Four Ways to Nourish Happiness with Mindful Eating
By Megrette Fletcher
Do you want to be happy? I know I want to be happy and I bet the person next to you wants to be happy, too. Everyone wants to be happy. The desire is part of our biology and hard-wired into our brain. But the reason why happiness arises is varied and complex. Many people think that you find happiness; however, happiness isn’t a thing, so it is never lost. Happiness is an experience, and the conditions for you to have the experience of happiness are surprisingly common. Here are four ways mindful eating can help nourish the conditions for happiness, which are already all around you.
Four types of happiness we can tap into when we eat
1) The happiness of sense contact (looking, tasting, smelling, feeling, touch and sound)
The easiest and most obvious way to nourish happiness is to give yourself permission to indulge in the sensory pleasure that abounds when eating. Every time you notice the beauty of food, breathe deeply and smell the aromas of your meal. Notice the sensation of food in your mouth, the touch of the fork in your mouth, or the sound of a bite as you chew. You are nourishing happiness! Go ahead and jump right into the sensory pleasure that is present when eating!
2) The happiness of positive mental states (joy, loving-kindness, compassion, equanimity)
The second way is to observe and appreciate when helpful mental states, such as when joy, self-compassion, and patience arise. Life is stressful and challenging, which is why the ability to offer self-compassion and to have patience in these moments of stress is a special gift. You can start your practice by noticing joy, because pausing and looking for what is “good” in a situation when life is going your way will help you find these stabilizing feelings when you are faced with challenging situations. Look for the happiness that arises when you have helpful thoughts!
You can start your practice by noticing joy, because pausing and looking for what is “good” in a situation when life is going your way will help you find these stabilizing feelings when you are faced with challenging situations.
3) The happiness of concentration (focusing the mind and thoughts on a single project)
The third way is to focus your attention, instead of dividing it into many pieces. When you give yourself permission to focus your attention on one thing, one project, one experience, the typical chatter and distraction that surrounds you begins to quiet and the mind is free to concentrate on the tasks at hand. Creating the opportunities to concentrate the mind and focus your attention on one thing is a precious gift for an over-scheduled life. Savor the joy of concentrating your mind and thoughts on the task at hand.
4) The happiness of insight (experiencing the interconnectedness and common humanity that is part of the human experience)
The fourth way to nourish happiness is to let go of any expectations you may have; for example, the idea that eating mindfully will help you do “X” or “Y.” Don’t distract yourself with tomorrow. Become present and savor the wonder of awareness, the arising of wisdom, the sense of excitement that emerges as you practice mindful eating. Welcome the joy of insight.
If you think about it, the way to eat more mindfully is to practice the skill of noticing the joy and pleasure that is present every day! Nourishing these four types of happiness on a consistent basis when life is good and enjoyable makes every moment more fun. At the same time, it builds emotional strength and resilience when life is challenging.