Mindful – mind + full = being present.
Mindfulness is about being present. Forgetting the past. Leaving the future alone. Just being here, now.
I must say, it is easier said than done. Being present for me is easier to do when I am on the beach walking and singing and breathing. It is easier to do when I am on a mountain and walking in the flowers and seeing the sunrise and the moon set and knowing that I am someone on a mountain there and then.
I always make a point of noticing. Noticing the seagulls and greeting them in their guttural bird shout – Aaah! And noticing the sugar birds squeaking on the proteas and squeaking back at them, in delight. I notice the oyster catchers whistling and the robins singing their melodies. I notice the cormorants flying low in dark flocks over the ocean waves, in perfect formation, a vast V shape in the blue distance. And the Boubou shrikes with their many calls, a harsh scratchy shout, switching to a soft tuneful beckoning.
Meditation and Being Mindful
I am meditating while moving which suits my mindfulness. Other people like to sit and meditate and get deep and find out how to empty their minds. I decided to check out the website called “Mindful” (how apt!) and they say that mindfulness is “the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”
I guess that means we can be here now, but we need to watch how we react to a situation and what emotions come up for us. They also note, thank goodness, that meditation does not have to be about vacuuming our thoughts way forever. It is about exploring.
“It’s a special place where each and every moment is momentous. When we meditate, we venture into the workings of our minds: our sensations (air blowing on our skin or a harsh smell wafting into the room), our emotions (love this, hate that, crave this, loathe that), and thoughts (wouldn’t it be weird to see an elephant playing the trumpet). Mindfulness meditation asks us to suspend judgment and unleash our natural curiosity about the workings of the mind, approaching our experience with warmth and kindness, to ourselves and others.”
I like that. We can train our minds to be mindful and we can actually rewire our brains in the process!
What, then is mindful drinking? Can we be mindful and still drink? I wonder? So, I decided to check this concept out on some websites and I came across the view that mindful drinking falls somewhere in between the all-or-nothing crowds. The ‘all’ crowd drinks a lot, all the time, and they are threatened with disease if they are not careful – such as breast cancer, dementia, throat cancer and heart issues, not forgetting dependence on alcohol. The ‘nothing’ sett are the ones who also fast, do juice diets, count their steps every day, and only eat plants.
Do you drink alcohol? Do you like drinking alcohol? Well, stats are showing that drinking is becoming unfashionable! Drinking trends for 2023 are shifting. Mindful drinking is in so come on, get sober curious. Yes, this is the era of the health-conscious, eco-conscious consumer – green eating and green living.
Do you ever get weird cravings for unusual foods? I craved crisp green apples when pregnant. Teenagers crave sugar. Athletes crave glucose and carbohydrates.
Some say that cravings are a sign that your body needs those particular nutrients, minerals, or vitamins at that time. Apparently, it is wise to acknowledge food cravings and to dig deeper – they could be the effects of physical, emotional, or mental issues, or underlying conditions that need attention.
Intuitive or Mindful Eating
What then, is mindful eating? Trending right now in foody circles is the intuitive eating (IE) movement! According to Alix Eve Schram, “IE involves going back to the way we were naturally born to eat. When we were young, we ate when hungry and stopped when full, something we innately felt by listening to our body’s cues. We were not born measuring portions, tracking macros, or counting calories, and we did not pay attention to any external forces telling us what we should or shouldn’t do to be healthy (or thin, as diet culture would have it). The need to eat, or stop eating, was fully intuitive.”
We need to find our way back to those instinctive eating habits. Mental and physical health are intertwined and if we eat according to these needs, we should maintain strong immune systems. Every one of us has unique needs!
At the same time, there is a growing awareness and interest in no- and low-alcohol spirits, wines, beers and cocktails (mocktails) with health and well-being the key driver – and accountability for individual personal health and wellness. So, mindful drinking and intuitive eating can be pals and bosom buddies. We can merge the two and have a phrase like ‘intuitive, mindful eating and drinking’! The days of imbibing and gorging are over. We hope!
The good news is that Generation Z is not buying into the alcohol media campaigns and false advertising that their parents took as gospel. Young people today want something more out of life, not a hangover. Their idea of a good night out is not a drunken bonanza of boozing all night, losing the car keys, losing the car, or crashing the car- then suffering all of the next day thanks to a toxic hangover. They want to save money, their health, and their reputations.
Generation Z is the online generation – they scroll Google, TikTok, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and other social media platforms. These youth share ideas on forums and in chat groups and they don’t need to go out to have a good time. Just as well, because fortunately, they are also reading that alcohol is toxic.
Generation Z is leading mindful drinking trends. They are aware that alcohol causes risky behaviour, increased drug use, unprotected sex, violence, and poor decision-making. They have seen how alcohol causes increased anxiety, abuse, and vulnerability – maybe even in their own families.
Generation Z is sober curious because they want to be healthy; they have no extra money, and they are faced with increasing societal pressures where it is best to be sober in an ever-unsafe world.
So, what is intuitive eating then?
Let’s go back in time. How did the hunter-gatherers eat? The Bushmen (San) and the American Indian tribes? For these ancestral people can show us how to eat in tune with nature and the seasons. They ate what was seasonally available. Hunter-gatherers ate when they were hungry, selecting plenty of carbohydrates in the form of nutrient-rich plants and fruits. They hunted animals and caught fish for meaty protein, and they found plenty of honey for that sweet burst of energy. They spent most of their days foraging for food, just like animals do. This primed their hunger- being purposely active out in nature.
Our ancestors used their intuition to eat. Intuitive eating (IE) has now returned to the modern-day diet. But it is not a diet. It is about tuning in to physical, emotional, and mental needs. Intuitive eating is linked to a set of nutritional principles that are based on physical cues around food, like hunger and satiety, rather than numerical ones. It’s all about how you feel and what your body needs, instead of relying on data like calorie figures.
There are many benefits to IE, especially better psychological health. IE boosts improved body image, self-esteem, quality of life, weight maintenance according to specific needs, health and well-being, and life satisfaction. And less obsession with eating, dieting, and disordered eating. It is time to trust yourself and your food.
- Reject the Diet Mentality – tune into your personal needs.
- Honour Your Hunger – eat when hungry, enough nutrients for energy and optimum functioning.
- Make Peace with Food – eat when you need to eat.
- Challenge the Food Police – no one is watching you, only your ego.
- Discover the Satisfaction Factor – enjoy food and eating with others.
- Feel Your Fullness – learn the body signals that show you are full.
- Cope with Your Emotions with Kindness – find other ways to nurture your stress, loneliness, boredom and depression.
- Respect Your Body – accept who you are and where you come from.
- Movement—Feel the Difference – don’t rigidly schedule in exercise. Just move.
- Honour Your Health—Gentle Nutrition – eat what makes your taste buds sing.
The bottom line is to connect with self, to become more mindful of personal needs in a culture that strives to be perfect and depends on instant gratification. Tune into your internal wisdom, that dormant sixth sense. Use your intuition to eat.
Becoming Sober Curious
And what does it mean to be sober curious? Can we use our intuition to drink? Well, at the crux of mindful drinking is the mindfulness concept of paying attention. Of being aware of how we feel, of how others could be feeling, and what is happening around us. Mindfulness is about self-care and compassion for all life. It is about gratitude.
So, mindful drinking is about paying attention to the causes and effects of your drinking. Ask:
- Where and what do I drink?
- Who do I drink with?
- Do I drink more at certain places, or with certain people, or at certain times?
- How does drinking make me feel?
- How do I use drinking to relate to the world around me? Does it help me to cope? Does it make me feel less conspicuous?
- How does alcohol affect my relationships and friendships?
- How does alcohol affect my health?
And then, the big question: do I want to make a change?
- Have a plan – choose venues with low or no alcohol drinks
- Be calm at the bar – order something unusual, sans alcohol
- Pretend if you have to – ask the bartender for a fake gin and tonic and sip it knowingly.
- How are you feeling? Check your mood before going out – maybe just say NO.
- Stick to your decisions – you are not drinking, so don’t give in to that ‘just one’.
- Check how you are not alone – many people around you are NOT drinking or are on low-alcohol drinks.
- Be loyal to pubs that serve alcohol-free drinks, and maybe more people will follow your example.
Become sober curious. You may be a grey-area drinker and you may be concerned about your drinking habits. Become sober curious if you think you need a break. Become inquisitive about sobriety and ask questions about why you drink.
Oh, by the way, alcohol does cause cancer and alcoholic drinks have been listed as human carcinogens in the USA. Now, what was I saying about mindful drinking?
Health matters. Mental and physical health, emotional and spiritual health, they all matter. What can you do to improve your mindfulness? How can you be more mindful of your eating and drinking? I must say that when I become mindful of my drinking, I stopped completely. Then, I stopped all sugar and all meat. So, I am a radical person who is trying hard to be healthy and yet, still enjoy life. The best part is that I have tons of energy and love being outside so for me, mindfulness is intricately linked to being outside, being active, and avoiding those toxins that hold me back. Here’s to a healthy mind and body, cheers!