May is fast approaching and happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there.
We spend so many hours of our day feeling headless and, in the clouds, it’s no wonder why May has been dubbed “Mindful May” by many organisations and institutions. They dedicate a month of activities to mindfulness with the intention to make mindfulness a habit.
As a mom there are so many things to keep a handle on, juggle or worry about, there is also the constant self-judgement or feeling that they don’t do enough, it’s no wonder that there might be a sense of overwhelm in the role of motherhood and no surprise that many mom’s turn to food for comfort as a response to stress and overwhelm.
When moms are constantly in a state of self-judgement and stress, stress or emotional eating can become a part of their daily routine. Emotional eating very rarely has anything to do with food, it is usually a symptom of something deeper going on in the body, mind or soul.
Ultimately, to avoid emotional eating, we have to become mindful of our thoughts, feelings and emotions and be willing to accept all emotions, even the uncomfortable ones.
Mindfulness as defined by the oxford dictionary is “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.”
Mindfulness teaches us to slow down, step back, take a deep breath and reconnect with the here and now.
One of the biggest tools I have learnt while recovering from emotional eating and two eating disorders was to become mindful of my thoughts, feelings, and body so that I could heal or address the real cause of my eating problems.
When we practice being mindful, we can start understanding our emotional eating triggers and we are able to address the issue instead of leaning to food for comfort.
Benefits of mindfulness
Mindfulness can lead to feeling true hunger, once the mind is in a calm space, we can tune into our bodies true hunger signals and identify when hunger is physical or emotional. When we slow down into the present moment during the meal, we can also easily feel when we are full.
When we are mindful, we breathe deeper, we take in more oxygen and increase blood flow to the body. In turn, our cells are enriched with oxygen and we feel more energised. When we feel energised, we make better food choices.
Reducing stress and anxiety
Mindfulness helps to identify outside stressors that might be causing us to turn to food for comfort. The benefit of mindfulness is that it does not have to take up too much time. You don’t have to become a monk or meditate in the Himalayas all day to bring relaxation into your day.
Here are 5 ways to reap the benefits of mindfulness this Mother’s Day.
Mindful breathing for one minute can help slow down your heart rate, take in more oxygen, signalling to the body that it’s okay to relax while reducing cortisol (stress hormones) levels and increasing endorphin (happy hormones) levels.
Here’s how to breathe mindfully:
Observe the rise and fall of your chest, feel the temperature of the air entering your nostrils. What sound does the breath make on the way in and on the way out of the body, how does it feel having the ribs expand in your chest?
Gratitude is the right attitude
Gratitude leads to increased levels of wellbeing, better sleep, improves mental strength and reduces stress.
Here’s a quick one-minute gratitude practice to get you started:
Make a list of all the things you are grateful for; this can be as small as the bus driver that got you to work, your beautiful lunch or the children getting along for once.
Thoughts are powerful forces
Notice your thoughts, if you are constantly thinking or worrying about something, chances are your stress levels will elevate. Positive thinking can help overcome overwhelm, reduce anger, irritability and racing thoughts.
A simple thought observation exercise:
Set a timer for 2 minutes and just notice your thoughts without judgement, see how your mind operates, is there a recurring thought? What emotions arise from your thoughts? Are these thoughts even valid?
Studies show that spending just 15 minutes outdoors can significantly lower your cortisol levels which has profound benefits on mental health, improved mood, and reduced cravings. Whether it’s a walk outside or taking the kids to the park, you will feel grounded and de-stressed in no time.
Connect with nature:
If possible, sit on the grass or close to the ground and close your eyes, feel the sun on your skin, feel the wind in your hair, notice the sounds around you, what can you smell?
5. Commit to “Me time”
Taking a few minutes for yourself each day will help you gather your thought, reboot your brain and allow time for self-discovery. This will allow for better relationships with yourself as well as your family.
How to do “me time”:
This does not have to take a lot of time it can be as small as taking a nap, journaling on your day or just having a cup of tea in the company of your amazing self.
Mindfulness has many benefits, it reduces your stress levels, improves wellbeing, and can go a long way in managing emotional eating. What better gift to give yourself on Mother’s Day?