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Want a Healthier Life? The Mindful Diet

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

food pyramidIt’s been well established that good nutrition lowers people's risk for many chronic diseases, including heart disease, stroke, and some types of cancer, diabetes, and osteoporosis. We also know that there are some basic, simple steps we all can take to eat healthier at home, work, and elsewhere.

My guess is that when you think of nutrition, you think of food.  Just as important is to think of the nutrition of our minds. In my experience with my own clients paying attention to the nutrition of our minds shows significant stress reduction and an increase in well-being. In this diet I include all our 5 senses. So, what kind of nutrition are you feeding your mind on a daily basis and how is it affecting you? 

Consider your mindful diet:

  • Seeing - What are you feeding your eyes on a daily basis? Is it lots of horrific and catastrophic images from the news? Or is it oversaturated with celebrity bling? Take a moment and take stock. If your eyes had a say in it, what would they want to look at on a daily basis. In other words, what gifts could you give your eyes today?

  • Smelling - What are you feeding your nose on a daily basis? Many of us don't even think about this sense. Do you take an extra minute and smell the food you're about to eat before you take it in? When walking by flowers, do you take a moment to take in their scent, maybe twice? What does your nose want?

  • Hearing - Ah, the ears. What are they exposed to? I live in a city, so I often hear planes overhead, sirens, cars honking at times. In other words, stressful nutrition. It's so important to be aware of this and ask your ears, what do you want to hear? Can you take a time out and listen to your favorite music? Do you have an ocean or park nearby to listen to the waves or the birds? Maybe quiet sounds best. Practice this inquiry and try and gift yourself this nutrition today.

  • Touching - We live in a culture where so many of us are afraid of touch. Most of the touch we get throughout the day is our fingers typing on a warm plastic keyboard. What does your skin yearn for? The tickling of a feather? The fluffy or coarse coat of your pet's fur? Your partner's bare skin? Giving yourself these pleasures can be enormously restorative.

  • Tasting - Aha, this overlaps with the food nutrition we originally discussed. Yes, food has an effect on your mental health, but not just what you eat, but how you eat it, how you taste it, and if you enjoy it. Most of us are so busy multitasking during the day that we hardly take a moment to even taste our food. Just ask yourself, have you ever eaten a meal and then said to yourself, wow, I didn't even taste that or where did it go? So, what kind of nutrition do your taste buds want? What would make them sing? And as always, we can always splurge, but moderation is good practice.

Considering the nutrition you get through your 5 senses is a way of cultivating a mindful diet. We're actively engaging what it is we are giving our minds and bodies. If it's all doom and gloom and starving our senses of what they need, then we are suffering from mental malnutrition and this feeds into stress, anxiety, and depression. Check in, give yourself some good nutrition, and see what happens today.