Lessons in Mindful Living from China

In addition to paying attention to the quality of the food we eat, the manner in which we consume it and the tone and pace of daily life can greatly affect health and well-being.

In rural parts of China, for example, food is eaten on very small plates or in bowls and, while the food is cooked in ample oils and fats, it is not scooped onto a person’s plate. Instead, one simply takes repeatedly from the main platters with chopsticks until the meal is over. Using chopsticks forces people to take smaller bites of food, and eating more slowly in this way leads to more awareness of satiety; it is not uncommon to eat one nut or bean at a time with chopsticks. The practice facilitates mindful and conscious eating at every meal.

Similarly, inhabitants of such rural areas often perform daily tasks in a relaxed, non-rushed pace, which helps keep stress levels in check. For many in China, daily exercise is done in groups with tai chi-like movements, often times to music. People frequently congregate in groups, especially with their colleagues, who typically live in the same apartment complex near their place of employment. It may also help that these people are allowed to retire at a younger age—55 for women and 60 for men. This leaves them able to help care for their grandchildren so their children can focus on their jobs. The Confucius concept of filial piety is well at work in China, where several generations often live under the same roof and help and support each other in many ways. A true sense of community and strong relationships boost well-being.

Modern society could benefit from the lessons of such traditional societies when it comes to slowing down the pace of living and being more mindful about the way we eat, the activities we choose and how we view our relationships. As a place to start, challenge yourself to eat a meal a day with chopsticks.

Dr. Janice Pegels is a functional medicine doctor at Visions HealthCare, 910 Washington St. (Rte. 1A), Dedham. She is accepting new patients. For more information, call 781-431-1333 or visit VisionsHealthCare.com.

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