There are so many things I enjoy about working at Spire, one of them being the generous availability of healthy snacks. We have a good stock of trail mix, beef jerky, and even get fresh fruit delivered once a week. However, on particularly busy days, I would find myself making a trip to the trail mix every hour or so. I wasn’t hungry (and I certainly wasn’t bored). I was just mindlessly getting up, and stuffing my face with dried fruit and nuts. By the end of the day, half of my calories were from trail mix. True, it’s better than eating chips and candy, but all those unnecessary calories does not a healthy diet make.
Whether it’s eating when you’re not hungry, the inability to resist a craving, or simply trying to break a bad habit, mindfulness can help you gain more control over your life and your goals. Mindfulness awakens your ability to bring consciousness into normally unconscious behavior — having a craving and acting on that temptation.
So, ready to tackle the beast of temptation and gain more control over your decisions. Here are a few ways to bring mindfulness into your daily practice of self control:
1. Observe: Spend a day or two in observation. For a couple of days, I simply observed my impulsive behaviors. I wrote down (without judgment) every bite that went into my mouth. I was then able to identity times, triggers, and situations when I was most likely to have cravings or consume mindlessly. Once those triggers are identified, you can then move on to addressing them.
2. Identify: Once you’ve taken notice of your urges and impulsive behaviors, identity the decision points. Identify the moments where you’re getting another serving. Identify when you’re feeling full. When you notice these urges, mindfully make decisions about the actions you will or will not take. Ask yourself about the reason for your craving. If you’re really hungry, eat. If you’re not, take a deep breath and remind yourself of your goals.
3. Savor: My husband took a spirituality class while in college. One particular class, the professor had the students spend the entire hour focusing on the experience of eating a peanut. From observing the peanut’s color, size, smell before consuming to savoring the taste, texture, and experience of chewing, tasting, and swallowing that one peanut. Now this is an extreme example and most of us don’t have 73 hours in our day to examine and savor each bite of our food for several minutes. What we do have is the ability to pause and enjoy our food, think about how it’s nourishing our bodies, and really taste it instead of shoveling it into our mouths. Pause, savor, and enjoy.
4. Meditate: Meditation has shown to improve your ability to exert self control. When you meditate, the posterior cingulate cortex (a region of your brain) slows its activity. Deep breathing also activates your parasympathetic nervous system, calming your stress, and giving you more control over your urges and increasing your ability to resist temptation. Try incorporating meditation or deep breathing exercises into your day. Even if it’s just for a few minutes, it can have improve your ability to say no to “just one more bite.”
How do you control your mindless behaviors and bad habits that you want to break? Share some tips with us in the comments section!
Spire is a wearable device that tracks your breathing, activity and state of mind – designed to help you be more mindful throughout your day. Learn more at https://spire.io
Update July 2015: We have just released free email courses on being more mindful and productive, sleeping better, and reducing anxiety. Check them out at www.spire.io/courses.