by John Baker
It’s 6pm on a Tuesday. You’ve been sitting in traffic for an hour after working for 9 straight hours at a job that’s glamour wore off years ago. You’re stressed, moderately frustrated, and tired because you haven’t slept well since ’97 when your third child was born. You meander into the bank’s home that you someday hope to call your own, put your bag down and head to the cabinet mindlessly, grab a handful of your favorite snack, which incidentally you’ve been doing since ’92 when your first child was born… The night continues in a similar fashion, and tomorrow you have the opportunity to do it all over again.
We all get into ruts and just mindlessly skate by from one event to the next. Grab a drink here, drive the kids there, eat that thing we didn’t even enjoy that was on the table in the meeting, and then eat another one… The saga continues day after day, year after year. Could you imagine the horror the in-shape, 20 year old you would have if he or she watched these actions take place — the mindless eating and drinking, day after day that has robbed you of your health and wellbeing?
Writing this, I don’t have the answers for you as an individual. I don’t know all the aspects of your life, nor do I know the intricacies of your brain’s wiring. I am thankful for this because this puts you in a position of power rather than me. A position in which you get to choose to interpret the stimuli of the situation you’re in and act mindfully, rather than react mindlessly. Ultimately these mindless actions could be the very reason you have failed to achieve your goals despite any conscious recollection of where you may have gone wrong. Mindful, conscious reflection and action is equally as important as any other piece to the fitness and wellness puzzle.
We all do things without thinking; some would argue it’s in our nature to do so, while others would disagree. Mindfulness practices have been around for as long as civilizations have existed. In recent times however, we have drifted away, our lives routed towards efficiency and industrial progress in the modern age. We have traded in home cooked family meals focused on togetherness and quality time for drive though meals focused on gluttony and emotional suppression. We’ve traded in being outside and restoring ourselves organically for depleting ourselves via binging on food and TV. Why? That is the question we must ask ourselves.
Mindfulness literally just starts with asking ourselves why do we do the things we do. Why am I eating when I’m not hungry? Why am I drinking daily in front of my kids? Did I eat that donut in the meeting because I was hungry, or because it looked good, or maybe I ate it because I didn’t want to feel socially left out? If the latter, we then need to ask ourselves, does the momentary feeling of feeling left out (which, honestly nobody in the meeting probably even noticed, and those who did may envy you for restraint and strength) outweigh that feeling we get when we look at ourselves in the mirror at the end of the day, unhappy about your physique? Am I supporting a self-defeating cycle of negative self-image because I am too frightful to take charge of my actions at lunch every day? Am I even aware of or remember what my actions were at lunch today? Knowing the why is vital if we are to overcome the monotonous routines we have set for ourselves and take back control of our eating habits and subsequently our lives.
Next time you are about to eat or drink something, do a body scan. Ask yourself – Why am I doing this? What emotional state am I in right now? What were the events leading up to this? What sort of environment am I in that led to this decision? What am I feeling physically that I think this action may help curb, and is there a healthier way to do so? Removing ourselves, if even just for a moment, from our reactions can provide us unfathomable amounts of information about ourselves, and give us power over our lives that we had given up on years ago. Taking a breath and reflecting may result in a habit change that will last a lifetime and help you achieve your goals.
If you’re asking yourself why, or your body scan, led you to the notion that the food was going to make you feel comforted, reach out to a loved one instead. If the action was rooted in a greater sense of belonging, ask yourself why you feel you don’t belong as it is. If your decision to drink stems back to college in which you felt pressured to drink to gain stature, ask yourself why you think that has any relation to your stature and social standing in the present. Remind yourself how your stature in your industry has nothing to do how you gained stature in college. Remind yourself the actions of your past don’t have any pertinence on the dictation and direction of your actions in the future. There is always another option, we only need to take a moment to interpret the information in front of us and act with conscious mind and sound logic. Nevertheless, be weary that today’s mindful actions don’t become tomorrow’s mindless.