Pause And Pay Attention For Better Glucose Control

It seems that mindful self-awareness and healthy food choices go hand in hand, and may help improve glucose control.

This is partly owed to “a lower likelihood of obesity and greater sense of control among people with higher levels of mindfulness,” according to research published in the American Journal of Health Behavior.

Mindful self-awareness, or dispositional mindfulness, is the acknowledgment of one’s thoughts and feelings in the present moment. Though some people are by nature ever-mindful of their inner disposition, it is an awareness that the rest of us can develop or strengthen.

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Being mindful of thoughts and feelings allows us to do deliberately what has become either an unconscious, or emotion-driven action. It creates a space for clear-minded, fresh assessments of things we repeatedly do. This scrutiny can weaken the grip of habits that harm us.

Pause and Pay Attention

The S.T.O.P exercise is a simple way to create a be-in-the-moment habit. Here, it has been modified to cultivate dispositional mindfulness in relation to food choices. The exercise takes about two or three minutes to complete:

  • S: Stop. Put off eating, or eating more, for a couple minutes.
  • T: Take Three Deep Breaths. Enjoy three slow belly-expanding breaths (long inhales, long exhales).
  • O: Observe. Notice any thoughts inhabiting your mind. Now, notice and acknowledge any sensations in your body (e.g., tension, tingling, warmth, cold, hunger/craving, dry or watering mouth, pain, fatigue, restlessness). Now, notice your feelings or emotions. Name or describe the feelings (e.g., sadness, anxiety, frustration, happiness, boredom, loneliness) without designating them “good” or “bad.”
  • P: Proceed. Either decide to eat what you originally planned on eating, or choose something different, or forgo eating for now. Whatever you choose, accept the decision without judgment, and go about your day (the point is to cultivate awareness, not guilt or shame).

As a reminder to use S.T.O.P., tape pictures of stop signs at eye level on the refrigerator door, or by the handle of snack drawers and cupboards. Putting a sign near the silverware will remind you to check-in with your yourself before sitting down to a meal.

Mindfulness walks slowly and deliberately, and its daily task is of a rather humdrum nature. Yet where it places its feet it cannot easily be dislodged, and it acquires and bestows true mastery of the ground it covers.
~ Nyanaponika Thera

Sources: Chopra; American Journal of Health Behavior ; The Power of Mindfulness
Photo credit: Kai Chan Vong

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