There are two things in life that I could not live without. Food and mindfulness. In recent years organisations like Mind and individuals like Stephen Fry & Ruby Wax have popularized the notion of talking about mental health, something which is strangely taboo around some dinner tables. We got an invitation to attend a bloggers evening launching a partnership between Wagamama’s and MIND a couple of weeks ago, I couldn’t have imagined a better combination!
This post is a little longer than normal, but I have stuff to say so please bear
Wagamama’s have furthered this campaign of transparency and stigma-breaking by teaming up with MIND to promote mindful eating and mindfulness in their restaurants, with 25p from each sale of their Positive Juices going towards the mental health charity MIND. It might not seem a lot, but to quote Ruth Wells CEO of Mind Exter & East Devon…
“It costs Mind 25p to pick up the phone to someone who is distressed and so the purchase of a Positive Juice may very well save a life.”
The work that Mind do on a national and local level is incredibly important. Ruth Wells gave a very informative talk about the work that MIND undertakes in our local area.
“We offer social care. It’s the mental health equivalent of seeing an elderly person in their home.
We go out to individuals and help them to leave their house, deal with debt, overcome the barriers mental health presents.
We also run a Men’s and Women’s Network which are open to anyone who feels it would be helpful. We work with employers to offer mindfulness to employees and to work with their managers to put good support of mental health into practice in their work place.
We offer tenancy support to people who have severe mental health difficulties and may struggle to be accepted as a tenant any other way. We are part of Devon Recovery Learning.”
Mind also teach mindfulness to the public. For me mindfulness has been a godsend over the last year;it has made coping with anxiety and depression so much easier with the techniques and methods that mindfulness can teach you.
So what is mindfulness?
Head over to the NHS website and you get a pretty good definition about what this whole mindfulness thing is about. Professor Mark Williams of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre says:
“It’s easy to stop noticing the world around us. It’s also easy to lose touch with the way our bodies are feeling and to end up living ‘in our heads’ – caught up in our thoughts without stopping to notice how those thoughts are driving our emotions and behaviour,”
“An important part of mindfulness is reconnecting with our bodies and the sensations they experience. This means waking up to the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the present moment. That might be something as simple as the feel of a banister as we walk upstairs.”
“Another important part of mindfulness is an awareness of our thoughts and feelings as they happen moment to moment.”
Some reading this might scoff at the idea of Mindfulness, and there are people who just don’t get it – and if you think for one minute that Mindfulness is all about incense sticks and sandals then you are quite wrong. Isn’t it all about Buddhism?
The origins of the mindfulness techniques that are taught today are founded in Buddhist practices and there are some teachers who approach mindfulness from a spiritual angle but it there is a bulk of scientific evidence to support the effectiveness of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction therapy and the therapies that offshoot this.
Me and Mindfulness
My journey started three years ago when I suffered a panic attack at work – I lost control of all my senses and had an emotional meltdown on the phone to my boss. It took me a while of processing this incident that I finally realised that I had been anxious for most of my life, but never knew that it was actually a problem and that there were ways of solving it.
On the advice of my amazingly supportive boss I made an appointment with my GP. The first thing he said to me was ‘have you heard of Mindfulness?’ to which I said unconvincingly that I had, sort of. We both agreed that medication wasn’t the answer, and so I signed up for a course of CBT but never really looked into Mindfulness beyond this.
For me CBT wasn’t the answer – it was too prescriptive with it’s exercise books and the short impersonal weekly sessions left me feeling a bit disconnected with the process. Things in my life changed, I realised that the stress caused at work was a significant factor and life became a bit more managable when I got another job. I was still anxious but I felt I was managing it, with hindsight I was managing it but really badly…
But then life started to creep up on me, and a couple of years later I was back in the same boat as before. My work was fine, but my ability to deal with stressful situations which I had previously been coping with, was getting worse.
But hang on – what was that mindfulness thing again?
I did some research, a bit of reading and my perspective on life changed completely.
There are a lot of teachers of mindfulness, as I said some are more spiritual (Eckart Tolle) and others are much more practical in their approach (Andy Puddicombe of Headspace fame for instance). John Kabat-Zimm is widely credited as the man who brought mindfulness to the west from its Buddhist roots.
I found particular comfort in Eckart Tolle’s ramblings – his book The Power Of Now is one of the key texts to immerse yourself in when reading the subject. There are other books too, a good place to start if you want to read into the subject is the Mindfulness subreddit page or have a look at some of the books recommended via the Oxford Mindfulness Centre website.
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Wagamama’s and Mindfulness
So where does Wagamama’s fit in to all of this? Well they understand the importance of mindfulness, there is an entire page on their website devoted to the ways that they are helping to promote and encourage it through their restaurants and the food they serve.
Our bloggers evening gave us a sample of the things they are doing, and also the amazing food that Wagamama serves. It was fascinating meeting Karl Thompson, the development chef for Wagamamas and the GM Dorota who were all passionate about the brand and the mission. I was chuffed to spend some time with my blogger chum Steph from Exploring Exeter as we sampled some of the lovely food that Wagamama
I’ll be totally honest here and I will say that I haven’t been to Wagamama for years. It isn’t always at the top of my list of places to go. But times have changed, and so has Wagamama. Their menu still has the classic favourites like the Katsu Curry (their best selling dish) but new healthy dishes including fresh ingredients, all cooked in the busy open kitchen.
Karl Thomson is Wagamama development chef, and he was head chef at Exeter for a period of time. He was eager to show us the wide range of dishes that promote mindful eating.
I’ll be completely honest – I was taking notes up to a point. We had a huge range of starter dishes to sample, our table was completely swamped with little bowls and much chatter about what each dish was about.
This is Chilli Squid (crispy fried squid dusted with shichimi. served with a chilli coriander dipping sauce) which was my definite favourite starter of the evening.
But you can’t ignore Tora Kara Age (seasoned crispy chicken pieces dressed in and served with a spiced sesame and soy sauce, garnished with lime).
My main meal was a donburi (a traditional dish, donburi is a big bowl of steamed rice that is stir-fried with chicken, beef or prawn and mixed vegetables, served with a pickled side).
I went for the Grilled Duck Donburi (tender shredded duck leg in a spicy teriyaki sauce, served with carrots, mangetout, sweet potato and red onion on a bed of sticky japanese rice, finished with a crispy fried egg, shredded cucumber and spring onions with a side of kimchee). This was a lovely filling soulful dish which I would absolutely have again!
Steph ended up with two main dishes – one of them a soup which we were not overly taken with but the other dish was this lovely tuna steak. This is a seared Nuoc Cham tuna steak on a bed of quinoa with stir-fried kale, sweet potato, edamame beans, red onion and peppers. garnished with coriander
If you are still reading this. Thank you for sticking with me!
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