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How Mindfulness Topples Our Triggers

The practice of mindfulness is good for what ails anyone, whether it is depression, anxiety, diabetes or an eating disorder. The health benefits of mindfulness, or being attentive to the present task or moment, come without negative side effects, and it is a skill any individual can learn. Mindfulness is helpful in the treatment of eating disorders because it teaches us to notice our triggers for binging, purging or starving without acting on them. It helps us manage what seems unmanageable, and every time we tolerate a trigger without being driven by it, the impulse weakens.

How Mindfulness Helps

Managing Emotions

Most of us want to stop uncomfortable, difficult emotions. We may attempt this by binging on food. Mindfulness teaches us to be aware of our feelings without labeling them or trying to get rid of them. For instance, people are taught to observe their emotions as if the emotions are clouds floating across the sky. They are not something to be changed or criticized, only noticed. Having non-judgmental awareness of our feelings allows us to make conscious choices, instead of acting on emotional impulse. It also helps us tolerate uncomfortable feelings, so we learn that, left alone, feelings change or dissolve naturally.

Managing Body Sensations

Mindfulness practice makes us more attuned to our bodily sensations and perceptions. We can observe, without judgment, the body’s cues for hunger and satiety (satisfaction). When we experience our body’s food-related signals objectively, without attaching personal meaning to them, it becomes easier to make choices that sustain our body’s health. For example, if an individual with anorexia has learned to equate the sensation of hunger with images of being fat, he or she will refuse to eat. Non-judgmental observation of bodily sensations can loosen the link between the natural sensation of hunger and the person’s subjective ideas about appearing fat.

Managing Thoughts

Stopping harmful habits or maintaining recovery goals is easier when we can observe our negative thoughts without allowing them to influence our actions. Imagine, for instance, that someone with anorexia is driving a bus. The bus symbolizes this person’s most valued life goals. The passengers on the bus are the individual’s fat-related thoughts, each demanding that the driver take the bus off course and travel the anorexia route. Having practiced mindfulness, the bus driver has learned to hear (observe) these fat-related thoughts with non-critical acceptance. The thoughts can shout and threaten, but the mindful bus driver is not influenced by them and can continue to the desired destination.
Feelings, whether of compassion or irritation, should be welcomed, recognized, and treated on an absolutely equal basis; because both are ourselves. Nothing should be treated more carefully than anything else. In mindfulness, compassion, irritation, mustard green plant, and teapot are all sacred. ~ Thich Nhat Hanh