Mindfulness isn’t just a practice that involves sitting, closing your eyes, and breathing. It’s a guiding principle that impacts everything from the way we communicate to the way we eat. In fact, mindful eating — which is “being aware of every aspect of eating, from noticing routine habits to being tuned into taste,” Susan Albers, Psy.D., clinical psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic who specializes in eating issues and mindfulness, tells Thrive — is what first taught me to enjoy meditation. Raisin meditation, that is.
I was first introduced to raisin meditation in the sixth grade when my middle school incorporated a mindfulness activity for 10 minutes at the start of every class. We each held a raisin in the palm of our hands and were asked to examine them closely. I had never taken the time to examine a raisin before, to notice the shrivels and wrinkles in its build and its purplish-brown color. Once my thoughts had narrowed down and I was solely observing the raisin, I closed my eyes and placed it on my tongue.
My senses suddenly felt more alert. The flavor was intense. I was aware of the raisin’s texture, and how it felt on my tongue. Because I was so focused on the raisin, I felt my body start to calm. I was meditating! I wasn’t bored or restless like I often felt when I tried to meditate.
Raisin meditation showed me that my eating was typically a mindless act, where I wasn’t paying attention to the tastes, textures, or smells of my food. I realized that I often ate just for the sake of eating, which led to unfulfilling meals and an over-enthusiastic appetite. According to Albers, I’m not alone. “Often, we are eating in ‘zombie mode.’ We can eat an entire plate of food and not taste one bite,” she says. “A lot of mindless eating is what I call ‘opportunity eating.’ It’s just there so we grab it. If we see it, we automatically pick it up without any thought.”
To combat zombie mode and practice mindful eating, Albers suggests making simple changes, like setting the table, and sitting down while you eat. “Sitting at the table helps you to focus, be less distracted and be more mindful of your portions,” Albers explains.
Disconnecting from technology while we eat is also helpful. Albers says that our devices can distract us from the food that’s in front of us, which further enables mindless eating.
Personally, I’ve learned that when I eat more thoughtfully, I’m able to enjoy the act of eating more. Practicing mindful eating through small, food-oriented meditation exercises can help you to get in the habit of being more present when you eat your meals. Raisin meditation is one way to expand your experience with mindful eating at home — and from my experience, I highly recommend it.
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