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How to Optimize Your Health with Mindfulness

by Camilla Moore(more info)

listed in mind body, originally published in issue 285 - March 2023


While mindfulness is a recent trend, the practice has been around for centuries. It is a practice that encourages individuals to be aware of their thoughts and feelings in the present moment. By allowing yourself to identify and acknowledge your emotions, rather than trying to push them away or ignore them, you can begin to understand how they affect your life and behaviours.

Mindfulness is not about finding peace or eliminating negative thoughts. Instead, it is about accepting emotions, thoughts, and experiences without judgment. That can be done through guided meditation, breath work, exercises, yoga, and even simply sitting still for a few minutes each day to observe your thoughts.




Credit:  Tuendebede  on Pixabay


Lifestyle Medicine is a medical specialty that focuses on six pillars of health:

  • A whole-food, plant-based eating pattern;
  • Physical activity;
  • Restorative sleep;
  • Stress management;
  • Avoidance of risky substances;
  • Positive social connections.

It provides a well-rounded perspective to minimizing the impact of disease and living a healthy, peaceful life.

So how do you bring mindfulness into the foundations of lifestyle health? With 2023 upon us, let's explore how to apply mindfulness to each of these pillars to help balance your life.

Nutrition and Nourishment

Mindful eating is a practice of bringing awareness to the food choices we make and how they impact our bodies. Rather than eating mindlessly or in response to an emotional trigger, setting aside time for mindful eating can help you make more conscious decisions about your eating.

Take time to select foods that will nourish your body. Eating slowly, savouring the flavours and textures of your food, and pausing to appreciate how it is fuelling your body are all essential parts of mindful eating.

Dietary needs are very individual, and many people have food sensitivities, allergies, or underlying medical conditions that determine their diet. Food can also be very emotional as it speaks to many of our senses. Intuitive eating is an evidence-based approach to using mindfulness to listen to your body and identify which foods nourish and will make you feel good.

Here are five tips on mindful eating:

  1. Tune into your Hunger and Fullness Levels: Before eating, take a moment to tune into your body and assess how hungry or full you are. This will help guide which foods you choose and how much you eat;
  2. Eat Slowly: Savouring each bite can help you enjoy the food more and encourage mindful eating. Taking time to chew and digest your food also helps signal when you are packed, so you don't overeat;
  3. Take Time to Connect with Your Food: Instead of eating on the go, take a few moments before you eat to appreciate the colours and smells of your meal;
  4. Turn Off Distractions: Eating in front of the TV or checking social media can make it difficult to focus on your food and its nourishing effects. Unplugging from devices while eating can create an environment where you are more aware of what you consume;
  5. Eat Mindfully with Intention: Before you eat, take a few moments to identify why you are eating – whether it is hunger, boredom, stress relief, or something else. If you are not hungry, pause and ask yourself if this is the best way to address your needs or desires. This can help you decide better what and how much to eat.

Physical Activity

Physical exercise has many benefits, such as improved cardiovascular health, strength and flexibility, moods, and sleep quality. However, for some people, exercise can become a chore instead of an enjoyable experience.

Bringing mindfulness into physical activity can make the experience more enjoyable and help you stay motivated. Mindful movement is about becoming aware of the sensations in your body as you move, allowing for a greater connection with yourself and what is happening around you.

The World Health Organization recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity weekly. An easy way to measure this intensity is through the Talk Test: you should be able to talk but not sing through the activity.

Here are some tips for incorporating mindfulness into your exercise routine:

  1. Choose an Activity You Enjoy: The best way to stay motivated is to choose activities you enjoy. Whether running, yoga, cycling, or swimming, pick something that will bring you joy and make it easier to stay committed;
  2. Notice Your Body: Instead of focusing on how far you've gone, how fast you are going, or what your end goal is, bring awareness to the present moment and notice the sensations in your body. Focus on how it feels as you move, and pay attention to any changes that may occur over time;
  3. Connect with Nature: When possible, take your exercises outdoors and look around you. Notice nature's smells, sights, and sounds, allowing for a more pleasurable experience. Sunlight during waking hours will help regulate our circadian rhythm and allow for more restful sleep;
  4. Take Breaks: Short breaks between sets or during your workout can benefit the body and mind. This can prevent over-exertion and allow your mind to wander, creating an opportunity for greater insight and awareness;
  5. Celebrate Your Achievements: Whether it's a small milestone or reaching a big goal, take time to celebrate your successes along the way. This can help to boost motivation and keep you on track with your fitness journey. Taking pride in your accomplishments is part of a mindful movement. In addition, it can help to create a stronger sense of connection with yourself.

By incorporating mindfulness into your eating and physical activity routines, you can reap the benefits of both practices and take greater care of your overall health.

Mindfulness and Sleep

Sleep is essential for good physical and mental health and well-being. The physiological changes during sleep include decreased heart and respiratory rates, lowered body temperature, and a shift in hormone production. These changes allow the body to restore energy levels, develop immunity against illnesses, and repair damaged cells.

Sleep also plays a vital role in regulating moods, memory formation, and learning. Yet, despite its importance, many people experience difficulty sleeping due to stress, anxiety, and other external factors.

Practising mindfulness can be a helpful tool for achieving better sleep. This involves becoming aware of the thoughts and feelings that arise before bedtime, such as worries or tension, and allowing them to pass without judgment. One way to do this is to practice mindful meditation or breathing exercises before bed. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is considered first-line therapy for insomnia, the most common sleep disorder.

Another helpful strategy is to assess the sleep environment, such as the temperature and lighting of the bedroom, to see if any changes can be made to make it more conducive for sleep. Ensuring electronic devices are switched off at least an hour before bed also helps with relaxation. In particular, the blue light emitted from televisions and computers can impact the release of melatonin, the hormone that helps to trigger sleep.

Here are a few tips for getting a good night's sleep:

  1. Establish a Regular Bedtime Routine: Set a regular bedtime and stick to it. This helps to get your body into a consistent rhythm, making it easier to fall asleep quickly each night;
  2. Improve Your Sleep Environment: Make sure that the temperature of your bedroom is comfortable and that the area is not too bright or noisy;
  3. Exercise Regularly: Regular exercise can help to improve the quality of your sleep and reduce stress levels, making it easier to fall asleep at night;
  4. Avoid Late-Night Snacks: Eating too close to bedtime can interfere with digestion and lead to restlessness at night;
  5. Practise Mindful Meditation: Take some time to relax and be mindful of your body before bed, such as focusing on deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation exercises. This can help to reduce tension and make it easier to drift off into sleep.

By following these tips, you can ensure that you get a restful night's sleep.

Stress Management

Stress can significantly impact overall health and well-being, so it is important to practise effective stress management techniques. Stress can lead to fatigue, muscle tension, headaches, and difficulty concentrating. It can also affect relationships and make it harder to enjoy activities that were once pleasurable.

Mindfulness practices are an effective way of managing stress. This involves being aware of the present moment without judgment or attachment. Mindful meditation can reduce stress and allow you to focus on what is happening here and now.

There are several studies on various meditation and movement-based meditation practices. For example, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, or MSBR, effectively decreases anxiety, depression, and stress. In addition, the Benson-Henry Institute of Mind-Body Medicine at

Massachusetts General Hospital developed the SMART program, Stress Management and Resiliency Training, to aid in treating various ailments, from headaches to anxiety to autoimmune diseases.

Mindfulness and Risky Substances

Risky substances are any substances that can harm mental and physical health and well-being. This includes, but is not limited to, alcohol, drugs, tobacco, and recreational medications. These substances can cause severe short-term and long-term effects such as addiction, organ damage, increased risk of chronic diseases, and even death.

Mindfulness can be a powerful tool for reducing the risk of using risky substances. Mindful awareness helps to increase self-control and put healthy decisions into practice. By becoming aware of triggers that lead to the use of these substances, such as stress or boredom, individuals are better able to manage their emotions and make positive choices about substance use.

Mindfulness can also help individuals to deal with the feelings of craving when faced with temptation by providing an alternative focus, such as meditation and mindful breathing. In addition, mindfulness can help reduce cravings and relapses in those already struggling with addiction. Mindfulness complements a structured therapeutic approach.

Here are a few tips for adding mindfulness to managing risky substances:

  1. Take Time to Check-in: Before you find yourself in a situation where there is a temptation to use risky substances, take some time to check in with yourself and your emotions. For example, ask yourself, "How am I feeling right now?" This will help you to be more aware of the triggers that lead to substance use and make it easier to manage them;
  2. Practise Mindful Breathing: When you feel overwhelmed by cravings or negative emotions, take a few moments to practice mindful breathing. This can help you to focus on the present moment and reduce stress levels, making it easier to stay away from risky substances;
  3. Find Healthy Alternatives: Find alternatives to activities that have previously been associated with substance use. This could be going for a walk, engaging in an activity such as painting, reading, or phoning a friend;
  4. Connect With Others: Reach out and connect with supportive people who can help you stay on track when avoiding risky substances. This can be a friend, family member, or professional counsellor;
  5. Reward Yourself: Celebrate successes by rewarding yourself with activities such as going out for a meal or to the movies, reading a book, or engaging in something you enjoy. Practising mindfulness and making positive changes is an accomplishment that should be celebrated!

Positive Social Connections and Mindfulness

Mindfulness can be used to increase positive social connections, both with yourself and with others. Positive relationships are essential to mental health, reducing feelings of loneliness and isolation and providing a sense of purpose.

Mindful awareness can help you to become more aware of your thoughts and emotions, as well as the thoughts and emotions of those around you. This helps reduce misunderstandings and conflicts while increasing empathy and understanding.

Mindfulness can also help individuals become more aware of their needs in terms of social connections, allowing them to identify areas where they may feel disconnected or lacking support. By becoming aware of these needs, individuals can better express them to the people around them and foster more meaningful relationships.

Taking time for self-care is also essential for fostering positive social connections. Mindful activities such as yoga, meditation, or journaling can help you to relax and take a break from your daily stressors to focus on yourself and connect with your inner thoughts and feelings.


Mindfulness is an ancient practice that has been used for centuries but has recently gained traction in modern times due to its many benefits for both physical and mental health. Bringing mindfulness into the foundations of lifestyle health helps us become more aware of our bodies and minds to optimize our overall well-being. If you want to live a healthier life, start incorporating mindfulness into each pillar to help create balance.


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About Camilla Moore

Camilla Moore DC DipACLM is a board-certified chiropractor in Lifestyle Medicine and practises within an integrative medical clinic in Providence, RI.  She manages the website The Wellness Cabinet ( to provide holistic, evidence-based information about Lifestyle Medicine and musculoskeletal health. She may be contacted via

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