By Caroline Mackey, RNCP, ROHP, CNP, PTS
Holistic Nutritionist, Fitness Trainer & Founder, Real Life Revolution
Picture a crowded restaurant: music playing in the background, the din of people’s voices, the smell of delicious food… and the bright light shining from smart phones as people text, check emails, browse, Instagram and Snapchat their way through dinner. No matter where you find yourself, if you look around you’re likely to find most people glued to their smart phones or otherwise disconnected from the people and world around them.
As a nutritionist, you’d think what I would be talking about most with clients is food. And while yes, that’s an important part of it, a fundamental part of my work is helping clients re-connect by using mindfulness.
Sometimes disconnection is a very helpful thing – but that’s walking away from technology and into a green space outside, or going for a stroll, meditating or getting lost for a while in a great book. All are proven stress relievers and are beneficial to your health and well-being.
However, what many of us have lost is the ability to connect not only with those around us, but with our own bodies. We are in a state of constant distraction, and don’t tune in to what’s happening. This state of mindlessness leads to a whole host of health challenges; everything from weight issues, digestion troubles, stress, anxiety and even your quality of sleep. When we are not connected to ourselves, we’re not aware of what’s affecting us. For example, you may get bloated after every time you eat dairy, but you’re not paying attention to the signals your body is giving you. We also make unconscious decisions based on impulses that are not healthy – the cookie to calm your nerves, the entire bag of potato chips to de-stress after a long day at work… the list goes on.
This challenge is coupled with the disconnection we experience with our friends, family and anyone we interact with on a daily basis. Studies have shown when we connect with those around us, we reduce our stress levels, increase our likelihood of living a longer life, and even improve our immune system. However more and more we are retreating into an electronic world that is devoid of real human contact. This leads to higher likelihood of struggling with depression, stress, anxiety, sleep and making good food and lifestyle habits.
So, what can you do to start connecting again?
For your body:
- Sit down to eat, and take five deep belly breaths before you begin eating to calm the body, improve digestion and help you focus on the now.
- Always eat your food away from any distractions like tv and tune into what your body is telling you, while you’re eating and afterwards.
- Build in a pause when grazing, snacking or eating outside of mealtime: ask yourself, what am I feeling in this moment? Do I truly need this food, or am I just feeling stressed, anxious, sad, happy, etc. And if you are hungry, are you choosing food that’s satisfying a craving, or one that will fill you up and give you good nutrients.
For connecting with others:
- Put away all technology in social situations, and challenge yourself to go phone-free for hours or days at a time. Institute a no technology night or dinnertime with the family.
- Look people in the eye when you talk to them. Ask questions and practice truly listening to what they are saying.
- Hug with abandon! They do wonders for your health and the health of the receiver.
Make slow changes to incorporate more connection and mindfulness in your daily life, and you will be amazed at how much better you feel, and how it improves your relationships.