The Power of Your Breath: How to Become a Mindful Eater and Wake Up in Your Life

Kate walked into the house after a long day at work. She dropped her handbag on the kitchen counter and went straight to the food cabinet. She was tired, frustrated and so eager to relax. She grabbed the bag of chips and salsa, poured herself a glass of wine and then parked herself in front of the TV.

Less than an hour later, ¾ of the bag of chips had disappeared. Without noticing, Kate just stuffed herself. And now, instead of slipping into the easy part of her day, her belly was bloated and all she could do was watch yet another episode of Homeland.  

Sadly, the promise of Kate’s low key and relaxing evening was just stolen from her. She quickly forgot about her plans to catch up with a friend and go to the gym.  In her desperation for a well deserved break, she checked out of her body and lost all awareness of what she was doing while eating chip after chip. After chip.

Kate had a very easy tool that could have made her evening go exactly as she planned. A tool that she carries with her 24 hours a day and doesn’t cost her a penny. It’s the power of her breath.

Asleep at the wheel:

So many of us are mindlessly walking through most of our lives. And when it comes to meals and snacks, this results in eating more than our bodies need or want. Mindlessly overeating is like being on autopilot, or in a trance. We don’t taste what we are eating. We don’t notice when we are full. During these times, we are often paying attention to something else. A TV show, Facebook, email.

When using the power of your breath, the exact opposite will occur.

The power of breath:

Your breath puts you in your body. After a few intentional inhales and exhales, you can become aware of sensations in your chest , belly, fingers and ankles. Your breath allows you to notice your body.

Your breath grounds you. Instead of flitting around like a butterfly, you can be steady and still. You can sit down, stay and not seek out distraction.

Your breath makes you feel calm and peaceful. Your breath can melt away any frantic edge and allow you to experience what’s underneath. Calm. Peace. You have it in you, and your breath is the bridge to take you there.

Why breath works:

When you use the power of your breath, you create space between your thoughts and your actions.

In this space, you have an opportunity to be intentional about your choices. You have an opportunity to set the course of your actions instead of mindlessly going through the motions. 

After a quick breathing practice, you feel more calm and centered in your body. When you are more calm and centered, it’s easier to make better choices in your life.

Using her breath, instead of stuffing herself, Kate could have eaten the exact right amount, given herself the break she needed and then moved off the couch and onto something else.

How to:

A 3 count breath and can be done very subtly anywhere. Breathe in to a count of 3, hold your breath full for a moment, breathe out to a count of 3, hold your breath out for a moment. Do 3-5 rounds of this breath.


Consider the power of your breath to be a miraculous gift. One that you have with you all of the time. Use it often throughout the day and you will wake up, make intentional choices, become a more mindful eater and shift the course of your life.  

Where to Look

In the past I looked outside of myself for the answers. If I wanted to lose weight, I looked for a program or diet to follow. If I wanted to run faster, I searched for a book to read. If I felt anxious and sad, I sought out a therapist. Surely, someone or something else had the answers and I was going to find them. At the time, I wanted to improve myself and I thought someone else knew better than me. Researchers, scientists, health professionals, even the government spread a wide range of valuable information around how we should live based on averages. They share what foods to avoid and which ones we can’t eat enough of. They know how much sleep on average we should get and on average the right amount of water we should drink to keep hydrated. For a long time, I put much of my unquestionable faith in these experts. After all, they did research, studied and had all sorts of average solutions for people who were sort of like me. I didn’t realize there was a different approach.

Then I started connecting and listening to my own body. I am now noticing how my body reacts to certain foods. Do they make me tired and bloated, or light and alive? I notice what workouts leave me feeling energized. And more importantly, when I feel overwhelmed, stressed or anxious; I can stop, breath, experience and observe all of the sensations in my body and learn from them. The uncomfortable disappears.

This has been an imperfect process. It’s been filled with miracles, frustrations, and also big insights into who I am and what works for me. I am waking up to my own body and my own spirit. Sometimes I listen and sometimes I don’t care to. That is also part of connecting. I can see when I’m connected and see when I’m not. Before, I didn’t see any other options but to look somewhere else. Now, I realize there is only one option. I am my own best health professional. I can be open to the valuable information coming from the outside, but now I try it on for myself first. I am trusting and curious. I am fully responsible for me. After all, the answers lie within me. They always have.

This Moment

View outside of Seacoast Power Yoga in Exeter, NH. I arrived on my yoga mat after a few days off and immediately felt antsy. All I could think about was wanting to get “this” over with so I could move onto the next thing.

Thankfully I was in the right place. Yoga was exactly what I needed at that moment. Breathing, moving and sweating gave me access to a more grounded and centered place.

How often do we rush from one thing to the other? Even thinking that the planning for the next moment is more important than the moment we are in? I remember when my kids were toddlers. We would start the day together and I would give them the itinerary. Breakfast, swim lessons, rest, lunch, park, rest, play date, dinner when Daddy get’s home, bed. I would sit with Ryan in Brueggers Bagels and tell him; “okay buddy, we are going to finish lunch, go home for a nap and then walk to the park”. Even though he was probably doing a better job enjoying playing with his blocks and eating his bagel than I was, I was clearly sending him a message around time. Looking back, the message was: have your days planned out and always get ready for what comes next.

I know I'm not alone in this habit. This is our natural response to managing our busy and often over scheduled lives. And I understand that if we didn’t have a general plan to our day, we may be at risk of not accomplishing what’s important. But the downside is, and it’s a big one, we miss out on what’s really happening. We miss the present moment. Funny enough, our focus on the plans for our life often gets in the way of living it. Life is filled with sunshine, smiles, sweetness, disappointments, downturns, accomplishments, celebrations, loneliness, tears and so many thousands of other things to experience. Let's make sure we don't miss a beat.

For me, reminding myself to be in the present moment isn’t enough. Here are some tips to help ground yourself in the here and now:

- First catch yourself. Be aware when you are anywhere but where you are.

- Notice the impact. What do you miss when you are somewhere else? A loved one’s laugh? The smell of fresh air? The sound of the birds?

- Take a breath- a really deep one. Your breath is always in the present moment.

- Move and sweat. Burn off some of that extra energy and center yourself in your body.

- Be firm and gentle all at the same time. Stay committed to living your life in the present moment. When you do catch yourself somewhere else, be gentle when you bring yourself back.

Experiencing your life is not about wishing pieces of it away to get onto the next thing. It’s about trusting. Have faith that what this moment holds for you is just right. Instead of looking past this moment to the next, let’s live the life that’s right in front of us.

 

 

You Don’t Necessarily Have to Buy a Zoo

How often do we notice that we are afraid to do something and back down? We may be afraid of a conversation with a spouse, parent, or friend because of how we think the conversation will go. We may be afraid to let go of a habit because we think it’s too difficult and we will just end up in failure. We may be afraid to make a major life change, like a career change or a move, because we think being comfortable in the known is better than the uncomfortable in the unknown. My family and I saw “We Bought a Zoo” over the holiday break. In the movie, Matt Damon’s character, Benjamin Mee decides to move his family out of the city into a home with a former zoo attached to it. When Benjamin tries to reconnect with his teenage son, he tells him “You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.”

I love what Benjamin is offering here. My interpretation of this piece of advice is this “Look- there are things in your life that are going to scare the $hit out of you. But it’s just your ego trying to keep you in a comfortable and safe place. Comfortable and safe will not get you the amazing life you are meant to live. Please ignore your ego for just 20 seconds and welcome in the possibility of something awesome”.

Setting fear aside in our lives is a practice. Start small. Start with a big breath and just go for it- whatever that thing is that scares you the most. When you find out that taking some risks in your life doesn’t turn out with the world crashing down around you (like your ego may lead you to believe), then you will be ready to take on more. You can buy your zoo. Just take a deep breath.

I’d love to hear from you. Let me know how it goes!

Lifting the Holiday Fog

Happy Holidays to you! How are you this holiday season? According to every Christmas card you have received, every commercial on the television and every song you have heard on the radio, you are suppose to be merry and bright. Are you feeling merry and bright? Family comes into town, schedules get thrown off, the kids are home from school and life happens. For some (okay, many), including me, the holidays may have some moments of feeling merry and bright, but the holidays may have some moments of feeling not so merry and pretty dull and grey. This holiday season brought some big awareness into how I’ve been living through these times. I notice how easy it is for me to shut down, put a wall up, and turn to things like TV, Facebook, another glass of wine or some extra holiday fudge and cookies for what may seem like initial relief. I’m creating a fog over my thinking, my emotions and my personal connections. There were times when I checked out and disconnected and I didn’t realize I was even doing it.

Did you create a haze for yourself this holiday season? If the answer is yes, be grateful for the awareness. This awareness is like a spot light slicing through that fog. The fog is lifting when you realize you are in it. From there, it’s all about connection. When I think back to the past few days of my holiday fog, I realize that I’ve been holding my breath. That is how I connect, with my breath. As I realize I’m breathing in and out, I see more clearly. Things around me come into focus. I feel lighter and brighter. As I keep connected to my breath, the rest of this holiday season will certainly be merrier and brighter. I wish each of you breath and connection for this holiday season and beyond!