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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 September 18, 2020

7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

Learning how to get in shape and set goals is important if you’re looking to live a healthier lifestyle and get closer to your goal weight. While this does require changes to your daily routine, you’ll find that you are able to look and feel better in only two weeks.

Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to get in shape. Although anyone can cover the basics (eat right and exercise), there are some things that I could only learn through trial and error. Let’s cover some of the most important points for how to get in shape in two weeks.

1. Exercise Daily

It is far easier to make exercise a habit if it is a daily one. If you aren’t exercising at all, I recommend starting by exercising a half hour every day. When you only exercise a couple times per week, it is much easier to turn one day off into three days off, a week off, or a month off.

If you are already used to exercising, switching to three or four times a week to fit your schedule may be preferable, but it is a lot harder to maintain a workout program you don’t do every day.

Be careful to not repeat the same exercise routine each day. If you do an intense ab workout one day, try switching it up to general cardio the next. You can also squeeze in a day of light walking to break up the intensity.

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If you’re a morning person, check out these morning exercises that will start your day off right.

2. Duration Doesn’t Substitute for Intensity

Once you get into the habit of regular exercise, where do you go if you still aren’t reaching your goals? Most people will solve the problem by exercising for longer periods of time, turning forty-minute workouts into two hour stretches. Not only does this drain your time, but it doesn’t work particularly well.

One study shows that “exercising for a whole hour instead of a half does not provide any additional loss in either body weight or fat”[1].

This is great news for both your schedule and your levels of motivation. You’ll likely find it much easier to exercise for 30 minutes a day instead of an hour. In those 30 minutes, do your best to up the intensity to your appropriate edge to get the most out of the time.

3. Acknowledge Your Limits

Many people get frustrated when they plateau in their weight loss or muscle gaining goals as they’re learning how to get in shape. Everyone has an equilibrium and genetic set point where their body wants to remain. This doesn’t mean that you can’t achieve your fitness goals, but don’t be too hard on yourself if you are struggling to lose weight or put on muscle.

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Acknowledging a set point doesn’t mean giving up, but it does mean realizing the obstacles you face.

Expect to hit a plateau in your own fitness results[2]. When you expect a plateau, you can manage around it so you can continue your progress at a more realistic rate. When expectations meet reality, you can avoid dietary crashes.

4. Eat Healthy, Not Just Food That Looks Healthy

Know what you eat. Don’t fuss over minutia like whether you’re getting enough Omega 3’s or tryptophan, but be aware of the big things. Look at the foods you eat regularly and figure out whether they are healthy or not. Don’t get fooled by the deceptively healthy snacks just pretending to be good for you.

The basic nutritional advice includes:

  • Eat unprocessed foods
  • Eat more veggies
  • Use meat as a side dish, not a main course
  • Eat whole grains, not refined grains[3]

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Eat whole grains when you want to learn how to get in shape.

    5. Watch Out for Travel

    Don’t let a four-day holiday interfere with your attempts when you’re learning how to get in shape. I don’t mean that you need to follow your diet and exercise plan without any excursion, but when you are in the first few weeks, still forming habits, be careful that a week long break doesn’t terminate your progress.

    This is also true of schedule changes that leave you suddenly busy or make it difficult to exercise. Have a backup plan so you can be consistent, at least for the first month when you are forming habits.

    If travel is on your schedule and can’t be avoided, make an exercise plan before you go[4], and make sure to pack exercise clothes and an exercise mat as motivation to keep you on track.

    6. Start Slow

    Ever start an exercise plan by running ten miles and then puking your guts out? Maybe you aren’t that extreme, but burnout is common early on when learning how to get in shape. You have a lifetime to be healthy, so don’t try to go from couch potato to athletic superstar in a week.

    If you are starting a running regime, for example, run less than you can to start. Starting strength training? Work with less weight than you could theoretically lift. Increasing intensity and pushing yourself can come later when your body becomes comfortable with regular exercise.

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    7. Be Careful When Choosing a Workout Partner

    Should you have a workout partner? That depends. Workout partners can help you stay motivated and make exercising more fun. But they can also stop you from reaching your goals.

    My suggestion would be to have a workout partner, but when you start to plateau (either in physical ability, weight loss/gain, or overall health) and you haven’t reached your goals, consider mixing things up a bit.

    If you plateau, you may need to make changes to continue improving. In this case it’s important to talk to your workout partner about the changes you want to make, and if they don’t seem motivated to continue, offer a thirty day break where you both try different activities.

    I notice that guys working out together tend to match strength after a brief adjustment phase. Even if both are trying to improve, something seems to stall improvement once they reach a certain point. I found that I was able to lift as much as 30-50% more after taking a short break from my regular workout partner.

    Final Thoughts

    Learning how to get in shape in as little as two weeks sounds daunting, but if you’re motivated and have the time and energy to devote to it, it’s certainly possible.

    Find an exercise routine that works for you, eat healthy, drink lots of water, and watch as the transformation begins.

    More Tips on Getting in Shape

    Featured photo credit: Alexander Redl via unsplash.com

    Reference

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