Mindfulness is simple awareness of whatever you are doing, right here and now…eating, walking, or reading for instance. The problem is the human mind is high functioning and hard to turn off. Have you ever completely forgotten what you ate at your last meal? Or couldn’t remember the last paragraph you were reading? It’s not unusual for some of us to completely forget what was said during a brief conversation. We live in a ‘vata’ influenced society, always ‘on the go’; mindlessly running and jumping from one task to the next.
Being ‘on the go‘ mentally and physically with little time for relaxation and mindfulness means too much air and space elements. According to Ayurveda, ‘like increases like’. If we are flying around in space because of societal pressures and then eat gas-producing vegetables like apples, beans, onions, and broccoli; the gassy foods will add more air in our system, creating an uncomfortable imbalance in the belly. A ‘vata’ imbalance also affects the mental body with symptoms that include a scattered, unfocused mind…lots of ideas with not too much direction.
To practice awareness first requires an interest. The next step is your plan. You may want the help of a certified ayurvedic practitioner and/or a registered dietitian nutritionist. Mindfulness is a great first step to making lifestyle changes that balance your mood and bodily functions. When ‘vata’ is balanced, we are clear, creative and not constipated!
Being well is ultimately noticing any imbalances and preventing illness with mindful behavior changes. According to ayurvedic medicine, all illness starts in the gastrointestinal tract. Keeping a food/mood diary for 21 days will bring awareness to what, when, why and how your food choices contribute to feeling good or not. Whenever you feel sad, angry, tired, bloated or just plain uncomfortable, think about what foods you chose the meal previous. Whole foods instead of processed foods are best for our system. REAL fiber rich foods such as 100% whole grains and seasonal vegetables keep us ‘regular’ and grounded providing time-released energy. Fats like avocado, nuts, coconut and extra virgin olive oil are not only delicious but provide a safe slow delivery of the micronutrients along the 23 feet of GI tract from entrance to exit. Fruits, dairy and animal protein will compliment our diet in small amounts offering flavor, and satiety.
Everyone has an individual ‘prakriti’, personality type or constitution and your diet will always vary slightly because of this. Awareness and mindfulness with the help of a food/mood diary will help you discover what, when, and how much of certain foods can be in your diet without stressing the mind/body. The mind is connected to all parts of the body, as are we to each other, our environment and the universe. Staying grounded and aware of what upsets us is purposeful in preventing illness and staying healthy.
Help from an experienced nutrition practitioner during the discovery phase is key and will start your journey on the right path. If there is already ‘dis’ ease in the system, be patient and enjoy the journey of the food/mood connection one meal at a time.
Mindfulness can be further deepened by experiencing yoga. Depending on your personality type and whether or not you are experiencing ‘dis’ease, the type of yoga and food you consciously choose will keep you grounded.
As we approach the autumn season, remember the basic tenet of ayurveda ‘like increases like.’ Autumn is windy, sharp, dry, and cool. Stop, look and listen with the help of journaling and enjoy your self-discovery using your breath and warm, cooked seasonal foods. Relax, feel, watch and allow comfort and discomfort. You are your best doctor and yoga teacher.