Loneliness and boredom are often triggers for eating comfort foods, or for eating at inappropriate times. When we feel the impulse to eat at an odd time (such as an hour after lunch or when we can't fall asleep at night ) we can take a moment to investigate what is happening in our body, heart and mind.
- We can check within our bodies to investigate if we are actually hungry. How full does our stomach feel? Empty? One quarter full? Half full? Full? Stuffed? If we realize that we're not actually hungry, we can investigate our feelings and thoughts.
- We can check in with our feelings to investigate what emotions might be present. It helps to become acquainted with the particular body sensations that accompany different emotions. For example, the body signals of loneliness in one person might be a sagging feeling in the eyelids and heaviness in the chest. We find that the body can tell us about feelings of loneliness or boredom that we are not fully aware of.
- We can check the background dialogue in our minds. The mind might be subtly murmuring, "I feel so alone. I need to comfort myself with something to eat, " or "I'm bored. I need some exciting taste sensations in my mouth."
Once we've identified the emotion we are feeling, what can we do? If the discomfort we are feeling is arising from loneliness, we can reach out. We can call someone who cares for us. We can reach out to another person who might be lonely. We can play with a child or pet. We can go outdoors and open our awareness to the company of trees and birds.
If the discomfort arises from boredom, we can challenge the mind that says, "There's nothing going on," by looking directly and carefully at just what actually IS going on. We can sit down for a moment and focus on the breath, curious about the thousands of tiny touches in and on our body. We can look at a flower close up, drinking in its color with our eyes. We can open our ears to the many sounds, obvious and subtle, that surround us. We can sip a cup of tea slowly, aware of changes in temperature and flavor. When we are fully present, when boredom is replaced by curiosity, when loneliness is replaced by connecting to others, our discontent can dissolve and be replaced by satisfaction and ease.