Mindful Eating: a new commitment to food

Nowadays, we are always rushing into something or somewhere. When it is time to pause for having a meal, our brain keeps connected to everything around us: we constantly check our phones, we are absorbed by social media news, and stressed by work and life issues. Amidst such turbulence, how can we be aware of the compromises made in our relationship with food?

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Inverting old and bad eating habits

Cultural, economic and marketing practices affect the way we buy and use food. Labour, leisure, preferences and lifestyle changes have made us increasingly sedentary also jeopardizing our eating habits. In the hope of contradicting these paths, many new diets have emerged, offering a range of ways to lose weight and improve our health. All these new solutions are nonetheless focused on cutting and adding nutrients to our meals, forgetting an essential part of the process: our eating behaviour.

Mindful eating cuts across this boom of trendy diets to alert us that healthy eating also included rethinking our eating habits and our relationship with food. This bond with what we eat derives from the awareness taste, smell, colour and texture of food. According to the Centre for Mindful Eating, “pausing and becoming curious focuses the mind. Mindful Eating cultivates becoming grounded in the present moment’s awareness of eating.”

This complete awareness helps us to focus or thoughts and feelings in those physical sensations related to eating, and to identify the true origin of hunger – whether if it is a physical hunger or if it is a consequence of an emotional cause.

Mindful Eating has been helpful in treating many conditions, including eating disorders – like binge eating -, depression or anxiety, and addressing various erroneous food-related behaviours.

How to practise Mindful Eating

Practising Mindful Eating may not be an easy task since it usually contradicts our normal eating habits, simultaneously demanding total concentration. According to the Harvard Health Publishing, there are a few steps that can help us improve our Mindful Eating.

First, the shopping list. We should consider the health value of every item added, preventing us from impulse buying at the supermarket. A second step is discipline.  We should avoid skipping meals and thus prevent seating at the table with excessive hunger. Meals should be taken with an appetite but in appropriate portions.

The third step involves the essence of Mindful Eating. “Appreciate your food. Pause for a minute or two before you begin eating to contemplate everything it took to bring the meal to your table. Silently express your gratitude for the opportunity to enjoy delicious food and the companions you’re enjoying it with.

Bring all your senses to the meal. When you’re cooking, serving, and eating your food, be attentive to colour, texture, aroma, and even the sounds different foods make as you prepare them. As you chew, try identifying all the ingredients, especially seasonings” as advised by Harvard Health Publishing.

The following steps involve taste and chewing. It’s easier to taste food completely when our mouth isn’t full. So taking small bites and putting down utensils between bites could help. Chewing thoroughly and eating slowly are other techniques that improve our experience in tasting all the flavours that are released.

Final advice: “Devote at least five minutes to Mindful Eating before you chat with your tablemates.”

The blues in the spring

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Spring is the well-known season for the reappearance of sunnier days, happier moments and a better mood. So it is the time when flowers start to bloom and nature welcomes new species. A scenario of this character is delightful for many individuals but there’s a significant number of people who dramatically suffer from this climate change.

Anxiety and depression have sprung

In fact, at this time of year, the rates of depression, anxiety, sleep disturbance and suicide are greater.

Interestingly, there’s a phenomenon called summertime depression, which means people start to get sad when spring arrives. There are also people suffering from seasonal affective disorder who see their symptoms go downhill with warmer temperatures and brighter days – even if this disorder is typically associated with winter.

Social events in this season may not help: “seeing cheery people all around you is a constant reminder that others are having a good time when you aren’t”, says Michelle Riba, MD, professor and associate director of the University of Michigan Comprehensive Depression Center. She alerts as well for the fact that social influences and channels like Facebook and Instagram – where people like to show their vacations and that they having a wonderful time – can aggravate the symptoms related with depression.

Nature mixing with our feelings

Spring and depression could be allied due to one component: ragweed pollen. As stated in a study published by the National Institutes of Health, the symptoms before described, happen especially in people who suffer from allergic rhinitis. The rate of allergy is also greater in patients with depression.

In accordance with this research, “it is possible that sensitization and exposure to aeroallergens, which peak in spring, may be conducive to seasonal exacerbation of suicide risk factors such as anxiety, depression, hostility/aggression, and sleep disturbance.”

It is not all about sadness

Depression is wrongly understood as the synonym of sadness. In truth, sadness is an adaptive emotion in response to a significant loss and alert us for something that it’s not right and need attention. It is an essential emotion to experience the painful moments in our lives, nevertheless, depressed people tend to run away from sad feelings and try to hide them.

Depression is a more complex condition, it is characterized by an extended sadness and disinterest for life. Normally, depressed people abandon activities that previously were pleasant, and find difficult to carry out even very simple occurrences. Depression can cause a huge and persistent tiredness, lack of energy, insomnia or hypersomnia (excessive sleepiness) and loss or increased appetite. These symptoms act like a snowball making people feel useless and with low self-esteem.

So, what can we do?

Mindfulness, meditation, hypnosis and self-hypnosis are techniques that have been used by some professionals to deal with their patients’ depression. Studies keep demonstrating that exercise can be compared with an anti-depressive and permits to boost energy, diminish fatigue, enhance cell growth and neurotransmitters linked to humour and endorphins, reduce stress and relieve muscle tension – which is very helpful to combat depression.

However, it is important to look for professional treatment especially if you realize that you are experiencing these symptoms for at least two weeks.

Medical Port works with Portuguese and English speaking specialists in depression, burnout and sleep problems. Don’t hesitate in calling us if you are feeling blue this spring.

The effects of Stress

There are numerous ways stress affects our lives. Stress can prevent us to sleep and rest but it can also be the trigger for more serious diseases. Stress has become a part of our daily lives and sometimes its effects go unnoticed until they become serious.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, stress is defined as “(…) the brain’s response to any demand. Many things can trigger this response, including change. Changes can be positive or negative, as well as real or perceived. They may be recurring, short-term, or long-term and may include things like commuting to and from school or work every day, traveling for a yearly vacation, or moving to another home.

Everyone can suffer from stress and that isn’t always a bad thing. The same institute also states that by triggering body’s responses, stress can be good for the immune system. “When you face a dangerous situation, your pulse quickens, you breathe faster, your muscles tense, your brain uses more oxygen and increases activity—all functions aimed at survival. In the short term, it can even boost the immune system.The problem rises when stress is continuous, and the body is constantly producing these responses causing the body’s vital system to be always on alert and ready to protect it.

Hair loss is one of the most common stress effects in the body.

Although it is hard to link both, researchers found that continuous stress lowers our immune system, the body produces an autoimmune response that causes hair follicles to fall.

Acne is another major stress effect that usually gives a warning sign to those affected.

When pimples start to breakout after the teenage years they are usually linked to stress.

Heart attack and stroke are some of the most serious effects stress can do to people.

When people can’t disconnect from what is causing them stress, whether is a work, family or other situation the help of medical professionals is key to relieve the stress and help them to face things in a different perspective. There are effective techniques to control stress and to minimize its impact in our lives and our health. With the help of a psychologist stress can be lowered and controlled so that individuals can make better decisions and have a better life quality. Mindfulness is one of the most powerful techniques that can help control stress and boost better decision-making. If you would like to learn more about mindfulness and how it can help relieve stress read this blog post and visit our website for more information.

How can mindfulness mediation make you happier and improve your brain

Mindfulness is a technique that consists of being able to concentrate in one thing at a time, disconnect from the world around and be fully committed to meditate about a given subject. This can improve concentration levels, but can also make people less stressed, happy, and with improved memory.

The Huffington Post explains in a recent article the four different ways our lives can be improved by using mindfulness, and thus being able to live a happier life.

Mindfulness helps people to become more aware of their inner self and that is helpful for general wellbeing.

The first way that mindfulness can help is distracting our minds from negative thought loops: Mindfulness meditation is a form of rigorous training of the mind which helps us to become more familiar with the nature of the mind and more skillful in noticing when our minds are getting caught up in these unhelpful patterns of thought. When we learn to observe this, we can actually choose to disengage and move our attention in ways that support us rather than pull us down.”

The second aspect is making people feel more connected to others: “Mindfulness can deepen and enrich our relationships as we bring a quality of present moment attention to the people around us.”

The third aspect is helping people to reconnect with their inner contentment, which is the inner ability to be happy with oneself: “(…) help us cultivate a sense of inner wellbeing which allows us to feel content and well without needing to obtain anything from the outside world.”

The last way that mindfulness can improve people’s lives is enhancing gratitude: “mindfulness can infuse our lives with gratitude and enhance our appreciation of the ordinary things which can so often pass by unnoticed.”

These four different ways seem to leverage our overall ability to be happy and to feel happiness with the small things in life that many times are undervalued.

A recent study by Harvard University connected mindfulness practice with improving the brain and boost memory and empathy and reduce stress. The study concluded that practising mindfulness for 8 weeks can make a significant change in the grey matter. “Although the practice of meditation is associated with a sense of peacefulness and physical relaxation, practitioners have long claimed that meditation also provides cognitive and psychological benefits that persist throughout the day. This study demonstrates that changes in brain structure may underlie some of these reported improvements and that people are not just feeling better because they are spending time relaxing.”

Read more about the study here.

If you would like to learn more about mindfulness techniques, read our previous blogpost here and read about our mindfulness program here.

5 health benefits of mindfulness

Mindfulness meditation refers to the ability that we have of being in the here and now, completely aware of everything we are experiencing both inside ourselves and around us. Training your mind to be aware can provide several benefits for your health and your life in general.

Here are 5 benefits from practicing mindfulness meditation:

Be more focused

Mindfulness is about here and now. Is about focusing in the present and to evaluate it looking for positive outcomes. One of the ways to start practicing mindfulness is to focus on one task at the time. Focus solely on what you are doing and how you are doing it, learn and evaluate all the steps. And achieve a greater focus on everything you do.

Reduce stress

By becoming more aware of your own thoughts and knowing how to control them, you can reduce anxiety. People often get stressed when they feel they aren’t in control of things. So, controlling your mind and direct it towards positive thoughts can help reduce stress.

Make better decisions

After a mindfulness training you will have a choice to stop reacting automatically, give yourself time to think, know how to focus your attention and to remove the negative thoughts. This will lead to better decision-making, as your mind will allow you to take a pause and choose how you react.

Sleep better

Mediation is also known for relaxation, which can lead people to get to sleep quicker and sleep better. With the current practice of mindfulness it is possible to become more aware of the surroundings and to be able to relax and fall asleep faster and sleep better.

Become physically healthier

Recent studies have shown the benefits of mindfulness can be seen at the physical health level like treating heart disease, lower blood pressure or reduce chronic pain. Aligning your mind and your body to achieve a positive outcome can be a very powerful tool.

Learn more about Mindfulness here.

Medical Port can help you start with your Mindfulness practicing with the help of trained and skilled psychologists. Learn more about our Mindfulness program here.

Improve your health and your life with mindfulness techniques

Mindfulness refers to the ability that we have of being in the here and now, completely aware of everything we are experiencing both inside ourselves and around us. We develop this attitude by deliberately choosing to focus on the things that we usually do not pay attention to.

Mindfulness is being advocated by personalities from all the spheres of the society around the world: physicians, celebrities, politicians, sports players and C-level managers. Also referred as meditation, this technique aims to improve people’s lives by becoming more aware of the world around them, more focused, and to make better decisions everyday.

On the long term, mindfulness practice will foster the development of brain areas responsible for the integration of emotion and thought, as well as for self-awareness. These changes will help you perform better at decision making and dealing with emotional challenges.

Through systematic practice of mindfulness you will also be able to strengthen and develop new self-regulating and control strategies as you will learn how to relax and simultaneously be aware of what might be disturbing you, without losing sight of what really matters to you at any time.

Mindfulness can improve your life by: changing the way your brain works, teaching it a whole new way of functioning with more clarity, a more relaxed attention and a better control over your behavior and your personal choices.

Learning how to practice mindfulness can be hard since most people are not used to enter in the state of meditation, but these kinds of techniques can be taught with the help of professionals. Medical Port partnered with Oficina da Piscologia and developed special mindfulness programs that help you achieve the results you need in your life. Whether it is to lose weight, be more focused at work, sleep better or have a healthier lifestyle. Learn more about our mindfulness program here.

Health promotion in the workplace

When thinking about workers well-being companies are increasingly deciding for health prevention instead of disease management.

For many years, resources were spent in dealing with employees’ health problems, but now companies are shifting for a prevention model.

Many employers are creating health prevention programs to encourage their employees to become healthier by making healthy choices.

Prevention policies and programs are often cost-effective, reducing health care costs, and improving productivity. It is believed that “With better health, adults are more productive and at work more days” since diseases like asthma, high blood pressure, smoking and obesity can “reduce annual productivity by between $200 and $440 per person”, according to the US National Prevention Strategy.

Everyday prevention is being promoted in small actions like taking the stairs instead of the elevator, taking a break at work, providing healthy meal options, or offering paid gym memberships. Busy lifestyles often make it difficult for people to schedule time for activities that support their well-being, both at work and out of it, leading to increased stress levels. Most people also find it hard to arrange time to do health assessments and work on health prevention. Health prevention should be a priority not only for individuals, but also for companies looking to keep their employees engaged and healthy, improving the length and quality of their lives. The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work issued a report on work-related stress and its costs, finding that mental disorders caused by stress constitute 30% of early retirements in Sweden and Germany.

Medical Port developed corporate health prevention programs for companies who would like to assess their employees’ health while taking the opportunity to relax (through mindfulness programs) and team building during short trips to Portugal. The programs include individual health check-up exams and psychological evaluation and a corporate health status report, all in English. These programs are aimed at individuals with high levels of responsibility and consequently with higher work-related stress. If you would like to know more about Medical Port’s Corporate Health Prevention programs, visit our website or contact us.