Ever notice how preoccupied we can be when we eat? In today’s hyper-connected and instant-information society, it’s becoming more and more common to see people who have their smartphones at the dinner table and are constantly checking to see what’s going on elsewhere in the world.
I have a friend I spend a fair amount of time with. Obviously I like him, but he is a bit tech-obsessed and it’s affecting our friendship. Whenever we eat out, all too often, something shiny will attract his attention on his phone and he’ll be scrolling and mumbling absent-minded answers while I’m trying to have a conversation. I find that to be incredibly rude, and so these days I usually decline his invitations to dine out. How can something on the other side of that plexiglass screen be that much more compelling than a conversation with a close friend?
Believe me, this behaviour made me wonder, more than once, about whether I was even worthy of friendship… until I came to the realization that it’s not ME… it’s most definitely him and his inability to stay present. Have you ever felt slighted by someone’s lack of attention to you, when they’re in your physical presence and yet they prefer what’s going on everywhere else but here?
Or on the flip side, have you ever considered just how awful the other person can feel if they’re left sitting there mutely while you ignore them because you “have to” check your email or update your Facebook status?
It’s estimated that nearly two thirds of American adults have smartphones and a third of those use them during dinner or other social occasions. This behavior is becoming the norm rather than a rude exception.
Our smartphones are hurting our relationships, period. A Virginia Tech study concluded, “Even without active use, the presence of mobile technologies has the potential to divert individuals from face-to-face exchanges, thereby undermining the character and depth of these connections. Individuals are more likely to miss subtle cues, facial expressions, and changes in the tone of their partner’s voice, and have less eye contact…” just because of the presence of a phone and the allure of “connection.”
Our little “rectangles” have changed the way we interact with others, and not for the better. We are rarely present, and so miss out on what’s going on around us, in fact, think about it from the perspective of a pickpocket – how easy to grab a purse or swipe a wallet, when the owner’s attention is far away, focused on a tiny rectangle and blind to what’s going on here and now?
I strongly urge people to put the phone away for the duration of dinner or other social engagements, and connect face to face, smile to smile, and be fully present.
However, even people who aren’t “serial scrollers” during dinner, can lose out on the delights of fully immersing themselves in the delights of a lovingly prepared meal, TV, and even our own persistent thoughts can distract us.
It’s high time we bring back mindful eating. Why? Because our lives are so rushed, so busy, and meals are the perfect opportunity to slow down and savor life, and connect with others.
Enjoy the preparation of the meal, whether it’s unwrapping a frozen pizza and popping it into the oven, or preparing a gourmet meal using ingredients from your garden. Be grateful for your food.
Take a moment to appreciate where your food came from, and how Nature is so bountiful and miraculous that it provides us with exactly what we need to not only survive, but thrive.
Appreciate your cooking skills if you have them, and have fun developing a few if you don’t. Or, invite some friends over for a potluck, and enjoy the fruits of each other’s labors!
And then, when it’s time to eat… just eat. Especially if you’re alone, it’s tempting to watch TV or read while eating, but don’t. Slow down. Taste what you’ve prepared. There are so many nuances of flavours in what you eat, if you avoid wolfing it down! When you eat with friends or family, engage each other in conversation. Just like in the old days before phones became extensions of our hands.
Mindful eating is truly delightful. If nothing else, mindful eating causes you to slow down and chew your food better, which helps your body with proper digestion, and therefore it’s beneficial for your health.
Life goes by whether you’re mindful or not. But if you are, you are immeasurably enriched by the experience of the now, which is the only real experience – because everything else is just imagination!