About Author: Zenstudent

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How to manage stress at work

The quickened heart rate and the inexplicable anxiety, accompanied by the overwhelming need to get out of your office to breathe. The irritability and anger that you feel which you are unable to find the source of. The loss of interest in anything you had once considered fun. The increased intake of alcohol and drugs to aid in the numbing of any thoughts and emotions you have left. Most of us have all been through these yet many have been too busy feeling stressed to be aware that they are indeed, stressed.

Stress has been aptly named the “health epidemic of the 21st century” by the World Health Organization (WHO) and is estimated to cost American businesses up to $300 billion per year in productivity loss. As employees, it is crucial that we do not get too caught up in our work at the expense of our physical and emotional well being, for the benefit of both ourselves and the company we work for. So here on some tips on how to deal with stress at work and bring the much needed balance to your life.

1. Identify and come to terms with the fact that you are stressed.

This is one of the major stumbling blocks to effective stress management that we all encounter. It is the fault of the society that we live in nowadays. Stress has become synonymous with weakness, which is why many find it difficult to admit that they are indeed feeling stressed out for fear of being the Achilles’ heels of the company.

It is perfectly normal to feel vexed and overwhelmed by your work. By allowing yourself to come to terms with it, you can achieve better and longer term benefits when you distribute some energy to alleviating the problem. Better stress management allows you to feel better about yourself and as a result, enable you to focus better and deliver better work performance.

2. Take good care of yourself by always prioritizing your well being over work

Your body is a temple, and your one and only temple. Without your health, productivity suffers greatly which serves as a further blow to your self esteem and balance in life. Many understand the importance of their well being yet chose to not do anything about it since they feel a lifestyle overhaul is too much of a trouble for them.

Well, the good news is, all that it takes is consciousness and awareness. Before choosing your meal at lunchtime, make sure you are not indulging in food with high sugar level, but instead consuming food rich in protein that can keep you going all day. While working, pause for a moment to evaluate your well being. Are you starting to lose focus? Are you starting to make more and more mistakes? Getting a light snack or taking a short stroll around the office can help get your emotions more in check and reduce stress.

3. Time management.

I cannot reiterate how vital time management is to stress management. By carefully and appropriately planning your schedule, you no longer feel like there is too much food on your plate and too little time in a day. Anxiety only adds on to the stress and does adverse effects to your ability to deliver good results. Good planning gives you a bird-eye perspective of how your day is going to pan out and how much you can accomplish. It assures you that everything is under your control and in the process, work wonders to help in calming your nerves and ensuring that you perform at your optimal best.

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Can meditation reduce blood pressure?

Meditation, an important component of many religions, traditions and beliefs, has been practiced by tens of millions around the globe. In a 2007 study by the US government agency National Centre for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, it was noted that nearly ten per cent of US adults had practiced meditation within the last 12 months, a 2.5 per cent increase from 2002.

Meditation is not practiced just because of its links to spiritual beliefs, but also because practitioners can use the techniques to self-induce a mode of consciousness and improving self-awareness.

Since the 1960s, there have been countless published research studies stating that meditation has been linked to positive changes in metabolism, stress and pain levels and medical science has also proved that 20 minutes of meditation on a daily basis is able to reduce blood pressure. According to Dr Nancy Aagenes, a local expert in the naturopathic field, in her recent article, blood pressure is controlled partly by the adrenal gland. The adrenal gland provides the extra power and functional capacity during stressful situations, such as the case where a mother lifted a car off her child.

However, we often misuse this body function for stresses in our daily lives, exhausting the adrenal gland, and contributing to a negative effect on our blood pressure. Thus in order to reverse this negative effect, it is necessary to find a way to energize the adrenal gland, bringing the body back to a more relaxed state, and thus allowing the reduction of blood pressure. The way is simple, 20 minutes of meditation on a daily basis, combined with deep breathing or sitting in a comfortable position and repeating the same phrase (or known as mantra) and stop stressing over small matters.

Meditation helps to ignite biochemical changes within the body that helps the body and mind to reach a more balanced and relaxed state which in turn triggers the body’s self-repairing functions. This will help to restore the adrenal function and thus bring a positive change in blood pressure. In addition, a new study started by the Dalai Lama and Paul Ekman, PhD, a University of California, San Francisco emeritus professor has also shown that meditation can reduce the stress levels and bad emotions while increasing the good emotions experienced and expressed by a person. Meditative techniques involving sustained, focused attention on a specific mental or sensory experience and the close examination of one’s physical and emotional state have been developed by combining meditative techniques with techniques learnt from the study of emotions.

As a result of this study, it was observed that along with the reduction of stress levels, negative emotions reduces as well, and participants who went through the meditation techniques were able to retain the benefits of the techniques a few months later. With a reduction of stress levels faced from daily activities, the exhaustion on the adrenal gland is reduced which then prevents the blood pressure from increasing unnecessarily. Meditation techniques thus can be applied from multiple different angles to effectively and positively affect the different parts of our body that contributes to blood pressure.

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3 ways of breaking bad habits with meditation

Upon the mention of ‘Meditation’, many find themselves thinking of the image of Buddha, cross-legged and perfectly still. To the masses, meditation is often associated with religion or spiritualism. However, spiritual meditation is merely one of the many facets of meditation.

Meditation in the new age is an effective psychological tool. It is the act of being mindful of your actions, feeling with your senses before carefully evaluating and deciding the next step. Meditation is simple and does not require the investment of a lot of time. Here are some easy guidelines to help you utilize meditation to eradicate some of the common self defeating bad habits that many have been trying futilely to kick.

1. Be fully aware and conscious of your bad habits

Mindfulness is the bedrock of meditation. It is the primary reason as to why bad habits are developed and become entrenched in our lives. By identifying the problem and understanding the ill effects of these habits, you are already on your way to take the appropriate actions to amend the decisions you make in your daily life.

One example is perfectionism, where the pursuit of happiness is taken much too seriously, resulting in a plethora of adverse effects, ranging from mental problems to procrastination. This is one difficult habit to identify as many tend to dismiss it as merely striving to deliver the best performance. By gaining consciousness regarding its ill effects, one can more easily look into the available solutions to help kick this habit.

Have a lucid understanding of the benefits of breaking the habit

One method to help yourself really comprehend the positive effects or the reasons why you are better off without these bad habits is to make a list. Mull over the improvements you can make to your current situation should the bad habit be eliminated before writing them down in a notebook. Refer to this list periodically as it serves as a source of constant reminder to help you think twice before indulging in the comfort of the bad habit. For added motivation, you can also include the consequences of the bad behavior next to your list.

For example, smoking leads to increased susceptibility to countless health issues like coronary diseases, high blood pressure, lung cancer and respiratory problems just to name a few. It also degrades the quality of living for those around you, forcing them to bear the consequences of the bad habit they are not guilty of. However, if you quit smoking, you are making the effort to prevent these future health problems, giving yourself and your loved ones a better quality of life. That is enough to spur you on to kick the habit.

3. Draft out an action plan with concrete steps to help you towards the goal

A fatal flaw that many commit when sketching out their action plan is being overly ambitious. One has to know that while Rome is not built in a day; bad habits cannot be eradicated overnight. Always remember to set small and realistic goals for yourself. Never commit the grave error of moving on to other goals without effectively kicking your bad habit. A good plan will effectively help you stay on track.

These steps when used in combination and implemented conscientious can no double help put yourself into better perspective, bringing you one step closer to kicking your bad habits.

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10 Ways to Relieve Stress

Stress can be a positive thing. It can spur one to achieve their goals, targets and deadlines, but it is only good in moderation. Too much stress can lead to loss of concentration, memory, learning, productivity, and many other adverse health effects which I believe that you are utmost keen to avoid at all costs.

10 ways to kill stress

1. Exercise

It is known that endorphin’s, neurotransmitters that give your body a sense of “well-being” and happiness, are released when one engages in suitably strenuous exercise. These endorphins are also responsible for the “runners high” that one gets, which enables them to push further. Whenever you feel under great stress, grab your sneakers and hit the road running. Allow your stress to melt away.

2. Laughter

Learn to laugh at yourself and take life less seriously. Effective usage of humor can also be useful in diffusing tense social situations. Also, studies have shown that laughter leads to the lowering of the stress hormones, cortisol and epinephrine. Similar to the above point, endorphins are too released when one is laughing. Its overall effect will lead to less stress and more happiness.

3. Recharge yourself

Take a power nap! Even if you are hard-pressed for time, a mere 7 minute nap can do wonders for your concentration, memory and will give you the motivation to continue to attempt the tasks and challenges that lie ahead.

4. Drink Tea

Some forms of tea, like chamomile, are known to exert calming effects on the drinker. They will reduce anxiousness and nervous feelings as well. Also, they taste good! However, drink in moderation as tea is a diuretic- you don’t want to make frequent trips to the washroom!

5. Cry/Scream

Don’t be afraid to release your pent-up emotions. Muffle your cries and screams into a pillow if you have to.

6. Give yourself “Me” Time

Arrange your schedule to plan a day in which all the activities revolve around yourself, and no one else. Use this time to relax, reflect and recharge.

7. Try aromatherapy

Different kinds of essential oils exist that purport to have different properties and calm the user. Even if one is skeptical of the usage of such aromatic oils, one cannot deny that the fragrance does help to lift one’s mood and in turn, alleviates stress.

8. Meditate

Studies have shown that other than reducing stress, meditation has other significant health benefits like reducing muscle tension, lowering one’s blood pressure and might even increase one’s tolerance.

9. Do yoga

Similar to the above point, yoga too has multiple health benefits that are too varied to list here. Besides gaining flexibility and becoming more toned, one can also indulge in the calmness of yoga class, as opposed to the fast pace of hectic life.

10. Embark on an activity you’ve always wanted to try

Remember that course/hobby you’ve always wanted to take up but never had the time to? If you keep putting it off, you will never get around to doing it! Don’t second guess. Just go out and do it!

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In Pain Try? Mindful Meditation

“Turn your wounds into wisdom.”  ~ Oprah Winfrey

 

No body wants to be in pain. Having sprained my right knee twice and tearing my shoulder ligament is something I would not wish on my worst enemy. It hurt.

The mind makes it worse. It adds negative perception about the pain, which just amplifies the pain.

During my injuries, I became a pessimistic dud. I could not compete in a marathon, go to the gym or meditate. I sat in my bed all day long rotting away. I felt a burden to my family and friends.

All these feelings were unraveling inside my mind. The feelings of “being useless”, “rotting away” or “lazy” were all made up. My mind was making up excuses not to do certain things. Just because I had a knee sprain did not mean I could not workout my upper body. I started to realize how the injury started to plague my mind.

Pain and Mind

The conscious mind develops perception of pain based on experience. This also determines the level of tolerance a person might have when they break their arm or leg. Take a look at any UFC fighter or football player. They constantly get injured but keep playing the game. Kobe Bryant is known for playing basketball through all his injuries. How does he while other players rest?

It’s because he’s constantly been working through the pain. Brock Lesner has taken many punches in UFC but still perseveres through. It’s because his perception of pain is much different from others. I would love to get a little dose of his perception.

Meditation to melt the pain

Researchers examined how 15 volunteers would react to pain by monitoring their brain. The volunteers were prodded with different temperatures. The subjects felt 57% less unpleasant and 40% less intense while meditation.

The volunteers were given 20-minute sessions in mindful meditation. It was a brief form of meditation the researches wanted to test against. The mindful meditation taught shows the subjects how to stay focused on the breath while other things are happening.

The pain points

There are many pain points in our daily lives. It could be stress, family or injuries (emotional or physical). The problem is that these pain points become the center of our universe. The ego thrives off these injuries.

One thing about injuries is that, they always heal. In time everything does. There is no need to focus your entire energy or efforts on pain. Extract away from the pain and focus on the present moment.

Mindful Meditation made easy

It doesn’t have to be difficult. It should be easy and peaceful. Do not set your mind on how long it should be. Start with 5 minutes then move to longer times.

  • Sit in a comfortable area.
  • Cross your legs and close your eyes.
  • Keep your back straight and head erect. You can use a wall for support.
  • Inhale deep into your stomach and exhale out through the mouth.
  • Hold the inhalation for a count of 3 and exhale.

Thoughts

Thoughts are a part of meditation. Some people get distracted by them and think “Meditation is not working”. Meditation is always working. It is not about neglecting your thoughts but working with them. Do not get attached to them in any way. Just let them be. Like observing a soaring eagle in the sky.

Just observe and let it go.

 

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6 tips to stay focused at work

I get easily distracted. With so many browser tabs open and email messages, my eyes are constantly moving around the screen looking for some sort of information. My mind quickly goes into information overload and I completely forgot what I was doing in the first place.

Taking back control of my focus was not an easy task. I learnt through many mistakes what worked for me. Here are some tips that I would like to share with you.

1. Clarity and Simplicity.

One of my major problems is having everything opened on my screen. My task bar is overloaded with 100 bajillion windows.

Now, I try to follow the rule of “One thing at a time”. I close every single thing on my screen and only open what I need. If it is MS word then I only open that. If it is email, then I only open that while all other applications are closed. This might be tedious but it keeps the mind alert and focused.

2. Write out directions

Write out exactly everything that you need to accomplish. Write down the path that help accomplish your goals.

Break it down in small chunks. When you start work, your mind will be looking for every possible solution. Rather than doing it all in your head, take out a piece of paper or steal one from the printer and write out a game plan.

Sounds trivial but its not. You are so used to planning while working that it’s second nature to always do it in front of the computer. The problem is the computer. It is so easy to get distracted with the computer in your face.

Turn off the computer screen and write yourself an action list.

3. Costly

Heard of the swearing jar? Now build yourself a procrastination jar. Give a coworker, family member or a friend $100. Tell them to give it to you when you complete a certain project. Show them proof that you are done the project. I normally give the money to my younger brother. If I gave it to my older brother, then I would never see it back.

Sometimes having incentive rewards will help you get the job done. The embarrassment of not finishing a task and loosing $100 will hurt. Failing stings. You will be pumped to continue.

4. Website Blocker

Download a good website blocker. There are tons of website blockers out there. I love the “WasteNoTime” blocker for safari and “Website Blocker Beta”for chrome. Block all the websites that have nothing to do with work.

Some website blockers have time capability. Limit yourself to 15 minute use of any time wasting website. The rest of the time should be for focus.

5. Gradually build strength

You are all pumped to finish the project. You jump on your desk and start working for 5 hours straight. Slowly, you start to get annoyed very easily and soon enough you start hating work. Welcome to being burned out.

You can’t jump into work and do it for long periods of time. You have to crawl before you can walk.

Slowly build yourself up for longer periods of work. Set a stopwatch for 15 minutes. Take a 5-minute break when the time is up. Slowly start adding 5 minutes to the amount of time you must work.

6. Complete Easy Things first.

Solving hard problems could be very intimidating. The daunting task could overwhelm your mind. The easiest way to get around this is by starting off with completing the easiest tasks first.

Create a to do list with everything you have to finish today. Review the to-do list and divide the task into “short” vs “hard/long” items. Short items are things you can complete within 10 – 30 minutes. The harder items require full mental capability and might take longer than 30 minutes. Next, divide and conquer

Got any tips that could help with focus?

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Guided Beach Meditation

Meditation Script:

Sit in comfortable place and close your eyes. If you feel uncomfortable at any point, you can open your eyes. This guided meditation will help you relax.

Take this moment to become aware of any distracting thoughts. Give yourself the permission to relax and unwind.

Take several long, deep breaths. Feel the cool air traveling through your nose and into your lungs. Feel the relaxation of your chest as you exhale. Let any thoughts drift away and let your mind settle.  Inhale deep and say “Let”. Exhale and say “Go”.

Inhale “let”. Exhale “go”. Inhale “let”. Exhale “go”.

You are walking past an open gate. The cool salty wind from the ocean gently kisses your face.  You slip your feet out of your sandals and take your first steps on the warm sand. The warm sand swims through your toes.  With each step on the warm sand, the tension in your body gently melts away.

The birds sing in joy as they fly above dancing in the wind. The clear crisp blue water wash over your feet. The gentle rhythm of the waves carry away any tension in your body. Slowly sinking into deep relaxation. The roaring sounds of the sea’s surf, the waves crashing over each other, calms your mind and allows you to feel even more relaxed.

As you walk along the shore, a beach towel catches your eye. You walk towards the beach towel and sit down. The soft fabric of the towel caresses your body. Your body settles into the grooves of the towel. You inhale deeply and breath out slowly. Your mind slowly sinking into the ocean horizon. Take this moment to relax your mind and body. Feel this moment with your body and allow yourself to relax.

When you feel ready gently open your eyes.

 

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Buseoksa Temple Visit

I went to Buseoksa temple. It was one of the most beautiful temple’s I have visited in South Korea. The freezing weather was the only downside of the trip. I am sure the full blossom of the green crisp tree’s in the spring time will provide much more beauty. I am going to go there during the spring/summer time to get some more nice pictures.

It takes time for the images to load.

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Meditation to help with Depression

Depression is being stuck in a perpetual negative cycle. The same thoughts, same feelings of dejection and emptiness constantly haunt your mind.

It is a harmful condition that splits families, friends and colleagues. Most people suppress their depression because it is not “socially acceptable”. People feel they have something “wrong with them” and are afraid to share.  The suppression just makes it worse.

My Battle

My experience with depression has been very intimate since my early 20’s. In my second year of university, I started to feel life was pointless. I was merely just floating with no motivation to eat, to study or to work. My close friend, seeing my condition deteriorating, got me an appointment with a therapist.

Leslie, my therapist, introduced me to the world of meditation. It took a lot of patience to understand. I was nervous and scared at first. I was unraveling strong feelings and emotions. The feelings were overwhelming  but gradually I was able to calm my thoughts.

Now that one of my closest family members is dealing with depression, I reflect back on my journals to find out what meditation practices helped me.

Caution: Each person has a different way of dealing with depression. I want you to remember that no matter how hard it will get, you will make it through. Your friends and family will support you. If you have a genuine chemical imbalance, then seek assistance from a psychiatrist.

Open your mind

Let go of any expectations. Push judgmental thoughts in the garbage. Just trust me on this. Meditation will help you. It won’t be easy. It won’t be fast. But meditation will be your greatest weapon against depression.

 Meditation techniques for Depression

There are many different kinds of meditation techniques. They vary in practice and style but have the same underlying meaning. 2 meditation techniques that I practice are:

  1. Mindful Meditation
  2.  Metta Meditaton

 

Mindful Meditation

Mindful mediation has been known to help people through depression. In a preliminary study, researchers found mindful meditation help reduced depression. The subjects meditated daily for 15 – 30 minutes and journaled their experience.

So what is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is being present in the current moment. Mindfulness accepts everything that happens either it be love or feelings of insecurity. Mindfulness is awaking the mental awareness within. This awareness helps the mind to let go of any harmful thoughts or feelings.

Mindful Meditation Technique

  1. Find a place without distraction.
  2. Sit down or lie down.
  3. Remove any tension from your body. If you have a tight belt, then take it off. Get comfortable.
  4. Close your eyes. Focus the mind on your feet. Wiggle your toes, tigthen your feet and release.
  5. Flex your upper legs and hip area. Try to stiffen them and hold for 2 seconds. Inhale deeply. Exhale and release the tension.
  6. Focus on your chest, shoulders, neck and face. Release any tension from those areas. Inhale deep and stick your chest out as fast as you can. Exhale and come back to initial position.
  7. Inhale deep. Hold for 3 seconds.
  8. Exhale Fully.

Tips for focus:

  •  Focus your mind on the sensations of breathing. Is the air cold or warm? Does it carry a scent?
  • Tune into the sounds around you. Can you hear the humming of birds, or the wind blowing?
  • Feel the ground you are sitting on. Touch the fibers of the carpet. Are they comfortable? Are the bristles hard and stiff?

Metta Meditation

Metta meditation challenges depression head on. Metta meditation is about embracing the positive and love.

Depressive thoughts are always negative and focus on everything that is bad about in life. Metta meditation brings perspective of gratitude in the mind.

Instead of thinking about all the negative stuff that is happening in your life, you can reflect on the positive. Metta Meditation changes the mind with compassion, love and joy .

Suffering and sadness are just as much part of life as happiness. That’s why Metta meditation is not about escaping from sadness but accepting it. Once accepted it becomes easier to move past.

Metta Meditation Technique

  1. Find a quiet area in your home or just stay seated in your chair.
  2. Close your eyes.
  3. Inhale deep through your nose.
  4. Exhale out through the mouth.
  5. As you inhale say “Let”.
  6. As you exhale say “go”

Once you have accomplished a rhythm, try repeating some gratitude affirmations. Keep them simple. Some Metta Affirmation examples:

  • I am thankful for having a chair a to sit on
  • I am thankful for using the internet
  • I am thankful for having food to eat
  • I am thankful for having clean drinking water

Once you have repeated these, try to focus on someone who has gone out of there way to help you.

  • I appreciate all the help my brother/sister/parents/friends have given me.
  • I appreciate my friend Ray for always helping me.

Here is the guided version of Metta Meditation I recorded.

Meditation is not always the key

There will be times when meditation will not be the answer to the problem. Those will be the times when you feel extremely vulnerable and isolated. Just trying to meditate will be a frustrating task that will soon leave you angered. If you are finding it very hard to control your thoughts please call the Hopeline here: 1-800-SUICIDE (1 – 800-784-2433)

Meditation has proven itself to help people with mental conditions and deep depression. It still remains a top choice for therapist and psychiatrist to recommend. Just remember that meditation techniques are not the end goal of depression but a tool to get through depression.

If you want more information or want to talk, then feel free to drop me a line in the comments.

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How Mindful Eating has helped me Lose Weight.

I am known, among my friends, for stuffing my face with food as soon as I sit down at the table. I have this urge to just eat everything. I don’t know what causes me to eat everything. Actually I know the cause. I love food. But loving food should be done in a healthier fashion.

“Pace yourself, take 5 or 10 minutes when you eat. There are no cops chasing you.” Yelled my girl friend at the dinner table one night. Upset about what she said, I took on the challenge to eat slow. For the next 7 days, I sat down with my stopwatch counting down from the 10th minute. If I finished early, I would hold myself until the 9th minute to eat the last bite.

Since practicing mindful eating I have lost around 10 lbs and food has never tasted better.

Let the mind catch up!

Our minds take time to realize when we are full. If you are inhaling a sandwich real fast, your mind won’t be able to judge if you are full. The mind takes around 15 – 20 minutes to feel full . Eating slowly helps your mind catch up to your stomach.

Cravings are another part I struggle with often. One of my many vices is lathering my tongue with the sweet flavors of a cookie or ice cream after my meals. This habit infiltrated other meals of the day. Soon I was eating junk food all the time. My jeans started to become extremely tight. When my waist size went up 2 sizes, I realized I needed to end the habit.

What are cravings anyways? Cravings are just these urges that are developed by the obese devil in my mind. He sits in his mighty throne with his pitchfork roasting marshmallows’ on the fires of my urges. Cravings are the desire for wanting a special kind of food.

Slowing down to eat and feeling all the sensations made me realize how bad junk food is. Half the time when I ate chips, cookies or ice cream, I did not even taste it. I remember slowly chewing on a bag of lays potato chip. The salty flavor was unbearable for me. Nothing against the bag of chips but the bombardment of salt flavor really turned me off.

The proof

I thought I was alone in this but there is a recent study that helps support mindful eating practice.

“You’re training the mind to notice, but to not automatically react based on habitual patterns — to not reach for a candy bar in response to feeling anger, for example,” said researcher Jennifer Daubenmier in a press release. “If you can first recognize what you are feeling before you act, you have a greater chance of making a wiser decision.”

In the study, the Mindful training consisted of focusing on the sensations of each food. The women were trained to bring their awareness to each moment as they chew on the food. This helped them give insight to experiencing the sensory feelings of eating.

Although it is inconclusive due to the small group size, it still shows positive sign of creating healthy eating habits.

Mindful Eating Techniques

  • Grab your meal and a stop watch.  Set the timer to 10 – 15 minutes and start eating your meal.
  • Close your eyes and inhale deep through the nose before chewing. Chew slowly. Inhale and swallow.
  • Use non dormant hand. If you are a righty then use your left hand to eat with. This will slow your eating tremendously. Might feel awkward at first. But don’t worry, it will be worth it.
  • Reflection. List all the ingredients in your mind as you eat. Think about the effort that went into the cooking. How long it took. Etc..
  • Eat in smaller bowls or plates. In smaller bowls you will think you have more than enough food. Make the switch.
  • Use chopsticks. It is hard to pick up large amounts of food with chopsticks.  So you will spend more time eating. Which will help your mind catch up to your gut.
Do you have any techniques that you could recommend?

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