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My 4 Mindfulness Practice Principles

Adapted from The Mindful Eating Workbook and my FREE Intro to Meditation & Mindful Eating Mini-Course

Mindfulness and mindful eating often get a bad rap for being “new age” or “woo-woo,” but a growing body of research is showing there are many benefits to a mindfulness practice in modern life. Whether you are planning to engage in a formal practice like meditation or mindful eating, or simply wanting to bring more mindfulness in your day-to-day, here are some principles to help you anchor your practice.

1. Press Pause and Be Present

Most of us live our lives at breakneck speed, always thinking of the next step and wearing “busy” like a badge of honour. Mindfulness is an invitation for you to switch gears; temporarily let go of thinking about the past or the future, and focus on the present moment.

You might find it helpful to create a small ritual, like moving to a specific location or taking a few deep, cleansing breaths, as a way to signal to yourself to begin your practice. A mindfulness bell app, like Lotus Bud or Mindfulness Bell on iOS or MindBell on Android, can be set to ring randomly throughout the day as a reminder to “press pause” throughout the day.

During the practice, it’s normal to notice your mind wandering off to another thought throughout the practice. Simply “press pause” and bring yourself to the present again.

#Mindfulness Practice Principle 1: Press Pause and Be Present. Read on for three more: Click To Tweet

2. Curiosity, not Judgment

As we go through life, we bring with us our years of lived experience and education. This serves us by making our lives richer and more efficient—if we had to learn everything all over again every day, we wouldn’t get anything done!

In the context of mindfulness and mindful eating, our personal catalogue of experiences can hold us back. For example, we might be so used to eating in a certain way that it can be hard to change, or perhaps we’re used to eating some foods so much that we don’t think to take the time to really taste and enjoy them. Invite yourself to enter the situation as though you were a child, alien, or scientist (or child alien scientist!). The new perspective may help you let go of your preconceived notions and be present in the situation.

#Mindfulness Practice Principle 2: Curiosity, not Judgment. Read on for three more: Click To Tweet

3. Sensing, not Slowing.

When I first learned about mindful eating, I was taught to set a timer for 20 to 30 minutes and try to stretch my meal to last that time, or put my fork down between bites to slow my eating. This might be a helpful introduction for some, but the unintended consequence is that often people think “mindful eating” is simply “slow, undistracted eating,” and they miss the real reason behind slowing down. (Hint: It’s not so that you “eat less” and “lose weight.”)

The purpose of slowing down is to give you the opportunity to use your senses to experience each moment. What do you see, hear, smell, taste, and feel in your environment and in your body? Allow yourself to cycle through each sense from moment to moment. At the same time, you may notice different thoughts and emotions coming up. (Contrary to popular belief, the goal of mindfulness is not to “clear your mind” and think or feel nothing.) Some people may find it easy to cycle through their thoughts and emotions in addition to their senses, while others may want to simply focus on their physical sensations. Either way, the practice lies in being in the present, whatever that may mean or feel like, and over time, you might find that you don’t need to slow down to get the information you need.

#MindfulEating isn't simply "slow, undistracted eating." These prompts are there to give you the opportunity to use your senses to bring you to the present. Read on for 3 more #mindfulness practice principles: Click To Tweet

4. Practice, not Progress

I used to call this principle “practice, not perfection,” but I feel that even the expectation of progress and becoming a “better mindful eater” can be ways that pull us from the present moment.

I’ve written before that we live in a culture that discourages us from “learning for the sake of learning;” instead, learning is often about achieving milestones, getting good grades, bettering ourselves, and so on. As a result, it can be easy to get caught in the trap of thinking that you’re not “getting it right.” Mindful eating is not like a diet where there are set rules, restrictions, and a clear definition of “right” and “wrong.” Instead, you’ll be trying to undo lots of ingrained habits and beliefs that are often reinforced by society.

Returning to Principle #2, Curiosity, not Judgment, what would it be like to practice mindful eating without any expectation of an outcome?

#Mindfulness is an ongoing practice—holding progress as a "goal," let alone "perfection," can actually pull you away from being fully in the present moment. Click To Tweet
Do you practice mindfulness, either formally or informally? Please share your insights, thoughts and questions in the comments below.

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