I love watching my kids play because when I look at them I remind myself that they naturally inhabit the present moment and inspire me to follow them.
It will probably resonate with you if I tell you that we lose that innate ability as we grow up when our mind begins to be filled with memories, obligations, learned patterns, believes, etc.
I often try to remember when I learned that the past or the future were better times to live than the present. I think it was in my adolescence, when the physical and emotional changes of age became very difficult for me. I didn’t want to suffer, and my mind found in that strategy a way to manage the suffer.
The point is that while I was trying to live in the past or the future, I was losing the ability to live the only real moment that exists, which is the present.
What does this have to do with self-care?
When we lose the ability to live in the present moment, we lose the ability to be aware of our physical and emotional needs.
To be aware of our signs of hunger, fullness, satisfaction, nutrition, rest, relax, pleasure, leisure, connection, security and many more can only happen in the present moment. And of course, the present moment is the only opportunity to attend to them.
But it’s also important to keep in mind that the diet culture also feeds the disconnection to the present moment.
Dieting takes us away
Constantly thinking about the next diet, how to compensate for what we’ve eaten, thinking about all the things we’ll do when we’re skinny, invariably takes us away from what our body, heart and mind need right now.
When we are immersed in the diet culture the mind continually wanders, in an attempt to adjust our behavior to what is supposed to be a person who eats well, trying to do the right thing, the healthiest thing, etc. disconnecting us from our needs. “When I am thin I’ll be happier. I will start on Monday, in January, in September”, . . there’s always a better time to start acting.
When I trained in the Mindful Eating-Conscious Living program one of the most revealing things I learned is that our relationship to food has more to do with how we live our daily lives than with the food itself. That is why “Conscious Living” is part of the title.
How can mindfulness help?
Mindfulness is the ability to be aware of our physical sensations, thoughts, emotions with acceptance and non-judgment. Mindfulness gives us the opportunity to respond to the day to day challenges that arise rather than spend our lives reacting according to our learned patterns.
Any time and situation can be good to start practicing the ability to realize what is happening inside and outside of us, and be able to make decisions that support our health and self-care. Although it may not seem enough, these are the small daily actions that can help us take better care of ourselves because our mind will understand that they are easy to incorporate. The important thing is to try to practice being in the present moment from a place of non-judgment, acceptance and kindness.
Where can we start?
We can start by being aware of the physical bodily sensations and of what our senses experience in small daily activities:
– Practice 5 to 10 minutes of stretching or yoga daily, paying attention to your bodily sensations as you move.
– Spend a few minutes a day giving yourself a little relaxing massage with essential oils.
– Spend 5 minutes consciously taking a tea infusion.
– Cooking and being aware of the smell of food as it is cooked, the beauty of food processing, etc. . .
– Spend a few minutes eating something with full consciousness being aware of what your senses experience (taste, sound, smell, sight, touch . . . ) when you eat it.
– Take a short walk being aware of the physical sensations of our body
– Begin to be aware of the physical sensations that accompany hunger and fullness experience.
I’ve had a lot of pleasure doing the dishes these holidays. I’ve been with my family at the summer house and we don’t have a dishwasher. Once upon a time I would have been very angry to have to clean that so many dishes, but I have taken the opportunity to practice mindfulness while washing them and I have been able to make it a rewarding activity that has nourished me emotionally.
Throughout the day, we have many opportunities to turn everyday activities into self-care actions, which will make us feel physically and emotionally more cared for and nurtured. And for me that is the path of self-care, the path of small steps, the path of re-habiting our body and the present moment with patience and persistence.
To finish, I’m going to make you this reflection:
Are you taking care of yourself in the present moment from the awareness of your needs or are you doing it from an attempt to fix yourself or improve yourself, with your mind going from the past to the future, judging and comparing yourself continuously?
Mireia Hurtado, Spain