When life is feeling particularly frenzied, do you notice that you’re more likely to toss your healthy habits out the window? You’re not alone, according to a recent study published in JAMA Open Network, which found that when you’re able to stay present and mindful, you’ll have a much easier time making healthful food choices.

In the study, participants who committed to an eight-week mindfulness-based blood pressure reduction program significantly improved their scores on measures of self-awareness. What’s more, they were much more likely to select heart-healthy foods in comparison to a control group.

The mindfulness program included practicing skills such as meditation, yoga, self-awareness exercises, attention control and emotional regulation. At the end of the research period, those who practiced mindfulness reported an increased daily intake of fruits and vegetables by at least one serving per day. Additionally, they reported an increased awareness of interpreting signals from their own body, which may explain the desire to reach for more nourishing foods.

“Participants in the program showed significant improvement in adherence to a heart-healthy diet, which is one of the biggest drivers of [high] blood pressure, as well as significant improvements in self-awareness, which appears to influence healthy eating habits,” says lead study author Eric B. Loucks, an associate professor of epidemiology, behavioral and social sciences, and director of the Mindfulness Center at Brown University.

For now, researchers are continuing to study how different “doses” of mindfulness affect the program, as well as strategizing how to integrate their findings into a real-world setting—including eligibility for health insurance coverage, accessibility for different patient groups and flexibility for physicians.

Your Day, Mindfully

Want to take control of your thoughts and stay in the present moment so you can harness the power of mindfulness? Here are some easy ways to weave it into your day.

  1. Get grounded while brushing your teeth. Instead of zoning out during this mundane activity, turn it into a mindful practice by feeling your feet on the ground, noticing the smell, flavour and texture of your toothpaste, and being aware of the sensation of the toothbrush against every tooth.
  2. Stay present at the grocery store. Arguably one of the biggest tests of daily patience, being mindful of your sense of urgency in line at the grocery store can remind you to practice staying calm. This is the perfect time to check in with your posture, take slow, deep breaths, and remain positive when it’s your turn to interact with the cashier.
  3. Avoid checking out during your workout. While you may be focused on your reps and sets, the steps your fitness instructor is calling out, or how many seconds you have left in your sprint, challenge yourself to be even more present during your next workout. This could include noticing the increased labour in your breathing, just how close you are to failure in each rep, or being aware of the rhythm your body settles into with each movement.

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