Awareness and Mindfulness

The power of “just” noticing something is often surprising for people. Take losing weight as an example. People often sign up for diet programs that are full of many rules telling you when and what you can and cannot eat. When there is such a strict regime, it’s no wonder that so few people lose weight and keep it off. The problem lies in the method.

Human beings have incredible capacity to gain and lose weight. That ability is literally in our genes. What has changed so dramatically is our environment. Food, messaging and portion size are larger and continuously and quickly available.

Noticing what we eat can lead to enduring behavior change more often than the imposition of any diet program. The more consciously we observe our eating, the more our eating will change.

Awareness changes things. Our behavior is influenced in both subtle and obvious ways when we highlight attention on something that is happening in the present moment. Mindfulness focuses our attention. Eating works the same way. When we notice what, when, where and how we are eating, our eating changes. Mindless eating, while driving, watching television and sitting in from of our computers for extended hours are all recipes for overeating. Mindful eating is a recipe for self-control, the ability to say no to our random self contentment.

As we reach for a handful of high-caloric cookies, or put our spoon in the ice cream and carefully even out what is left in the ½ gallon container, it’s easier to be mindless than to notice what we are actually doing. Our usual, self-critical and self-deprecating inner voice that becomes the ticker tape in our head becomes the only thing we notice. Unfortunately, these self- evaluations are not part of the observations themselves- they come after the fact.

The more we can notice our behavior the more we have the ability for changing behavior. How much ice cream is left; is it a flavor I even like; are the cookies to sugary; am I even hungry?
How can we change something just by watching? How can we lose weight just by noticing our eating? How can we improve our golf swing just by paying attention to what we are doing?

How can we not? There is no other way to change. Being told what to do is ineffective. If that were the case, no one would be overweight.

There’s no shortage of advice when it comes to any topic of interest! But advice fails to produce change. The more advice we receive, in many cases the more resistant we become.

Advice is cheap – especially now, free on the internet, however, it is ineffective unless we request and seek advice. Awareness, on the other hand, is the key to change. By noticing what is going on, we can change ourselves and sustain new desired behaviors.