MONDAY BASICS: Practice Mindfulness Before a Meal

 

In this weekly series, we take a look at some simple tasks you can implement into your regular routine in order to best support optimal health. I post a short write up every Monday, and the topics vary from nutritional things, with lifestyle ideas and information as well as resources to help you on your wellness journey. If you're curious to catch up on the ones you've missed so far, follow the tag at the bottom that says monday basics.

This week's blog post is about engaging in mindfulness when sitting down to a meal, big or small. See, the digestive process is a pretty work-heavy job your body has to do. It takes a lot of steam! As part of the series of chemical processes and reactions that go on in your body in order to best prepare you for the nourishment that is about to be served, your body goes into 'rest and digest' mode. This requires your Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) to turn ON. (The opposite, aka 'fight or flight' requires the autonomous nervous system (ANS). This is not the system you want turned on when supper is being served. Read on to understand why.)

 
 

That fight or flight kind of mode your body goes in is the kind that allows you to run like the dickens in order to escape that saber toothed tiger; the hyper-alert mode your brain goes into when you see those flashing lights in the rearview mirror. That's a stress reaction. This kind of reaction actually shuts down the PNS in order to concentrate on getting away as quickly as possible. So stress = digestion turned off!

The kind of mode we're looking for here in order to best support your body's task of digesting, is that Rn'D mode, Rest and Digest, the polar opposite. When the PNS is activated, there are some pretty wonderful things that happen: digestion and breakdown of foods into nutrients takes precedence. Your body also goes into detox mode, does some re-building of tissues, and your immune system does some really important stuff in this mode. If your adrenals have had a bit of a rough ride that day, this is the time where they just slow down enough to do that rebuilding work that needs to happen for the next time a stressful event shows up unannounced.

In order to turn the PNS on, one needs to be feeling calm, cool and collected. Chill. At peace. Bliss. Doesn't matter what you call it, you need to be in a good space in order for that system to be activated so that you can best digest the meal in front of you.

Contrary to your body's reaction when that fight or flight mode gets activated, this kind of state takes a bit to get in to. Simply put, you need to relax. And sit in that quiet moment. Doing so will ensure your PNS is fully engaged so that you can take that time needed to properly digest, break down and assimilate the nutrients found on your plate before you.

Here are some ideas to help rev up your digestion, engage in mindfulness in order to turn the PNS 'ON' during meal times:

  • keep chaos at bay during mealtimes (chaos brings on a stress reaction, which will shut your PNS to OFF)
  • share a meal with loved ones, as it has been shown to help bring stress levels down
  • eat without distractions (the 'ping' of an email notification on your phone can also bring on a stress; if your brain is focusing on a book or television show, your PNS will not be in full working order)
  • don't eat lunch at your desk (distractions! shiny things! check Facebook! ugh. Turn off PNS.)
  • find a quiet table for your meal, and share with a coworker
  • if you're able to and the weather permits, think of having your meal outside
  • as you sit at the table about to enjoy a meal, take a moment to use all of your senses except that of taste, and notice 5 things around you (the smell of the meal? the light on the table? the birds in the back yard? the sound of a car on the road outside?)
  • say a quick word of thanks or a verse before tucking in to your meal; doing so over the course of time will train your body to turn the PNS 'on' as it will be anticipating the meal
  • pay attention to the meal you are consuming, explore the flavours and textures in order to keep that PNS 'on'
  • for some people, it helps to put their cutlery down on the table in between bites in order to slow down on the meal
  • if you are sharing your meal with a loved one, remain at the table a little bit longer and engage in friendly conversation; this will keep that PNS going for improved digestion

In case you missed it, last week I posted a few quick recipes on my Facebook page. Have you 'liked' my business page over there yet? I also dropped a few quick and easy recipes on my Instagram feed. Might want to check them out.

Have a great week, lovely peeps!