Calming stress eating with three-minute breathing space

As you begin to explore your relationship with food and your body, you may find that a lot of thoughts and feelings come up or you may notice that you’re feeling stressed, anxious or overwhelmed. Be gentle with yourself!

Instead of mindlessly on “autopilot” reaching for food and stress eat, pause and practice the following breathing mini-meditation to help you calm yourself and focus your thoughts.

It’s a mini-meditation that can put you back in control of your life when it starts to slip between your fingers.

And when you’re anxious or stressed, and feel like stress eating, you feel far too rushed to squeeze in a twenty-minute meditation. When you’re under pressure, the last thing your mind wishes to be is mindful – tired, old thinking habits are infinitely more seductive.

Three-minute breathing space meditation.

Step 1: becoming aware

Deliberately adopt an erect and dignified posture, whether sitting or standing. If possible, close your eyes. Then, bring your awareness to your inner experience and acknowledge it, asking: what is my experience right now?
  • What thoughts are going through the mind? As best you can, acknowledge thoughts as mental events.
  • What feelings are here? Turn towards any sense of discomfort or unpleasant feelings, acknowledging them without trying to make them different from how you find them.
  • What body sensations are here right now? Perhaps quickly scan the body to pick up any sensations of tightness or bracing, acknowledging the sensations, but, once again, not trying to change them in any way.

Step 2: gathering and focusing attention

Now, redirecting the attention to a narrow ‘spotlight’ on the physical sensations of the breath, move in close to the physical sensations of the breath in the abdomen . . . expanding as the breath comes in . . . and falling back as the breath goes out. Follow the breath all the way in and all the way out. Use each breath as an opportunity to anchor yourself into the present. And if the mind wanders, gently escort the attention back to the breath.

Step 3: expanding attention

Now, expand the field of awareness around the breathing so that it includes a sense of the body as a whole, your posture and facial expression, as if the whole body was breathing. If you become aware of any sensations of discomfort, tension, feel free to bring your focus of attention right in to the intensity by imagining that the breath could move into and around the sensations.

In this, you are helping to explore the sensations, befriending them, rather than trying to change them in any way. If they stop pulling for your attention, return to sitting, aware of the whole body, moment by moment.

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