interventions (monitoring only and monitoring + acceptance) reduced negative feelings equally from before to after the study, they differed in their effects on positive feelings. For improving positive feelings, the monitoring + acceptance group had a significantly stronger effect, compared to monitoring only and control conditions.Psychologytoday.com
These results mean that practicing mindfulness may make us happier only if we learn to tolerate, make space for, and accept whatever experiences arise, rather than judging them, letting them define us, or running away from them. Perhaps acceptance leads to a mindset shift in which we can let go and be ok with things as they are, rather than focusing on what we don’t have, what we should have done, or what might happen in the future. Letting go of trying to control everything can make space for you to take a breath and feel the joy of the present moment, whether it’s walking your dog, hugging your child, having lunch with a friend, or doing interesting work.Psychologytoday.com
Mindfulness is more than practicing it regularly: mindful living is all about having this open approach to life and be mindful of even your daily chores like showering or cooking or eating. It’s about not running away or beating yourself up for feeling a certain way, too. When you’re in the present moment, it’s a peaceful feeling and you give your mind and body the chance to slow down and actually live your life, that is after all happening right now.
If you’re keen on learning more about mindfulness, download my free e-book, A Guide to Mindful Living, here!
If you want to get started with mindfulness and jump into my 10-day mindfulness course which features all the ways you can bring in mindfulness into your life and start meditating, practice gratitude, shift your mindset, practice more self-love, create healthy habits and so much more: join Flow, my signature mindfulness and self growth course, here. It’s currently 50% off so don’t miss this limited lower price!
No matter which season we are in, not only our bodies need some nourishment – our souls & minds need it too. Especially now, a year into this pandemic, we all deserve a serious pat on the back for making it so far. However, often life gets in the way – we all have our daily work & tasks to complete. Often, this constant running towards do-ing, and not giving our bodies our minds the change to be, leaves us tired, drained, burn out. Luckily, there’s ways to avoid this. Here are 6 mindful ways to take care during winter season.
1. Slow Down – Practice Mindfulness Meditations
Mindfulness invites us to slow down and live in this present moment. It allows us to snap out of the auto-pilot mode and tune in with our reality by simply observing it and becoming aware of it.
This way, we can actually live in this moment, and not only enjoy it so much more, but also tune in more with our bodies & minds as we do so.
If you’re on auto-pilot mode all the time, rushing through your day, and not being aware of how you actually feel, the time flies by. The days, weeks and months fly by. And before you know it, you’ve actually spent so much time living on auto-pilot mode – doing things without thinking, without being aware that you are doing them.
You can practice mindfulness on many different ways. There are mindfulness meditations, breathing exercises, and actually you can turn any activity into a mindful activity. Lately, I love indulging myself into mindful cooking. Normally, as I don’t like cooking that much, I tend to rush it and get it over with quickly. I’ve noticed that taking my time and cooking slowly & mindfully, makes the whole process a lot more enjoyable.
If you’d like to learn more about mindfulness, download my free e-book, A Guide to Mindful Living, here, with lots of tips and written in a clear Q&A- format to answer the most asked questions & the best ways to practice it, beginner-proof, but also effective if you’re more advanced.
Check out my free mindfulness meditations in English & Dutch on Insight Timer here.
2. Mindful Eating & Moving
Let’s continue with the basics: during winter, or any season really, it’s important to get enough vitamins, minerals, fresh air & sunlight. Eat enough veggies & fruit, and maybe get creative on finding new ways to include them in your meals.
I’m normally not a huge fan of soups, but it has become my favourite meal in winter. You cannot rush eating soup, which is a great way to eat mindfully & slowly.
Smoothies on the other hand ensure I get my daily dose of fruits. Any hot beverages or meals are perfect to be enjoyed mindfully. The benefits of this? Less binge-eating, weight control, more enjoyment, better digestion and reduce of stress.
Moving your body will also help you in fighting winter blues or lockdown laziness – even if it’s a 10-minute stretch sessions, your body will thank you!
Next time you go on a walk, try to pay attention to everything you can feel & see around you. Mindful walking reduces stress, improves your mood, boosts your energy, and helps you connect more with your body.
Listen here to my podcast on mindful eating and how to improve your relationship with food, your body image & be more kind and compassionate towards yourself.
3. Relax & Recharge Guilt-Free
As I mentioned earlier, this season is a season of introspection, of rest. When we look at nature – which is ultimately, our greatest teacher – we see that animals hold their winter hibernation, lakes freeze, trees lose their leaves and everything stops for a while and slows down.
There’s no denying that us humans are a part, a product of nature too. And as such, it’s important to honour mother nature and allows ourselves to follow its example.
Allow yourself to rest and relax. Let go of the need to do things, constantly. It’s okay to do absolutely nothing. Rest is also productive.
As SCL Health says: “When you turn off all distractions, it allows space for your subconscious to expand, ultimately boosting your creativity. When distracted, our mind jumps to the most obvious answers when trying to solve problems. But once you take the time to exhaust those options, you end up thinking of breakthrough, inventive answers that can lead to some life-changing ideas.”SCL Health
So who knows, maybe that hour or day of putting all tasks aside will benefit you more than you think.
What helps me a lot is making a priority list – a list of things that need to get done first. This helps prevent burn out as you focus on only what’s important instead of being overwhelmed by a huge list of tasks.
Letting yourself rest and recharge is the ultimate gift you can give yourself. After all, nothing ever good comes from pushing through and not listening to our bodies.
4. Connect with your close ones
Whether you’re in lockdown as I am, or you’re as free as a bird: having enough contact with the people closest to you is important for your emotional health, with directly links to your overall health.
Whether it’s a simple text, a video call, or having digital dates (or real life dates if you’re one of the lucky!) cherish these times with your loved ones. Enjoy it.
Also here is mindfulness a beautiful way to improve your relationships and actually enjoy them even more by tapping into the present moment.
5. Dive Into Gratitude
If you’re feeling the winter blues, try this: write a friend or family member a letter or just a text, saying how much you appreciate having them in your life. Show gratitude for them. Research has shown that practising gratitude improves your levels of happiness and even boosts your health.
For me, saying my daily thanks has become a habit – one I love the most. We tend to look at what goes wrong or what we don’t have. Gratitude shows us the other side, a side I think we should all visit more often.
Express your thankfulness with me on this meditation on Insight Timer!
6. Rely on Rituals
If there’s anything I’ve learned the past years about habits, it’s that the right ones bring out the best benefits for you mental, emotional & physical health.
Setting a clear morning & evening ritual helps your body adjust to your daily rhythm and the upcoming day or night.
Instead of diving into your day as soon as you wake up, try taking some time for yourself to get into your day. Starting the day slowly without all the distractions is how you preserve more energy.
Here are some tips for a mindful morning:
On the other hand, closing down your nights calms down your mind & body, making the transition from always being on and awake, to allowing rest & relaxation lead the way.
Sleep experts say limiting your exposure to blue light (or any screen really) benefits your sleep, as well as keeping your bedroom dark & quiet. A mindfulness meditation to relax, a cup of calming tea, and a book to read until you drift off are some of my essentials this winter.
I genuinely hope these tips have helped you in taking care of yourself during winter (or any season, really). It’s so important to check in with ourselves. Your mental health is as important as your physical health. And yes, it comes before work. If you notice yourself tired, stressed or drained, stop. Come back to this moment. Take some deep breaths or whatever helps you in getting back into your day. Maybe it’s a power nap or a midday shower. Stay safe!
f you want to relax and retreat together with beautiful women on a mindfulness retreat, to find more calm, connection and clarity, join us on my Mindfulness Retreat this summer in Portugal!
Bring a girl friend and get both 10% off (only valid for a limited time + spots are running out for august!) 👉🏼
In honour of #EDAwarenessweek, and in honour of all who are battling with an ED, I decided to write this piece about mindful eating – bringing in mindfulness not only during eating, but also before and afterwards.
What is mindfulness, and what is mindful eating? Why and how can we mindfully eat? How does it relate to distorted eating? Find out the answers to these questions below.
What is mindfulness?
First of all, let me explain what mindfulness exactly is. Mindfulness is about bringing your attention to this moment, and focusing on what is going on in your head (noticing thoughts), body (noticing emotions and feelings) and environment. As we practice awareness, we bring in compassion, non-judgment, and curiosity. We want to come from a place of observing our reality instead of serving it, and stop living on automatic pilot, without any awareness of what is going on.
Now, what is mindful eating all about?
Before I explain it, I’d love if you can take the time to reflect on these questions:
- What was the last thing you ate today?
- How did it really taste like?
- What did it look like?
- What was the texture like?
- How long did it take you to eat it?
- Were was your attention while you were eating it?
- Were you focus on the food, or watching, reading something else?
- How did you feel before you ate?
- How did you feel after you ate?
If I would ask you these questions after you went to a Michelin restaurant, you would probably give me way more details about the food then if I were to ask you about your homemade lunch. That’s the beauty of our senses: we can use them to focus our attention back into this moment. Because that expensive meal was so special, you used all your senses to fully savour the moment. By doing it the other way, by engaging our senses, we can make every moment count.
As you might have noticed, mindful eating is about fully focusing on what you are eating. It is also about removing distractions that might keep you from eating mindfully, such as our scrolling through your phone, reading the newspaper, continuing with any activity such as working or even watching the tv.
However, mindful eating starts before the eating part. It is about noticing when you think about food, whether you are really hungry or an addiction or craving or habit is kicking in, through listening to our bodies and bringing in awareness. Awareness, not judgement – we want to not judge ourselves or judge sensations, thoughts or feelings that may arise. We simply notice that they are there, instead of suppressing them of making ourselves feels worse about it.
When you can bring your kind, gentle, non-judgemental curiosity to this, you can then take action as you please – eat when you are hungry, fulfil the craving, continue the habit, feed the addiction – or not. And that is where the power lays: the moment you create the awareness, you create a space, a space where you have the freedom to choose what you do next.
In a scenario of disordered eating, this becomes very interesting. Because after creating awareness, we can bring in compassion to ourselves – hey, it’s okay you are having these thoughts, it’s okay you want to do this. I don’t judge you. You are human. You are doing your best. (space to choose) – so this time, let’s take care and let’s do what it best for the body (however that looks like for you).
Why should I practice mindful eating?
Mindful eating has been proven to reduce binge-eating, eating disorders and illnesses/conditions related to it (obesitas, being overweight, too high calorie intake).
Even if you aren’t struggling with an eating disorder, mindful eating can help you in enjoying your food more, being more present while eating it and savouring it much more than if you were focused on something else and eating without being aware of it.
As we become of our thoughts, and sensations, we have the conscious choice on what to do next – for people with an eating disorder, this can be focusing on the positive and realising that the inner critic voice in your head is not telling the truth and is not who you are, but instead try to bring in some positive self-talk.
When your mind is clouded with negative thoughts about your self-image, body posture or weight, it’s great that you are aware of that, because now you can realise they are just thoughts and you bring in some of your own positive, empowering thoughts, and even do something that is good for you and your body.
How can I practice mindful eating?
When you notice thoughts or sensations that you are getting hungry, or craving a certain type of food, ask yourself: how does my body feel? Am I hungry, or just craving food? (you know when you are hungry when you are open to eating something different than the food you are craving, if you only want 1 type of food it is a craving)
When you are able to check in with your body first – again, with curiosity, non-judgment and compassion – you can give your body what it needs. It is not bad to have a craving, it is not bad to be hungry, we are practising simply noticing it.
Next, when you have brought your awareness to it, and you decided to eat and you have your food in front of you, ask yourself: How does it look like? What is the texture like? What are the colours like? How does it taste like? Take your time with eating, fully savour it, and engage with your 5 senses. What helps is imagining it is a expensive meal in a 5-star restaurant. This automatically allows us to focus on it more, because it would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
How does mindfulness even relate to disordered eating?
Our world is full of distractions. Bringing in mindfulness whether you have an ED or not, can make you feel better in your own skin, can help increase self-compassion, non-judgment and can help you get out of your mind and back into this moment, making informed decisions and taking action as you think is best.
Are there any studies or proof that it has a positive impact?
Yes, there are studies conducted that prove that mindfulness has a positive impact on people struggling with an eating disorder. These studies were small-scaled and call for further investigation and more experiments, since the results were promising.
“Another study found that mindfulness-based group treatment may be effective for patients suffering from bulimia nervosa. Participants described their transformation from emotional and behavioural extremes, disembodiment and self-loathing to greater self-awareness, acceptance and compassion, according to this study.”https://themeadowglade.com/mindfulness-and-eating-disorders/
The present study is an exploratory examination of the efficacy of the application of mindfulness-based interventions to the treatment of eating disorders. It employs a systematic review technique in which terms from the Psychological Index Terms of the American Psychological Association (APA) were chosen and analyzed in conjunction with Boolean operators. Using data obtained by the online consultation of references from 12 different bibliographical databases, 8 studies were included in the systematic review. Each study reported satisfactory results, although trial qualities were variable and sample sizes were small. Nonetheless, the current study found initial evidence supporting the effectiveness of mindfulness-based interventions to the treatment of eating disorders. The application of mindfulness-based interventions to the treatment of eating disorders remains a promising approach worthy of further research.The application of mindfulness to eating disorders treatment: a systematic review
Rocío Guardiola Wanden-Berghe 1, Javier Sanz-Valero, Carmina Wanden-Berghe
Mindfulness seems to be a good candidate for improving your self-awareness and bringing in more compassion. That makes total sense, since the pillars of mindfulness are awareness, non-judgement, curiosity and compassion.
The fact that is has been scientifically proven and tested on people, is just amazing news – it proof us humans are capable of healing ourselves, not through only medication or other external factors, but from within, form our minds – mindfulness.
Have you tried mindful eating? I challenge you to try it out during your next meal. Notice what difference it makes!
Living mindfully means more than meditating, being calm all the time, or having no stress (that’s impossible and not the goal). Mindful living means making conscious choices instead of living on automatic pilot. It means living our truth, and getting closer to ourselves. I’d like to share with you some powerful lessons that I came across this week. These lessons reminded me that mindfulness and its benefits are so much more than less anxiety, more peace, better sleep,…🤍
1. From rushing to stopping & making conscious choices
Living mindfully means living in this moment. It means to get out of the spiral of rushing through our morning, day, week, month and whole life. It means slowing down and coming back to this very moment.
So, why it is so important to get out of the automatic pilote mode?
When we are in automatic pilot mode, it feels like we are on a treadmill, always going, not stopping for a moment, and doing most of our life automatically – without thinking.
This is not a bad thing of course. I love that I am able to walk without thinking, get in a car and drive without thinking about every little action, and other automatised things in our lives we’ve grown customed to.
It’s about the moments we do want to be present in, the actions we do want to experience, and our lives we don’t want to miss out on. It’s about being able to press pause, and stop rushing through life for a moment. When we are not thinking, our actions flow automatically. When we are present, we can make our own decisions & act accordingly.
A great example is when you are having an argument. Most of us answer without listening. We talk fast, to answer the other person, but actually we have not really listened to them or we have not really thought about what we want to say. We automatically say something back, out of anger, frustration, or whatever is driving you at that moment. When we are mindful – present – we have the chance to pause, to not be lead by our emotions, and in that pause we have the chance to consciously respond.
That’s where the power of mindfulness lies in: conscious choices.
I learned this in handling my anxiety – it started with noticing I was beginning to feel anxious: I noticed my thoughts going in a spiral about a possible outcome about the future, I noticed my palms getting sweaty and my stomach turning around, and I also noticed I was sitting in a bus, totally at peace, undisturbed, and that this anxiety/negative stress was not necessary right now.
So after becoming aware of it, I consciously chose to guide my attention back to my breath – through counting my breaths and taking long, deep breaths. This allows my nervous system to calm down, and guide my mind and body back into this moment, away from the what-if scenarios in my mind.
2. From complaining to giving thanks & having enough
We live in a society that runs fast, as we discussed previously, We are constantly pushed to get a new phone, new car, new clothes, to always get more and more. It makes us feeling like we never have enough. When is it enough? When will we be fulfilled? The thrill of getting the newest phone only lasts a bit. it does not last forever. It fades, and then we satisfy ourselves with something else, and so it goes on and on.
Our society is often making us compare ourselves to others. Our judgmental minds then step in and does not really help us – we are our own worst critics. This amplifies the feeling of not being good enough, not having enough, not doing enough,…
How can mindfulness stop us from the treadmill or wanting more and allow us to appreciate what we have?
By showing gratitude, and focusing on all the things we can be grateful for and say thanks for, we shift our minds from lack to abundance. We go from not having x to I am grateful that I have x.
A process called neuroplasticity shows that the neural networks in our brains are able to change through growth and reorganisation (Wikipedia). In simple terms, we can re-write our brains by training it. How? By shifting our thoughts and mindset.
This is what happens when we practice gratitude. We are training our brain to recognise the good in a situation, to recognise the opportunity, to recognise what we do already have, instead of focusing on what’s lacking.
And there is only one way to practice gratitude: in this very moment. We cannot be grateful while being sad. We cannot experience any other emotion while being grateful, that’s the power and beauty of it. Where gratitude exists, the present moment is used to its fullest: to recognise our blessings.
Start with thinking about 1-3 things you can be grateful for when you wake up or go to sleep. Proceed by writing a gratitude list daily. You’ll notice the more you do this, the more things pop up which you can say thanks for. You don’t have to lok far for it: the simple fact that you are alive, reading this, and breathing, are things we often take for granted and is something you can definitely say thanks for.
3. From waiting on something to happen in order to be happy to living in joy right now
We are always thinking about the next big thing – the next day, the next presentation, the next gratification, the next trigger that gives us that hit of dopamine.
We have this picture in our minds of how things will go, and we keep telling us : I’ll be happy then. I’ll be happy when I make it through the end of the week and head into the weekend. But why can’t we be happy at the beginning of the week, or int he middle? Why do we feel the need to get through something in order to finally feel happy?
These boosts, these sort-lasting hits of dopamine we get through instant gratification are way different than the long-lasting joy we can access right now.
When we get back to this moment, we can let go of the worrying, the fantasising,
How can mindfulness help us access longlasting, inner joy in this moment instead of waiting for it to happen?
Simply guiding our attention to our breath, our surroundings can bring us back to this moment. When we are in this moment, we realise we have all that we need, right here, right now.
When we pay attention to our reality right now, we realise how wonderful it is and then, joy comes from within. Live like this everyday, and you’ll start to build up your inner “ball of joy”. That feeling of appreciation will get easier to access.
Train your mind to see the wonders of life in this very moment. Instead of looking for contentment in the future, trying to chase something that will never fill up the cravings, stop. Stop and feel the joy of this very moment.
How? By practising mindfulness. By paying attention: to the little things, to the big things, to the running water when you shower, to nature, to the clouds, to fresh air, to your bed, to every new morning you get to experience.
Simply guide your attention to the here and now. And you’ll notice that you’ll start to see your worries in your mind as what they try are: just thoughts. Not the truth.
Stay true to yourself. You’ve got this!
For more information on mindfulness, and how to exactly bring your attention back to this moment through breath, the 5 senses or many more ways, check out the other blogs on this topic, get your free copy of my mindfulness e-book or sign up for my weekly newsletter here.
If you’d like to have a deeper, private guidance with mindfulness, I’ve recently opened up 2 spots for private coaching. Sign up here for a free clarity call and let’s connect!
Happy Valentine’s Day! Today is all about showing love and appreciation to your loved ones. You might have seen a lot of self-love themed marketing campaigns, where companies try to sell you jewellery, skincare, flowers, chocolates, all to treat yourself. This is one way of showing yourself appreciation, yes, but there are a million other ways, less expensive, less big grand gestures, that we incorporate into our daily lives and show ourselves daily self-love.
Self-Compassion vs Self-Love
Recently, I wrote a blog post about mindful self-compassion, meaning giving ourselves exactly what we need in that moment and being our own best friend instead of enemy. However, self-love is different from self-compassion, Whereas self-compassion is more about compassion towards ourself, self-love is all about showing yourself appreciation!
In psychology, self-love is known to not be selfish, but necessary to have a healthy relationship with yourself (even in times of failure) while impacting others positively as well.
“It all starts with you! If you are not in a good place, characterised by balance, compassion, and inner peace, you are likely in no position to do your best work or be the best partner, parent, or friend that you can be.”Courtney Ackerman, PositivePsychology.com