Rituals that Enrich Our Lives
Inspired by a recent piece published in the New York Times, I wanted to discuss the significance of eating rituals in their ability to foster total health and wellness.
According the study cited by the aforementioned Times piece, “rituals enhance the enjoyment of consumption because of the greater involvement in the experience they prompt.” For example, executing a systematic series of random gestures to increase wait time in between bites of baby carrot heightened anticipation and enjoyment. As suggested by Susan Albers, a psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic Family Health Center, using rituals tactfully can help improve dietary decision-making and “help people…choose healthier foods.”
Basically, eating rituals have the ability to facilitate improvements in meal satisfaction and nutrition to advance physical health.
Sounds legitimate. When used appropriately of course. Enhancing an already overly stimulating experience like downing a pint of Ben & Jerry’s would more than likely retard growth and detract from our health.
I would like to build upon the idea presented above and propose that establishing eating rituals has the ability to garner emotional and spiritual growth whose benefit can far exceeds the more tangible health improvements that can be obtained from eating carrots instead of cookies.
Framing each meal within the context of the emotional and spiritual nourishment healthful food can provide allows us to become more mindful of how food impacts our wellbeing and helps us create a stronger bond with the energy contained in our food and that which moves through the individuals involved in the meal preparation process. This process also allows us to better recognize and change the attitudes, moods and relationships we have with food so that we can overcome any detrimental influence that our subconscious may have upon physical and spiritual wellbeing.
Eating is a highly unique experience and our attitudes and biases are deeply ingrained within our conscious. Developing a mindfulness of those attitudes and biases allows us to create a more beneficial relationship with our food and our selves.
A few of the practices I have found most beneficial include:
- Divorcing myself from all distractions so that I can show full appreciation and respect for the food I am about to enjoy. Clearing my mind and letting life’s little stresses slip away helps prepare my mind, body and soul for the nourishment it is about to receive.
- Taking a few moments before eating to enjoy the sights and smells of our food. I take a few deep breaths in order to take in all the entire experience piece by piece. I often look over each morsel of food, noting the colors, shapes and textures in front of me and set an intention for the meal and what I wish to gain from the experience to come.
- Placing my utensils down in between each bite to fully embrace the eating experience. This keeps me centered in the experience and allows me to enjoy each flavor without having to think about what I am going to taste next. This practice also keeps in me in the moment and eating at a beneficial pace so that my body is better able to integrate the nutrients it receives.
- Ending each meal with a moment to show appreciation for the nourishment I have just received and express gratitude for the opportunity to participate in another beautiful eating experience.
Creating rituals that enhance awareness of the food-body connection in order to develop a more mindful and holistic healthy eating routine and using each opportunity to advance our spiritual wellbeing is of paramount importance in developing a mindful eating practice and, ultimately, lasting health and wellness.
According to Marc David, author of Nourishing Wisdom:
“The missing ingredient in most dietary systems is a spiritual context that incorporates the sacredness and interconnectedness of all things. Every time you eat you are feeding your soul’s longing for life and its desire to learn, love, have faith and seek truth.”
Framing each meal within the context of the physical, emotional and spiritual nourishment that food provides will allow us to grow and advance our health and wellness beyond measure.