How to Create a Mealtime Ritual: 3 Powerful Ingredients
Each night before dinner – no matter how hungry I am or how excited about the meal – I pause.
This pause is an intentional slowing down. A connection. A remembrance.
A moment of communion with the simple, nutrient-dense food that's about to nourish my body, mind and spirit. A moment of gratitude.
As a nightly ritual, this pause also sets the stage for the meal that follows. One in which I savour my food...and the process of eating slowly, mindfully – making the deliciousness last.
Ritual can transform our experience of something and our relationship with it.
This is true even (or maybe especially) when ritual is really simple. Something easily woven into each day – and perhaps each meal.
Practiced with intention and attention, ritual offers a place of slowing down, noticing, connecting, remembering...and then moving – with an abundance of mindfulness – from that place.
Bringing this into mealtimes has a powerful impact on our relationship with eating and our body and mind. Often, this impact creates big change – both in metabolism and other physical processes...and in mental-emotional patterns and behaviours.
Will pausing before dinner bring such transformations overnight? Or by next day’s breakfast? Likely not.
But this is the steady, consistent “chop wood, carry water” sort of work that can bring startling changes over time.
For many, these changes help get them where they want to be with food, eating and health.
Wondering where to start? There are all kinds of ways to weave ritual into eating and mealtimes. The key is finding something that works for you.
By “works,” I’m talking about three things...
1 Keep it simple.
Whether your mealtime ritual is solitary or shared, make it something easy to add to your regular routine. Sure, there’s a place for more elaborate ritual and ceremony (including around food and mealtimes).
But for your daily practice, I encourage a light touch.
Something requiring no real preparation or bother. Something exceedingly doable.
2 Make it meaningful.
When choosing a mealtime ritual, don’t do what I do...and don’t do what someone else does. Go with whatever holds meaning for you.
This could be sombre and serious...or totally silly.
The important thing is to get as clear as possible why you’re doing what you’re doing. What meaning does it hold?
This meaning won’t look the same for everyone (and even for one person may shift over time). But the point is to be mindful in choosing your ritual and in practicing it...rather than just going through the motions.
That’s where ritual gets its power.
3 Do it regularly.
For a subtle, simple practice like this to work, you have to do it consistently.
And when I say do it, I mean really DO it. Show up for your ritual in a fully present way. Even if it’s just 30 seconds. Then show up the next day...and the day after.
Chopping wood, carrying water. Taking the next healing step and having faith in the process – knowing that just by showing up in an intentional, heart-centred, consistent way, good things will happen.
When it comes to eating rituals, I urge you to get creative and to give different practices a try.
- You could hold hands with a loved one...or pause for a moment of silence...or say grace or a prayer.
- You could connect internally with a sense of gratitude...or with something larger than yourself...or simply ask, with an abundance of curiosity: “What am I feeling right now?"
- You could ask for – and invite in – support, nourishment, love or whatever you’re most longing for.
Whatever your ritual, keep it simple, meaningful, doable. Then show up fully...and do it again...and again. Notice, over time, what unfolds.
If you have any mealtime rituals, I’d love to hear in the comments!