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Posts Tagged ‘kindness’

Our inner dialogue or self-talk can sabotage our goals and health.  Whether negative or positive, it will influence our mood and emotions.  Statements such as “I should be” or “I could have” mire us in the past or future, rather than the here and now.  This particularly holds true when it comes to eating.  The best place to be with regard to food, is to take pleasure in whatever it is we are eating in the present moment.

When we make conscious food choices and eat mindfully we are less likely to overeat or beat ourselves up for whatever it was we consumed.

It’s important to pay attention to the words we use to describe our food choices.  Do any of the following sound familiar?

“I was so good today.  All I ate was salad.”

“I was so bad today—I ate ice cream and cake at the party.”

“I cheated on my diet with a whole bag of chips.”

 “I’m a total failure—I can’t stop eating carbs.”

The words we choose to describe what we eat have a powerful impact on our psyche.  Linking food choices with our self-worth is damaging and destructive.  Berating ourselves for our choices—any choice—is perhaps the most damaging and destructive behavior of all. We aren’t a mess, a disaster, a train wreck. We are simply a person, struggling with a difficult issue.

We are worth more than the food we put on our plate. Our value has nothing to do with ice cream or broccoli.  Thinking of ourselves as a good or a bad person based on our food choice can be a repetitive cycle we are doomed to repeat. Imagine, for a moment, that your food is just food, and that your choices are just choices—good, bad, those words describe your decisions, not you. Imagine how freeing that would be?

We don’t tell our children that they are bad or good based on their choices.  We tell them that they made a not-so-good choice, and then we talk to them about the consequences of that choice and how to make a different one in the future.  We can do the same for ourselves.

To change our relationship with food, we need to develop a new language around our food and to eat mindfully.  Which simple means that we consciously choose what we want to eat and we enjoy our choice.  Making simple statements devoid of judgement is the first step.

“All I ate was salad today.”

“I ate ice cream and cake at the party.”

“I ate a whole bag of chips.”

 “I ate carbs.”

Boiled down to a simple statement we can, if we want, figure out why we made that choice.  Once we know, we can begin the process of making a different choice based on our own values and goals.  Allow ourselves to become aware of our feelings around that choice. For example, feelings like worry, fear, stress, frustration, resentment and anxiety, can profoundly impact our food choice or result in us eating unconsciously.  Mindfulness opens the mind to see opportunity and choice.  When we eat more mindfully, we are bringing our full attention to food and eating. Some ways to do that are:

Give your full attention to the food that is in front of you by taking three deep breaths.

For the first breath, inhale the smells. Exhale any tension or stress.

For the second breath, inhale, knowing that the feeling of hunger will pass. Exhale your  worries.

For the third breath, inhale the present moment. Exhale thoughts of tasks, projects and  deadlines.

Tell yourself, “I can choose to relax and enjoy eating.”

Pause. Let your eyes feast on the food before you and celebrate what you will be eating.

Now, taste the bite directly. Notice everything and anything you can about the food in your mouth. Pause and let yourself fully take in the experience.

We want our food choices to provide variety, moderation and balanced nutrition.  We want our thoughts of food, hunger and weight to occupy only a small part of the day.  And we want to eat for health, pleasure and energy.  And afterward – simply feel satiated.

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May I be filled with lovingkindness

“I am larger, better than I thought; I did not know I held so much goodness.”
– Walt Whitman

There are plenty of reasons for developing a kind and generous spirit for ourselves and others.  Anecdotal evidence has long maintained that by practicing lovingkindness we can reduce our own pain and boost our well-being.  Perhaps now, more than ever, we can reduce our anxiety, with a willingness to practice Metta or lovingkindness.

I am not in a position to solve the world’s problems.  Sometimes I can barely solve my own.  Over the past few months I’ve experienced hate, anxiety, fear, hopelessness and anger.  This is not my usual state of mind.  It has taken its toll on me both physically and mentally.  I know that if I am in the grip of the power of anger and hatred, that it is an enemy that will wreak havoc with my psyche.  I will be less likely to make sound decisions regarding that which is causing me angst.   I’d been practicing Metta and then threw it out the window when I needed it most.  For my own sanity, I’m returning to this practice of lovingkindness for myself and others.  If you’re interested in trying it, here’s an example.

Begin with a short meditation, maybe five minutes each morning, with a recitation of phrases, like the ones below, expressed with the intention of planting seeds of loving wishes over and over in your heart.  Breathe gently as you repeat the phrases directed toward your own well-being.  Let your heart be soft.  Let go of any plans or preoccupations.

May I be filled with loving kindness.
May I be well.
May I be peaceful and at ease.

May I be safe.
May I be happy.

Practice Metta until the sense of lovingkindness for yourself grows.  It is especially important to be patient and kind toward yourself, allowing whatever arises to be received in a spirit of friendliness and kind affection. When you feel you have established some stronger sense of lovingkindness for yourself, you can then expand your meditation to include others.   As you gradually  include other people in your meditation, picture each beloved person, reciting inwardly the same phrases, evoking a sense of lovingkindness for each of them.   You can choose to eventually extend your meditation to picture and include community members, neighbors, people everywhere, animals, all beings and the earth.

Lovingkindness can be practiced anywhere. You can use this meditation in traffic jams, in meetings, on airplanes, in the supermarket – any place where you feel anxious.

As you journey through your day, there are simple actions you can take to strengthen your lovingkindness and generosity muscle, so it becomes more natural.

Engage with the people you interact with: the grocery store clerk, a receptionist or people on the street.  Listen when they talk.  Gently smile and silently wish them goodwill.  You might be surprised at the pleasant feeling you will reap.

Offer acts of kindness.   The other day I noticed a young boy rush over to open a door for someone carrying a large box.  He was beaming when he walked back to his dad.  Gestures such as this activate a pay-it-forward climate of generosity in your little corner of the world.

You can practice lovingkindness at various times, throughout your day.  When you shower, notice the feeling of the water cascading down your body and take a moment to relish it.  Set an alarm on your phone to go off periodically throughout the day and when you hear it, take a breath or two and send yourself thoughts of kindness.  “May I be happy and safe.”   “May I live with ease.”  “May I be happy.”

Extending lovingkindness to myself and to others is a simple but powerful expression of mindfulness that makes a significant difference in my life.  I can open my heart and increase feelings of self-kindness and inner calm.

Then I can tackle the problems of the world from a place of peace and calm.

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There are plenty of reasons for developing a kind and generous spirit.  I think its foundation springs from the wish that other beings are well and a willingness to see the world from another’s point of view.  And anecdotal evidence has long maintained that by practicing kindness we can reduce our own pain and boost our well-being.

By sending genuine wishes of kindness to someone, we can open our hearts and perhaps increase feelings of self-kindness and quiet our inner critic.

As you journey through your day, there are simple actions you can take to strengthen your kindness and generosity muscle.

Engage with the people you interact with: the grocery store clerk, a receptionist or people on the street.  Listen when they talk.  Gently smile and silently wish them goodwill.  You might be surprised at the pleasant feeling you will reap.

Offer acts of kindness.   The other day I noticed a young boy rush over to open a door for someone carrying a large box.  He was beaming when he walked back to his dad.  Gestures such as that can activate a pay-it-forward climate of generosity in your little corner of the world.

And practice self-kindness.  You can do this at various times, throughout your day.  When you shower, notice the feeling of the water cascading down your body and take a moment to relish it.  Set an alarm on your phone to go off periodically throughout the day and when you hear it, take a breath or two and send yourself thoughts of kindness.  “May I be happy and safe.”   “May I live with ease.”  “May I be healthy.”

Extending kindness to oneself and to others is a simple but powerful expression of mindfulness that can make a significant difference in your life.

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For the past several years, we’ve sent out our holiday cards for Thanksgiving, as a reminder to us and our family and friends of just how grateful we are for them. 

 One year, I discovered this quote and included it in our letter.  Even though it was written over a hundred years ago, its message transcends time. 

“I sometimes think we expect too much of Christmas Day.  We try to crowd into it the long arrears of kindliness and humanity of the whole year.  As for me, I like to take my Christmas a little at a time, all through the year.  And thus I drift along into the holidays – let them overtake me unexpectedly – waking up some fine morning and suddenly saying to myself: “Why, this is Christmas Day!” How the discovery makes one bound out of his bed!  What a new sense of life and adventure it imparts!  Almost anything may happen on a day like this – one thinks.  I may meet friends I have not seen in years.  Who knows?  I may discover that this is a far better and kindlier world than I ever dreamed it could be.”                                                                                                              –          “A Day of Pleasant Bread,” David Grayson, 1910

We are headlong into the holiday season.  And some of us are quite frantic about all the tasks we have to do before it gets here.  I invite you to take a couple of minutes in a peaceful setting and ask yourself some questions.

How do I really want to experience the approaching holiday?

What do I have to do or not do to make that happen?

How would my life change if I took Christmas or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or whatever I celebrate a little at a time all through the year? 

It does not matter what religious beliefs you have or don’t, we can all work on making this a kindlier world than we ever dreamed of. 

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