Half a lifetime ago, I did a lot of mindless eating, especially when I had that antsy feeling from having nothing to do. The more I turned to writing (fiction at first), the less I thought about food. The more writing I did, the more I wanted to do, so that it occupied my free time and gradually became a passion. Moreover, it energized my mind and body in a way that food-as-time-filler never could or did. To help you find your passion, here are some creativity stokers:

In “Idea therapy: 8 ways to put your brain in its most creative gear” (Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 7/28/15, E6), Brigid Schulte describes the work of neuroscientist John Kounios, a professor of psychology at Drexel University who studies creativity and insightful thinking. Here are his ideas on creativity and mine for decreasing mindless eating:

  1. Be positive: Negativity is often due to anxiety and generates more of it. Being
    positive relaxes you. Which state do you think will produce more insightful thinking and creativity? Kounios maintains that “When you’re in a positive mood, you’re more sensitive to picking up…unconscious ideas.”
  2. Seek some space: Go outdoors, leave a cramped, small room, get out of your work
    cubicle. Look for wide open areas. They are a visual metaphor for opening your mind.
  3. Avoid sharp objects: Sharp, pointy objects can generate subtle anxiety, so find an
    environment that is airy with softer, rounded configurations.
  4. Color your world: Surround yourself with blues and green which are relaxing colors.
    This is why getting out in nature and seeing trees and sky soothes the mind.
  5. Take a break: When you try too hard to solve a problem, you become tense and
    might think you need a food break. Instead, walk your brain away from the problem for a minute or two. I do this all the time when I’m writing and it gets me right back on track.
  6. Get some sleep: Kounios says, “One of the most powerful tools for promoting insight
    is sleep.” Of course, sufficient sleep also prevents you from producing too much ghrelin, the hunger hormone, and too little leptin, the satiation hormone. Memory consolidation which happens when we sleep can generate insight and new thinking.
  7. Take a shower: Warm water relaxes you and can make you feel “expansive.” Plus,
    running water is like white noise which blocks out external sounds and helps you focus.
  8. Do nothing: This piece of advice may be difficult for dysregulated eaters who tend
    toward anxiety. But, here’s exactly why doing nothing is necessary. “Incubation—the brain churning over associations”…“is supercharged during sleep, and also when doing nothing, letting your mind wander and having no particular task to perform.” Notice that “wander” is very different than “worry.” To fuel creativity, clear your mind of worry. Give it permission to wander and wonder. Practice clearing it for one or two minutes to start.

The goal is to relax and set the stage for creativity and dopamine-generating activities that replace mindless eating. When you’re in the midst of creating, I guarantee that food will be the last thing on your mind and your mood will improve without it.