The rapid pace of our lives in the big city gives rise to its polar opposite – an obsession with slowing down. A quick glance through bookshelves, magazines and medical/health literature provides ample proof that a return to simplicity is on the cards. Books, articles and expert advice abound on topics such as ‘getting off the treadmill and out of the rat race’, slowing down the pace of our lives, retreating to the tranquillity of the countryside, indulging in mindful activities such as yoga, relaxation, organic healthy eating and alternative treatments to achieve a stress-free simpler kind of life.
While this pursuit to eventually slow down and live a simpler life is undeniably a step in the right direction, the methods often required to achieve this are stress-inducing, life altering and, quite frankly, have the opposite intended effect in the short-term. Applying for a new job, selling the city flat to then move and adjust to country living, squeezing yoga practice, meditation and organic home-cooked meals in an already jam-packed schedule does little to help us feel more relaxed.
As a therapist, I am a firm believer in striving for long-term over short-term gains. However, for those of us already struggling to stay afloat, compromising further short-term wellbeing may not be realistic or fruitful for achieving long-term goals. So you may wonder: how can we use Common Sense to slow down in a more realistic way?
This need not be complicated. It can begin with one of our most essential and basic daily activities — mealtimes. No need to find large amounts of spare time, nor a quiet space to become present. By engaging in mindful and senseful eating we can experience simplicity and the slowing down of our minds in the Now.
Senseful eating suggests we pause and take notice of our food, savour our meals and engage our senses in the process. Taste is not the only sense involved. Notice the colour, the texture, aromas of your meal. Suddenly eating is not only about fuelling our bodies. Another dimension opens up through mindful and senseful eating that serves to slow us down: becoming aware of the richness in the present, of our experience of life as it is in the now. The lifestyle changes and health-conscious activities we engage in to reduce stress are important to slowing down in the long-term, but mindfulness and senseful attention at the table can do wonders for our mental and emotional health in the everyday.
Senseful tips for savouring meals:
- Taste is a powerful sense.If we actually focus our attention on the rich flavours of the food we ingest, we may be startled by the abundance of stimulation experienced by our taste buds. Take a moment and practice with a small piece of chocolate and notice the experience. Try it with a parsnip, a raisin, an orange.
- As you prepare your food, notice the texture of fruit and vegetables.The sensation of the knife slicing through a peach for example, feel the juice dripping through your fingers and the different textures on the inside and the outside of the fruit. Feel it with your fingers, then with your lips.
- Take time to inhale the scent of your tomatoes, grapefruits, melons.Do the aromas of your food evoke images of Spring? Winter? The earth in which it was sown and harvested? A hint of cinnamon or all spice?
- Listen to the rhythm of bubbling stews and soups, or the sizzling of a stir-fry.A drop of milk or lemon juice into your tea; the pouring of a fizzy drink into a glass – what do you hear?
- Notice the diverse colours on your plate – are they primary colours like those of peppers and tomatoes or are they pastels like those of yoghurt or a creamy soup.What kinds of shapes do you see – are the edges sharp or curvy?
What kind of senseful palette awaits your palate?
Added benefits! You can reduce your waistline by eating Sensefully too. By taking your time and paying attention to your senses, you are more likely to hear your body letting you know when you have had enough.