Eating and Living Mindfully to Improve our Mood

We all have our days when we’re feeling less-than-cheerful. When they come around, we’re often quick to blame external factors. Even if we can’t avoid daily frustrations like delayed trains or heavy traffic, we can always turn to mindful eating and living practices for a mood-booster—especially on those days when we have “woken up on the wrong side of the bed.”

When we eat mindfully, we not only experience the taste of our food, but also the way it makes us feel. Indeed, new research has looked at the link between what we feed ourselves and how that can affect our energy and even our mood.

A recent study found that a diet high in foods that spur inflammation in the body may raise the risk for depression in women. Over a 12-year period, researchers looked at the food choices of over 40 thousand women and found that those who regularly consumed refined grains—Including bagels, pasta, and white rice—as well as sugar-sweetened soft drinks, red meat, and margarine, were 29% to 41% more likely to be depressed than those who ate a less inflammatory diet (characterized by coffee, olive oil, and leafy green and yellow vegetables).

More and more research supports that eating healthy is not only important for our bodies, but also for our minds. Take a moment to think about your own food choices and how they affect you. How do you feel after a sit-down breakfast of freshly brewed coffee alongside steel-cut oatmeal, topped with chopped almonds and brightly colored berries? What changes when eating becomes a second-thought as you grab a bagel with cream cheese and a latte on-the-go? When your morning sounds like the latter, chances are your energy levels will be low as your blood sugar dives and you experience hunger or cravings well before lunchtime.

While mindful eating may help to prepare us for dealing with inevitable daily stresses and disruptions, we can also supplement thoughtful food choices with moment-to-moment mindful living practices. As we bounce around from task to task, plenty of things can get in the way. Traffic jams, long lines, computer issues, and delayed appointments can sour our mood and leave us with frustration because we judge them as a hindrance to our momentum. When we stop thinking about the next item on our to-do list and come back to the present moment through our breath, we can begin to look at the unfolding event with a non-judgemental and accepting awareness. Once we have done so, we might even be able to use that moment to our advantage:

Breathing in, I use this time waiting in line just for myself, to unite my body and mind.
Breathing out, I feel refreshed.

Next time you find yourself feeling down, stressed, frustrated, or out of control as a result of your day’s events, try to put yourself back into the driver’s seat. Every moment there are many available opportunities to help improve your mood and stay centered.

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photo credit: ntr23