Online Counsellor, Psychotherapist, Mindfulness Breath Work & Yoga Trainer

Mindful eating for happier and healthier eating habits

So many distractions, so little time! This is often the attitude we bring to our eating, something to get over and done with while also working at the computer, comparing or contrasting ourselves to the latest Instagram pic or being pre-occupied with planning our week ahead.

There are many benefits to bringing a more conscious awareness to our eating habits. These include:

Awakening the senses – You begin to really tune in to the taste, texture and real enjoyment (or not!) of the food you are eating. This is a whole sensory experience to be appreciated rather than distracted from.
You eat enough but not too much – In becoming more aware of your eating, you don’t end up eating mindlessly therefore you recognise the feeling of being sated, fully satisfied when you have eaten enough. This is better for weight management.
A calm mind leads to a calm body – Your inner critic is not activated nearly as often. Mindfulness tends to lead to more self-acceptance and self-kindness. You tend to make healthier choices and have a less punishing self-dialogue… “I can choose to eat this or that….” replaces, “I should not”, “this is bad”, “I have no control” etc. This is the very internal dialogue that leads to binging or purging.
Making healthier choices – When we eat mindlessly, we are less likely to make healthy choices. With a more mindful approach to our body and how we think we are more likely to nurture and care for our body and speak to ourselves in a more compassionate way.
Bringing awareness to our eating patterns – We soon recognise that food is just food, not good or not bad – we can choose to eat an amount that makes us feel good and make healthy choices that energise and nurture.
Mindful eating helps us to listen to the messages of our body – We eat when we’re hungry, savouring the taste and being present to when you have eaten enough. You eat and stop eating before you are ravenous and therefore you’re less likely to over-eat. We place the right portion size on our plate to satisfy our hunger. Sometimes, we need to re-train ourselves to know this. Most of us live in a world where we have access to plenty of food so with mindful eating, we can let go of our famine mentality… “this is enough food for me, I have enough.” If we overeat, we create health problems for the future. Also, it just doesn’t feel good!
Letting go of early life conditioning – Very often, we have learned an approach to food which is much more about numbing out e.g. emotional eating, or we may have learned our eating habits from our family of origin. For example, I grew up in a large Irish family with six brothers. I learned to eat very large portion sizes, way beyond my physical needs. When I recognised this, I began to eat a portion size that was more appropriate to my build. Combined with my yoga practice and a far more compassionate self-dialogue, this led to a much healthier and leaner body size without major effort (I’ve never been a fan of calorie counting!). I became more interested in natural, healthy, organic foods and less interested in dense, energy zapping foods. I do eat savoury and sweet things, I just do so with more appreciation and awareness.

Whether you are changing your eating habits to support weight management or whether you just want to be kinder towards yourself, eating mindfully will awaken an appreciation for the effects of self-nurture inside  and outside the body.  This naturally leads to increased energy and more ease around food as you free yourself from unhelpful eating habits.

You can begin today to enjoy your meals and savour the taste. Eat in silence sometimes to heighten your awareness. Let go of distractions and bring kindness towards how you speak to yourself about your body. Try adopting the 80/20 rule. Overall healthy and nutritious 80% of the time and allowing for the 20% when you may indulge a little. After all extremes are not healthy or good for the mind, body or soul – enjoy!

Ann Bracken MA, Grad.Dip. PG Dip
Ann Bracken is an accredited (AMBICA, AMIACP) Online Coach/Counsellor CBT Psychotherapist & Author.

Ann provides Mind-Body Health & Wellness Coaching via Skype/FaceTime & Telephone.

She is also a qualified Mindfulness Yoga Teacher & Nutritional Therapist. See full profile & Online Booking info on www.annbrackentherapy.com

Therapeutic Journaling – for emotional healing & insight

Keeping a journal is both therapeutic and pragmatic; it provides a space to express difficult emotions and, at times, to reason with the part of us that feels overwhelmed. This can lead to new ideas and possible solutions. It helps us to access our ‘wise mind’ by bringing balance to our emotional and rational self during all-important decision-making moments. Journaling also gives the writer permission to give full expression to conflicting internal views, working through problems and accessing the subconscious mind. For those of us who tend to overthink our problems, writing can help to quieten the mind, contributing towards clarity of thought and lessening tension in the body.
Previously, Barack Obama as US President outlined the value he placed on writing in a diary, describing it as, ‘an important exercise to clarify what I believe, what I see, what I care about and what my deepest values are’. In creating a space to write, we can access parts of ourselves that may not be finding a voice in the automatic pilot of our day-to-day lives. Writing can help to shine a light on our deepest understandings and what we truly believe at the core of ourselves. This can often get lost in the expectations we have of ourselves or those imposed externally, for example by family, friends or society.
Writing our uninterrupted thoughts and feelings is a way of accessing our own truth about issues (past or present) we are experiencing.

A 10-Step Journaling Guide

1. In the spirit of self-care, buy yourself a really special journal.
2. For habit forming, Write (not type) your journal at the same time daily.   
3. Write continuously for three pages and then stop … to be continued.
4. Park your inner critic! This exercise is not about having the correct spellings or grammar; it is about
thoughts, feelings and musings about issues you may be facing and all that that entails. Keep writing and
writing and writing; no editing required.
5. You can write about problems you are facing, relationship issues or dreams you aspire to. Include all your
thoughts and feelings, what’s going well, what is challenging etc. It is your space to write all your hopes,
fears, challenges and resolutions.
6. Firstly, start with the facts (as you see them) then write about your feelings and emotional responses – what
I do because I feel that way.
7. Finally, write about any positive learning or insights you can move forward with. What can you do now to take
care of yourself into the future? If you can’t connect with the last question, begin with: if I was taking
care of myself, I would …
8. Remember, you can journal to gain a deeper insight or to use it as an emotional dustbin! It is not about
getting it right, it’s about getting it on the paper.
9. If something is too difficult to write about, you could try to write about it in the third person. It gives
you another perspective, for example, if I was a good friend of mind observing this, what would I say or do?
Do not write if you feel emotionally overwhelmed. This may be the time to seek counselling support.
10. Writing without judgement allows us to access our inner voice of truth or intuitive self. You may be
surprised to find that it’s not always what you expected.

Journaling to Heal
People who engage with expressive writing report feeling happier and less negative than before writing. Similarly reports of depressive symptoms, rumination and anxiety tend to drop in the weeks or months after writing about emotional upheavals according to 30 years of research findings by Professor James Pennebaker, author and Professor of Psychology at the University of Texas.

As it gives voice to our feelings, journaling can help us to gain a deeper self-understanding and improve communication within couple relationships. It can help us to gain new perspectives to help clear the path for new experiences.

Some women and men I have worked with in my Online Therapy practice have used journaling to process issues or relationship problems in their life or during times of transition to help them move forward with wisdom and clarity, supporting self-empowered decision-making.

Finally, when you have followed the above Journaling Steps as a way of learning how to journal, moving forward, you can continue in your own way. Write with complete abandon and simply write intuitively –to process events in the past or the present; how you feel (emotional responses) about what is happening and opinions or thoughts you hold about it. Include insights gained or what you’d like to do differently moving forward.

Remember, if at any point, you find the exercise too distressing, leave it and return when it feels more manageable or consider seeking counselling support.

Ann Bracken is an Online Counselling Psychotherapist/Life Coach and Author. She is also a lecturer in BA Hons. Counselling & Psychotherapy (ICHAS) and is a qualified and accredited Clinical Supervisor, Yoga Teacher, Mindfulness Trainer and Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist.

She is passionate about bringing a Mind-Body Health and Healing approach for positive therapeutic change. More information & Bookings on: Annbrackentherapy.com

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  • A marked increase in heart rate
  • Raised bold pressure
  • Adrenaline induced energy release
  • Sweat glands being activated & pupils dilating

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