What we take in and how well the body is able to process it directly affect our health. Learning to discern what you are truly hungry for, having the skills and tools to give to yourself in a graceful and mindful way, and to sustain this way of life doesn't happen without support and knowledge. We do this not only for ourself; the more fulfilled we are, the more we naturally want to give back to others, to the community, and to the world. I have broken this framework down into five steps.
The first step to any change is realising that the way you have been doing things, nourishing yourself, being in the world, or feeling and thinking is not your ideal. You know intuitively you can do better, live better, be better. We can see our lives most clearly when we practise mindfulness, the non-judging and compassionate way of viewing the present moment, ourselves, and all of our experiences. By bringing mindful attention to the way you eat you can transform your relationship to the experience. Practising mindful awareness opens the door to experiencing the peace and spaciousness that are available to you as you identify with awareness the unchanging part of you, rather than over-identifying with the changing nature of your thoughts, feelings, struggles, and experiences. This helps free you from the part of yourself that struggles with food and eating and opens up the space to make true change. You can shine the light of your awareness on each area of your life to discern what you need overall and in each moment. What are you truly hungry for? Try making one meal a day a silent, mindful one. It will help you bring this awareness to eating in other situations over the day and create a positive habit.
Put your intention into positive language and the present moment as if it is occurring now. For example, intentions around the practice of mindful eating might include: I would like to practise eating mindfully most of the time for my health and wellbeing; I intend to develop a practice of mindful eating; I am open to this new way of eating and nourishment for my body; May I let go of struggling with the food I choose to eat; May I let go of my concepts about food and eating that do not serve me; and May I allow mindful eating to nourish my body.
3. Skills and tools
Set your SPRIGS goal (see “Setting goals with SPRIGS”). For example, let's say your intention is: I would like to practise eating mindfully most of the time. You'll now create a very specific goal to put some legs on your intention to help it manifest practically. Following SPRIGS, you will:
S – Specific. Make your goal specific by addressing what, why, how, where, and when. “I am going to practise eating at least one snack or meal mindfully each day. I will practise at home in the morning when it is quiet and I am alone.”
P – Positive. Check your goal is a positive action step, not what you aren't going to do.
R – Realistic. Check that it is realistic and attainable. That it's not too much to ask for in your schedule nor too substantial to carry out in the given time.
I – Inspiring. Check that you've chosen a goal that is inspiring and desirable to you, a step in the direction of your specific intention. An example of a motivating reason that supports your goal could be: “I am learning to eat in a way that really nourishes me, while enjoying each bite.”
G – Grounded in time. Adding a time component, such as when you are going to start makes it even more specific. For example, I'm going to start on Monday after my house-guests leave.
S – Set your next steps. Once you have achieved your goal to your satisfaction, consider, What are your next steps? Will you make it more challenging?
4. Outer support
Research shows that having a buddy or social support around your goals or during changes in your life makes a positive difference. Support might come from one or more friends, family members, a community, a coach, a therapist, a clergyperson, or other guide. Having a regular time to evaluate how each of you is doing with your own individual goals is invaluable and proven to reduce stress.
5. Inner resources
Cultivating a voice of compassion for yourself as you navigate the way to a well-nourished life can make all the difference in staying motivated and feeling at ease. It is especially helpful when you encounter moments where your actions or life's circumstances don't meet your expectations, your judging mind is active, or you are simply hurting. With self-compassion, the mind becomes quieter and more peaceful as distressed, repetitive, worry-filled thinking is reduced. Caring for oneself becomes easier.
Setting goals with SPRIGS
A sprig is a small stem that bears leaves, buds, and flowers. As each sprig blossoms and bears fruit, it contributes to a larger thriving bush or tree. By setting goals using the SPRIGS method, you create a way to enhance your intention. Your goals should be:
G: Ground in time and Gaugeable and finally, allow you to:
S: Set your next steps
This is an edited extract from Well Nourished by mindfulness-based registered dietitian and yoga instructor, Andrea Lieberstein (Fair Winds Press RRP $24.99).