So how are you getting on with your New Years Resolutions? At this time of year, after the inevitable splurge of the festive season, many of us feel the need to purge ourselves with some austere diet. These often prove painful and useless. Maybe we need a different approach?
Train Body or Mind?
It is not that all diets are pointless, but many are ill-conceived and scientifically unproven. A different take on the New Year’s Resolution is to leave our bodies be and start a New Year’s “Mind Diet”, using mindfulness. Our bodies are much more obvious to us, we fatten them, slim them, take them to the gym, etc. Our minds, however, can be much more tricky, we think we know them and control them, but do we really? Maybe our minds are totally controlling us!
Our intake of food and alcohol, for example, is pretty much a result of the automated decisions our minds make, often unbeknownst to us. In fact just about everything that happens to us comes in some way ‘through our minds’, whether that be through thoughts, emotions or physical sensations. Our busyness, stress, relationship problems, work issues, etc, all come from our minds, not our bodies, so why do we not look after them better?
Mindfulness or Bodyfulness?
An ideal way to embark on a mind diet is to undertake a training program for your mind in the same way you would do for your body. Our minds, like our bodies are adaptable and responsive to exercise. This is known as ‘plasticity’ in neuroscience, meaning our minds are changeable or upgradable, in response to how we use them. Therefore we can train our minds to be more focussed, present, joyful, peaceful, etc – whatever we want. Maybe even more accepting of ourselves as we are and less obsessed with weight, food, conforming, etc.
One scientifically supported method of doing this is to engage in a validated mindfulness course. The benefit is two-fold in the way that the training of your mind will have a profound effect on your body as well, such as more motivation, more natural self-control, reduced craving and comfort-eating and improved body perception. The mental benefits are even greater and well-documented (just Google them!), such as improved concentration, less anxiety, more joy and energy, reduced occurrence of depression.
Take Your Mind for a Run!
Mindfulness is not rocket science, it is just training your mind in the same way you would naturally train your body, especially if it was causing you problems. We begin by just noticing how our minds operate and learn from that We do this by engaging in systematic practices to improve and develop the way our minds work. Mind gym if you like!
There are many mindfulness courses available these days but always check the details of your teacher’s qualifications and experience. I run courses in Chelsea, London and my company Mindfree offers validated mindfulness courses that range from one day to eight weeks. You can also find a variety of other UK teachers on the Be Mindful website, which is run by the Mental Health Foundation.
Just maybe a mind diet will be much more effctive and satisfying than your standard body diet. You might even remember it after February 1st!
Christopher Gaia is a fully trained mindfulness teacher, with a 5 year MSc. in Teaching Mindfulness Based Courses from the Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice, Bangor University. He has over 20 years of experience of mindfulness practice and has completed post graduate research into mindfulness and self-compassion. He is also a registered Osteopath, working in Chelsea and Balham.