When talking about mindful eating, we usually consider things like chewing our food slowly and enjoying the flavor and texture of every bite. But what about practicing mindfulness in the way your family interacts at the dinner table? Isn’t being pleasant with others during mealtime part of a mindful eating experience, too?
A conversation with ZisBoomBah’s psychology expert Beth Lonergan, PsyD:
“If you create a pause there,
you allow something to shift.”
~ Dr. Beth Lonergan, PsyD
“There are so many triggers at the dinner table,” Dr. Lonergan says, agreeing that one of the most valuable skills we can teach our children is mindfulness. But in order to instill the habit of interacting sensibly with others in our children, we, as adults, must practice keeping calm just the same. And that is not always easy. Our expert suggests practicing “dinnertime mindfulness” together as a family. “Have fun with it. Make it a little game,” she says. Practice having to wait until someone gets to do something. For example, before anyone gets to take their first bite, wait until everyone at the table is served and ready to eat (as is mannerly anyway). Then sit quietly for a few moments. Some families may use this pause to say grace. Truly any family can create their very own ritual of expressing appreciation for the food before us, which sustains the good health of our body and mind. “You’re building delayed gratification and resilience,” Dr. Lonergan explains. “If you create a pause there, you allow something to shift.”
Re-mind: What would that pause give you?
Dr. Lonergan encourages families to pay attention to what triggers outbursts at the dinner table. Journaling triggers is a technique often used by Weight Watchers and other habit-related programs. Being tired, being super hungry or having had a negative interaction with a person are all possible triggers for “losing it.” No wonder. Aren’t those exactly the kind of sentiments and experiences children — and parents — routinely bring to the dinner table?
“It is about prying open enough of a gap
so there is room for that opportunity
to react differently.”
~ Dr. Beth Lonergan, PsyD
“Understanding your kids’ triggers, as well as your own, is the beginning of paying attention and practicing mindfulness,” Dr. Lonergan says. “Practice having a little pause in there.” And practice it takes. “This is something you need to be very intentional about,” our expert advises, acknowledging, at the same time, that some people act impulsively and have no pause, while others have a “natural gap,” and it is easier for them to put a more conscious thought between trigger and reaction. “It is about prying open enough of a gap so there is room for that opportunity to react differently,” she says.
What may start as practicing mindfulness at the dinner table will ultimately become part of your child’s foundation for a healthy future. “It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say this is a huge skill in adulthood,” Dr. Lonergan says. “The ability to keep your seat and not be a slave to your reaction but rather make conscious choices has big implications for kids becoming successful adults.”
In conclusion, our expert advises that if you do lose your cool in front of your child, own it. “Talk to them about how we are all human, and you don’t expect them to be perfect either.”
What are your triggers for getting hooked at the dinner table? Or would you like to share tips on practicing mindfulness at the dinner table? Tell us what mindful eating entails in your family.