Now return your attention to your food. Repeat this process for a full 30 minutes. As the meal progresses, pay close attention to the voices in your mind criticizing you or encouraging you to hurry up. If you don’t experience that interior monologue but have a lot of anxiety, say so.
This is the part where you can counteract those critical voices or anxiety. Talk to your family about it. Saying out loud “I can almost hear my platoon sergeant (or whoever) yelling at me. They are saying “Get up! You can taste it later!”. Saying the voice out loud separates it from your mind. Then you can say, “But I’m not in the military anymore, and I’m not in a dining facility. I’m here eating with my family, whom I love. I want to be here, not rushing on to the next thing.” It feels silly at first, but that act alone can release a lot of the anxiety.
This won’t change everything immediately. After a few times, though, it will reduce the pressure much faster than you think. I’ve made a point to experience as much of each meal as I can. Now I rarely ever feel the need to rush (unless, of course, there’s an actual need to rush. Life happens).
I like to use dessert as a small reward to myself for extending the meal and paying closer attention. It can be difficult to relearn how to take your time, and including some small rewards can help with the mindfulness experience. Just make sure you take your time with it.
Learning to take a full 30 minutes to enjoy a meal with my family has turned into one of the most meaningful experiences of my life. I look forward to and savor that time with my family. It has helped improve my health, allowed me more quality time with my daughter and son, and allows me to better enjoy my food.
Have you had to relearn how to enjoy a meal? Feel free to discuss your experiences below.