The holidays are arguably the happiest time of year. It’s when friends and family come together, and food takes center stage. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, Diwali – whatever you celebrate – the holidays gather friends and family around the table. The sharing of a festive meal creates new memories and binds our individual stories. The laughter, drinks, music, and food appease all our senses while feeding and nourishing our hearts. When our senses are in full throttle, we can lose sight of what we need and what we want. The difference between our psychological and physical hunger. Disconnecting from our body. This can leave us feeling overindulged or undernourished. Leveraging our five senses is one way to recalibrate and tune into our body. Tapping into the senses can be a tool that also creates a more mindful eating experience, while still retaining the festive spirit.
Our five senses–capture information we hear, see, smell, touch and taste from the outside world and disseminate it through our ears, eyes, nose, skin, and tongue. They bridge our outer world with our inner world. What we take via our senses, according to Ayurveda, plays a role in our life’s journey and our daily experiences. When our senses are overstimulated, we become disconnected from ourselves. During festive occasions, when every sense buzzes. Listening to stories. Reconnecting with loved ones. Smelling sweet, savory, and spicy. Feeling the warmth from giving and receiving hugs. It is easy to get emotionally swept away and lose sight of how we physically feel. When it comes time to eat, this can cause us to inhale with our eyes. Often eating more than we need, or perhaps we do the opposite, and not eat enough.
When we stop to appreciate our meal by engaging the senses, we harness sensory perceptions and begin to slow down. The process recenters our energy, re-connecting our mind and body. We begin to relax. Through appreciating the meal’s smells, textures, and beauty, we become more present and savor the first bite with gratitude. In servicing our mind and body, we prepare it to accept the food. In turn, supporting the digestive process.
As you come to the table this holiday season, appreciate your meal through the five senses. By directing your mind and emotions towards love and appreciation, it will help bring you into the present moment. This joyful practice prepares the body to receive food, releasing digestive enzymes to optimally metabolize, assimilate and absorb nutrients. While also facilitating the shift from mindlessly eating to mindful eating.
Here are ideas on how to engage your five senses at the dinner table
SMELL: This is an easy one. You may already practice this by recognizing how good your house smells after cooking a fresh meal. Go one step further by taking an extra second to see if you can identify what you are smelling. When you breathe deeply, do the aromas trigger or resurface any past memories? Explore this thought, and share your feelings with friends, or even just internally with yourself. However, you choose to practice, taking in and appreciating aromas begins to relax the body and release digestive enzymes. Prepping the body to receive nourishment.
SIGHT: Food is beautiful. Often when we are hungry, we forget to just adore our food. Take a moment to appreciate a dishes beauty by acknowledging the array of colors and textures. Compliment the chef on how the table is arranged or how the food is presented, or even just silently to yourself. Is it pretty or a beautiful chaos? Observing what is in front of us can help draw us into the present and appreciate it for all its glory.
TOUCH: Feel your food by eating a bite or two with your hands – perhaps a veggie, or bite-size appetizer. This is a great way to inform the body of what is coming. Feel to see if the food is moist, dry, hard, soft, or oily. Knowing the texture will give insight to how this will feel inside of your body. If it’s fibrous, give it a few extra chews. If it’s soft, perhaps let it melt into your mouth. If it’s dry, balance it with some moisture. Digestion begins in the mouth. It is a mini-stomach. The more you digest your food in the mouth, the easier it is on your digestive tract.
TASTE: There’s something special about the first bite of a meal you’ve been waiting for. It may even bring up memories or feelings we filed away into the archives of our thoughts. Flavors bring joy. Enjoy it. Take your time. Savor. Each. Bite. Remember how it felt in your hand, and how it feels traveling from your mouth through the depths of your digestive tract. Appreciate the results from the hours of preparation. These practices help slow the moment down, keep the body relaxed, prevent overeating and foster gratitude to eat consciously.
SOUND: Is it your emotions that dictate your next bite? Or, is your body telling you it needs more food? During your meal, take the time to check-in. Recall what you heard when you engaged the sense of smell, sight, touch, and taste. This can help slow down the eating process and distinguish between the voice of your emotions and the voice of your body. Listen to both and make your choice from there. Keep in mind, a 75% full stomach be better for digestion. Leaving room for air to circulate, and keep the digestive fire kindling.