In the town where I live there has been an alarming increase in the number of police cars stationed throughout the town at all times of the day waiting to catch the next person speeding down the road. That person would generally be me. Just ask my friends who give warning notices to people considering riding in a car with me. However, since I am very alert and aware and don’t believe in the fallacy that I can’t get caught, the presence of these police cars has resulted in my driving no more than 3 to 5 miles over the speed limit. I hate to admit it, but this is considerably slower than I usually drive. The other result has been a noticeable calm that has taken over me while I’m driving. While I didn’t feel tense when I was driving fast, the noticeable difference in tension now that I’m driving slow is striking.
This is an analogy for our entire lives. One of the most common things that I hear from people is how busy they are. “I’m so busy” or “I have a thousand things to do” or “I don’t have enough time” are mantras for our lives. This sense of busyness creates tension in our bodies that we might not even notice until we are in pain with a neck ache or headache, but we live in a mild state of fight-or-flight response almost all the time. It is often only when you engage in some type of practice (like meditation or yoga) that relaxes you or slows you down or makes you stop that you notice just how tense you were.
Doing something as simple as stopping and taking five deep breaths can switch you out of high gear and help you put on the brakes. Physiologically, you are engaging the parasympathetic nervous system which helps to reverse the fight-or-flight response in the body. And, since you don’t usually even know how stressed you are, practicing with five deep breaths throughout the day could be like seeing a police car every mile or two as you drive down the road. Slow down, check your speed, and proceed at a slower pace.
“Slowing down” is one of the BASICS of mindful eating. Slowing down isn’t a unique, complicated, or new concept. However, in my experience, the simplest ideas are often the most powerful and yet somehow the most difficult to achieve. Marc David, a nutritional psychologist specializing in the connection between food, mind, and medicine, has recently written a whole book fittingly entitled “The Slow Down Diet” discussing the ramifications of our stressful, eat fast, on-the-run lives and the importance of slowing down. Slowing down can help you make better decisions about what, when and how you eat; helps the body to digest food better; and gives you time to really enjoy and savor your food. To me, that’s the best part—enjoying the wonderful world of food.
For now, just stop and take five deep breaths. Check in with your body and notice how you feel. Repeat as needed (particularly before you eat and when you’re stressed), but not less than five times a day. You’ll probably get less speeding tickets and you’ll have more fun with food.