This week we continue our posts contributed by guest editors who are also wellbeing professionals. Charlotte Style, author of “Brilliant Positive Psychology” reminds us of the common-sense fact that kindness and happiness go hand-in-hand and suggests ways to become both kinder, and happier!
Food is one of life’s best pleasures- are you appreciating and savouring what and how you eat?
A young man on his gap year teaching in India was struggling to connect to the children on his first day. As he groped for a subject, he asked ‘who likes food?’ The class erupted with excitement and he thought he’d cracked it. His next question, ‘what is your favourite food?’, completely baffled them.
We have so much food, and choices of types of food, in the West that we have lost the concept of food as something that keeps us alive. What we do have are unending amounts of research and information on what foods are best for health, happiness and energy. We devote hours of television time watching chefs cooking ever more exotic and exciting recipes and buying an unlimited number of books and magazines on the subject of food. Research shows that we are living longer and healthier but we are also getting fatter and suffering from more diabetes, coronary disease and cancer in the developed world than ever before. We know the effects of an unhealthy diet and yet we continue to eat and drink unhealthily. So much unhappiness is connected to our bodies and what we put into them that there is obviously much more to it.
All food is good for us in moderation. What is not good for us is too much worry about what we are or are not eating. We can get all the information and spend hours buying the right things but the process of doing this can be stressful and all the benefit of eating the right stuff is lost to the anxiety. If food is something that controls us it becomes a cause of unhappiness. The same is true when food becomes a substitute for other pleasures and needs, an addiction that we can retreat into.
Love your body as much as the food that feeds it.
When did you last stand naked in front of a mirror and really look at yourself? I am old enough for this to be much harder than it was 20 years ago. We live in a youth-obsessed culture and as we get older we can be made to feel that the natural changes to our bodies should somehow be overcome, hidden and even denied. The sexiest people are all shapes, sizes and ages – what they share is confidence and delight in themselves and their bodies.
Really sexy people are at ease with their bodies.
Everybody has flaws and imperfections. If you focus on your physical flaws rather than seeing what is beautiful about yourself, you will stop enjoying your full physical potential. Eating and body image can become so distorted that pleasure in a body that can run, jump and dance is lost along with the pleasure of eating. If you are young, be grateful for your body now. In 20 or 30 years you will long to have it again.
Food is a pleasure and preparing food is a wonderful way to be mindful and present. Eating with other people is the best way to savour both food and company. The beginning of friendship normally starts with sharing a meal, in fact it is very unlikely that you have any significant relationships with someone you haven’t eaten with.
Here are some ways to eat well for a healthy mind AND body
- Eat fruit and vegetables daily.
- Make time to cook; cooking your own food is healthier not just because the ingredients are better but the time you spend preparing it can be mindful or social.
- Eat more slowly and relish your food. Take time to really enjoy and savour your food. Deny yourself nothing but take longer eating and relishing what you are eating. Notice what the food tastes of and how it feels in your mouth.
- Eat what you enjoy; keep portions moderate but don’t deny yourself the pleasure of eating. Eat with someone else.
- Eat better snacks; nuts, dried fruit or home-made pop corn.
- Have regular meal times.
- Bring colour to your plate.
- Take a minute to be grateful for your food and the body it feeds.
- Don’t see food as a problem, see it as the source of life that it is.
- Try finding five physical aspects of yourself that you like, and really take note of what people compliment you for.
Why not give your body a good clean out now and then? Fasting every once in a while is very good for clearing your system both physically and mentally and is still used as a spiritual practice.
Alternatively give yourself a mindful eating exercise:
Take a piece of chocolate and eat it as slowly as you can, let it melt on your tongue and stay in your mouth as long as you can. Enjoy this exercise with a friend!