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4 Eating Rituals That Can Make You Mentally Healthier

4 Eating Rituals That Can Make You Mentally Healthier

We toast at weddings. The bride and groom cut the wedding cake and then feed it to each other before the guest can partake. If I were to say today’s menu consist of, turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie–what holiday immediately comes to mind?

These are all examples of customary American food rituals we observe during special occasions or events. Food or eating rituals are a historical part of our society and can often be traced back for hundreds of years. But did you know that eating rituals can affect your physical and mental health? That’s right, it’s not just what you eat that can affect your physical and mental well being, but also how you prepare and or consume your food.

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Rituals are simply a prescribed manner in which things are done. Recently, a series of investigations by psychologists have revealed intriguing new results demonstrating that rituals can have a causal impact on people’s thoughts, feelings, behaviors and overall mental health.

How to improve mental health using eating rituals

Eating rituals refer to any compulsory behaviors around food; including food prep, consumption or any situation where prescribed behaviors involving food or eating are involved. Healthy food rituals are intended to establish good habits and healthy attitudes towards eating and not used as a means for control nor should they become overly compulsory and obsessive– which is common with eating disorders.

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Here are a few suggestions on how to improve mental health using positive and simple eating rituals.

1. Eating with gratitude

A lot of religions have a practice of giving thanks or providing a “blessing” for food before it is consumed. This practice assists in establishing and engraining an “attitude of gratitude” into your heart and mind. Gratitude has been proven to combat depression, increases inner peace and provides an overall sense of well being and quality of life.

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Eating with gratitude can take many forms. It can take the form of a prayer or expressing thanks for daily provisions. It can take the form of expressing appreciation to the preparer and servers of the food. It can also be as simple as taking a moment to pause and reflecting on those without adequate food and clean water, and being grateful for what you do have. The point is to allow gratitude to seep into your heart and you will reap countless benefits.

2. Keeping a food journal

This does not have to be something that is done daily or for every meal, but periodically tracking what you eat allows you to be aware and accountable of your food consumption. It also provides you the opportunity to connect and asses the types and amounts of foods you eat with your mood. It can provide valuable insight into when you may be more stressed than you are consciously aware of, allowing you to take practical steps to reduce stress and restore emotional balance.

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Food journaling is also a powerful tool in tracking the types of foods you are eating. Are you getting enough whole foods, calcium and fiber? Are you consuming too many artificial sweeteners or caffeine? The types of food you eat does weigh heavily on how you function mentally and tracking your food is a quick and easy way to pinpoint changes you need to make.

3. Eating slowly and chewing food twice as long as normal

This is one of the best ways to be fully present during your meals and snacks. We combine eating with so many activities and we rarely take the time to just simply sit down and eat a meal. Eating slowly and chewing your food a set number of times or just longer than usual allows for overall better digestion of food, helps with portion control and it allows you to truly savor the flavor of your food. Allowing yourself time to mentally detach from all activities except enjoying the food and concentrating on the physical act of eating helps relieve stress and allows the brain a small mental break.

4. Eating in silence

Besides being extremely peaceful and calming; eating in total silence is another way to experience the act of being completely present. All of your senses are more in tune. As your tongue rolls the food around, you engage your sense of taste and the feel of the textures in your mouth. The olfactory senses are connected to the mouth and therefore the sense of smell is actively engaged. Eating silently is a great way to give yourself a mental break and it’s great for the reduction of stress. You actually get to hear yourself chew your food, allowing you to focus on eating slowly and more deliberately.

Actively learning how to improve mental health and well being by understanding and deliberately engaging in one or two eating rituals best suited for you will provide you with numerous benefits. This will assist you in becoming more aware of your eating habits and become an active participant in improving and maintaining your psychological and emotional well being.

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Denise Hill

Denise shares about psychology and communication tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on December 2, 2019

10 Powerful Ways to Stop Worrying and Start Living Today

10 Powerful Ways to Stop Worrying and Start Living Today

Plato knew that the body and mind are intimately linked. And in the late 1800s, the Mayo brothers, famous physicians, estimated that over half of all hospital beds are filled with people suffering from frustration, anxiety, worry and despair. Causes of worry are everywhere, in our relationships and our jobs, so it’s key we find ways to take charge of the stress.

In his classic book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, Dale Carnegie offers tools to ditch excessive worrying that help you make a worry-free environment for your private and professional life.

These are the top 10 tips to grab worry by the horns and wrestle it to the ground:

1. Make Your Decision and Never Look Back

Have you ever made a decision in life only to second-guess it afterwards? Of course you have! It’s hard not to wonder whether you’ve done the right thing and whether there might still be time to take another path.

But keep this in mind: you’ve already made your decision, so act decisively on it and dismiss all your anxiety about it.

Don’t stop to hesitate, to reconsider, or to retrace your steps. Once you’ve chosen a course of action, stick to it and never waver.

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2. Live for Today, Package Things up in “Day-Tight Compartments”

You know that feeling: tossing, turning and worrying over something that happened or something that might, well into the wee hours. To avoid this pointless worrying, you need “day-tight compartments”. Much as a ship has different watertight compartments, your own “day-tight” ones are a way to limit your attention to the present day.

The rule is simple: whatever happened in the past or might happen in the future must not intrude upon today. Everything else has to wait its turn for tomorrow’s box or stay stuck in the past.

3. Embrace the Worst-Case Scenario and Strategize to Offset It

If you’re worried about something, ask yourself: “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” Could you lose your job? Be jailed? Get killed?

Whatever the “worst” might be, it’s probably not so world-ending. You could probably even bounce back from it!

If, for example, you lose your job, you could always find another. Once you accept the worst-case scenario and get thinking about contingency plans, you’ll feel calmer.

4. Put a Lid on Your Worrying

Sometimes we stress endlessly about negative experiences when just walking away from them would serve us far better.

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To make squashing that worry easier, try this strategy, straight from stock traders: it’s called the “stop-loss” order, where shares are bought at a certain price, and then their price development is observed. If things go badly and the share price hits a certain point, they are sold off immediately. This stops the loss from increasing further.

In the same manner, you can put a stop-loss order on things that cause you stress and grief.

5. Fake It ‘Til You Make It – Happiness, That Is

We can’t directly influence how we feel, but we can nudge ourselves to change through how we think and act.

If you’re feeling sad or low, slap a big grin on your face and whistle a chipper tune. You’ll find it impossible to be blue when acting cheerful. But you don’t necessarily need to act outwardly happy; you can simply think happier thoughts instead.

Marcus Aurelius summed it up aptly:

“Our life is what our thoughts make it.”

6. Give for the Joy of Giving

When we perform acts of kindness, we often do so with the expectation of gratitude. But harboring such expectations will probably leave you disappointed.

One person well aware of this fact was the lawyer Samuel Leibowitz. Over the course of his career, Leibowitz saved 78 people from going to the electric chair. Guess how many thanked him? None.

So stop expecting gratitude when you’re kind to someone. Instead, take joy from the act yourself.

7. Dump Envy – Enjoy Being Uniquely You

Your genes are completely unique. Even if someone had the same parents as you, the likelihood of someone identical to you being born is just one in 300,000 billion.

Despite this amazing fact, many of us long to be someone else, thinking the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. But living your life this way is pointless. Embrace your uniqueness and get comfortable with who you really are: How to Be True to Yourself and Live the Life You Want

8. Haters Will Hate — It Just Means You’re Doing It Right

When you’re criticized, it often means you’re accomplishing something noteworthy. In fact, let’s take it a step further and consider this: the more you’re criticized, the more influential and important a person you likely are.

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So the next time somebody talks you down, don’t let it get to you. Take it as a compliment!

9. Chill Out! Learn to Rest Before You Get Tired

Scientists agree that emotions are the most common cause of fatigue. And it works the other way around, too: fatigue produces more worries and negative emotions.

It should be clear, therefore, that you’ve got to relax regularly before you feel tired. Otherwise, worries and fatigue will accumulate on top of each other.

It’s impossible to worry when you are relaxed, and regular rest helps you maintain your ability to work effectively.

10. Get Organized and Enjoy Your Work

There are few greater sources of misery in life than having to work, day in, day out, in a job you despise. It would make sense then that you shouldn’t pick a job you hate, or even just dislike doing.

But say you already have a job. How can you make it more enjoyable and worry-free? One way is to stay organized: a desk full of unanswered mails and memos is sure to breed worries.

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Better yet, rethink about the job you’re doing: What to Do When You Hate Your Job but Want a Successful Career

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Featured photo credit: Tyler Nix via unsplash.com

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