When it comes to the mind body connection, most of us were not taught how to be aware and notice. This is true for our thoughts and for our body sensations. Both our minds and our bodies were designed to help us, alert us and protect us. We naturally try to avoid and fix psychological and physical pain. This is not wrong. However, we would do well to ask ourselves what function the pain plays in our overall good health. The pain in my stomach might be telling me not to eat that certain food again. The sadness in my heart and mind might be inviting me to acknowledge and sit with loss. This kind of reflection is hard and it requires stillness. It also requires that I suspend judgement for the moment and just notice. Criticism of self and others is never a long-term solution to our problems. It actually inhibits good decision making as well as good digestion!  

A good example of this is when we overeat or when we eat unhealthy foods.  We’ve all heard the term “stress eating” and that is a good name for mindless, unaware eating habits. When we are under stress, our bodies are definitely asking for something, but it’s usually not a box of donuts!  Our minds might be asking for donuts because the sugar and white flour tends to give our brains a dopamine hit which relieves the stress momentarily. The next time you find yourself grabbing something sweet or something full of empty calories, take a moment to practice awareness. Are you actually hungry or do you need something else? Maybe you need a walk outside to clear your head. Or maybe a drink of water to gain mental clarity and hydration. Maybe you need to journal about the rejection or loneliness that you are feeling. Or maybe your body needs a nap. If you go through these questions and you still want or need food, take a few moments to determine what kind of food would be satisfying in the long run. Are you hungry for something crunchy or smooth? Hot or cold? Spicy or savory? Sweet or salty? Something with fat or something lean? Most of our overeating results from not taking the time to listen to our bodies and then eating more…and more…and more of a food that does not satisfy.  One of my favorite ways to manage the temptation to stress eat is to have stress reducing snacks and drinks available.  Try a lavender/chamomile/lemon balm tea instead of a cookie. Have some almonds or hazelnuts available for a crunchy snack with healthy fat.  Another strategy is to do the 4-7-8 breathing before you eat something so that your mind and body can make a good, calm decision.

Click here to go to the 4-7-8 breathing post.