Seasons Greetings, everyone! Here we are on the other side of the Big Day. I hope it went well for you and yours.
Did you enjoy your Christmas dinner? I’m sure you did!
But did you enjoy it as much as you could have enjoyed it? Did you savour every mouthful? Did you pay attention to the texture and taste of the carrots and nut roast? Did you notice the aroma of the stuffing and gravy?
Maybe you did, but if you didn’t – it’s understandable! Christmas dinner is often a social event, with lots going on. Pulling crackers, making conversation, and checking everyone’s got something of everything, are more important than concentrating on our food in such detail.
But now it’s all over, perhaps there is some room for this practice in the days to come. Being mindful of our food is perhaps something we could choose to take on board into 2024.
You may already have some new intentions for the coming year, and some of these may involve eating habits. Either way, we might also consider a kind of healthy eating that benefits our mental health as well as our physical health.
Mindful eating involves eating very slowly. By paying close attention to our food (I find it easier if I close my eyes as I chew) we immediately bring ourselves into the present moment and therefore move our thoughts away from the past or the future, where we can linger for too long.
Being completely engaged in our experiences means that we are living them wholeheartedly – and cultivating such habits is extremely beneficial to our mental health.
It benefits our physical health too – as it’s better for our digestive system! Nobody advocates taking big bites or swallowing quickly without paying attention, and yet we do this so often when we eat. It’s a habit that’s a by-product of our busy lives. Instead, chewing each mouthful many times is encouraged so that the taste and textures can be appreciated fully appreciated.
So perhaps you might want to bring mindful eating to the table, whenever you remember. I’ve found that rushing my food is a hard habit to break, along with TV dinners (although I have these far less frequently now). It’s crazy how little attention we pay to our food in the moment of eating it – and yet it can take so long to prepare!
We can try other mindful activities too, such as walking. Festive family walks are a chance to counteract the effects of excess, as well as a way of getting out and enjoying nature with loved ones. The Boxing Day walk is probably the most walked of these walks!
I wonder if you noticed how the air felt on your cheeks as you walked, or the colour of the sky, or the shapes of the bare trees? Possibly not, particularly if you were walking and talking, which can, of course, take us out of the present moment.
Perhaps you might like to try mindful walking next time you are out and about, just for a minute or two. It’s not easy to sustain this intense attention to your surroundings – it certainly takes practice – but you might find that the cumulative effect is a beneficial one that contributes to your Winter of Wellbeing.
A final thought: mindful walking isn’t meant to take you away from the simple pleasure of enjoying a walk, just as mindful eating shouldn’t remove the joy of eating. Both are intended to bring you more directly and fully into the experience, so that you can enjoy it more. These are very gentle practices, and nothing is forced. If you choose to give them a go, have patience with yourself. Good luck!