Mindful eating habits are one of the simplest ways we can reduce anxiety. Food is one of the most fundamental ways we nourish our physical and mental health. But it’s not just what we eat, but how we prepare and consume our food. Given that we eat daily, mealtime is the perfect opportunity to practice mindfulness tools that can help ease anxiety.
There was a time I was extreme about my food choices. In an attempt to cure an array of ailments, I was constantly trying elimination diets. I was convinced that a specific food was at the root of the issues I was experiencing. I found that during those times, going out to a restaurant or social gathering felt stressful. I became anxious as I tried to order from a menu or explain my diet to others. I recall feeling consumed by tension in a grocery store in France as I attempted to read labels. I broke down in tears one time when my boyfriend and I were in a restaurant because I felt so overwhelmed that nothing on the menu fit my dietary needs.
For people with anxiety, the word “diet” can trigger feelings of shame and deep-seated anxiety for personal and societal reasons. I’d like to offer an alternative to how we perceive food.
How Mindful Eating Can Reduce Anxiety
Mindful eating has no boundaries with respect to diet. Rather, it centers on cultivating a relationship with food that brings us into our sensory experience. When we connect with our five senses, we are drawn into the present moment. Since anxiety lives in the past and future, connecting with the moment with mindful eating can reduce anxiety.
When we take mindful moments to grow, prepare, and consume our food with love, something inside of us changes, something that connects us to a whole. Mindful eating also helps us pay attention to the body’s signals. For example, we may notice that too much caffeine or alcohol causes anxiety symptoms.
Simple Ways to Practice Eating Mindfully to Reduce Anxiety
From farm to table, there are many places to pause in between to smell, see, feel, and taste our food. These are a few practices I use:
- When purchasing food, seek out fresh fruits and vegetables that connect you to the current season.
- If you grow herbs or have fresh herbs in your kitchen, cup some together in your hands as you draw in the redolence before garnishing your food.
- If you cook, take time to feel, smell, see, and taste foods like mint, ginger, or cacao—whatever it might be.
- When you snap green beans, listen to the sound and leave the “tails” (the bottom of the bean) to avoid waste.
- Take a moment of gratitude with your meal before diving into it.
- Spend time smelling your food before putting it in your mouth.
- Chew each bite several times as you notice the flavors travel across the varying taste buds of your tongue.
- Count the number of times you chew your food.
Do you practice mindful eating to reduce your anxiety? I’d love to hear your ideas.