Many of you will know that recently we launched a new aspect to our wellness programmes, Mindful Wellness. The programme is made up of three aspects of health: Focused awareness (mindfulness), Strategic Nutrition, and Mindful Movement.
I came across Mindfulness 13 years ago when I first started my clinic back in the days when I was in Cavendish Square. I strongly realised the connection between mind and body when it comes to health and wellness. Its not good enough just to feed in great stuff, its how you process it that counts (you are what you absorb NOT you are what you eat). Stress, and bad thinking really gets in the way of this ability for the body to process your food because your body uses a different part of the nervous system when we are stressed (sympathetic). This means that the digestive acid in the stomach “dries up” making it difficult to digest food. The blood supply to the digestive tract is diverted to the limbs (to run away from the threat). The digestive tract seises up, giving us problems like constipation. Also, because we don’t allow TIME to savour what we are eating, the digestive system is not prepared. We need to think about food, smell food, start preparing food for our senses to prepare our digestive system for whats coming its way. Of course we don’t get time to devote to this process. But at least employing some time to really take a break at lunchtime would help. Being more relaxed sends our systems into parasympathetic nervous system (repair and recovery). This means that the digestive system relaxes, we have digestive acid to process the food, our nutrients get absorbed.
As a nutritionist therefore, helping people lead better lives through food alone isn’t enough. We need to get back to root causes. That lead me to discover the work of Jon Kabot-Zin, who built up the Massachusetts Stress Reduction clinic – a really radical programme at the time. This unit was attached to the main teaching hospital and founded in the idea that although conventional medicine was great at crisis medicine, some patients were really not improving on conventional medication. They started to see stunning results from the 8 week programme Jon Kabot-Zin had created.
Although I was telling all my patients to do the programme (at the time you had to follow Jon’s book – Full Catastrophe Living) I had never done the programme (too busy!!). I have finally taken the plunge and am nearly at the end of my Mindfulness Training of 8 weeks (trained by the wonderful Barbara Boxhall in person).
I wanted to be able to understand what our Mindfulness trainers were trying to communicate (I do the nutrition part of the programme).
Mindfulness is about training the mind to be in the here and now and focus on the life you are living instead of focusing on the life you have had (ruminating, regret, guilt etc) or the life you might have (panic, disaster, day-dreaming etc). Mindfulness is quite simply being present. Being present helps us to be happier but also makes us more effective because we are concentrating on the task in hand as opposed the story attached to it.
There are so many parallels with mindfulness and eating. I teach people to know the structure of eating and then just to get on with it – without worrying about a so called result. In getting on with it, the result comes. mindfulness can be employed to being much more present when we eat (thus switching over our nervous systems to that all important parasympathetic
What I have learnt is that of course, like going to the gym, its all in the doing it – so actually having a teacher take me through the programme has been the shift I needed to actually make the time to practice the mindfulness (its quite a commitment on the course – 20 minutes and then 45 minutes a day, with other homework too).
And the result? (well we are not looking for the result right?) I can say that I am enjoying life to the full. Especially being with my daughter. I am being there with her (instead of trying to multi-task my emails at the sometime. Actually one of my home works has been to turn off the mail function off my phone – WHAT a difference to my happiness!
The Mindful Wellness Programme available (recently we put 600 staff through the programme. We are presenting the programme to a well-known retailer (we have already trained their call centre staff) Please get in touch at email@example.com – 0845 050 2442