Are you looking for ways on how to comfort yourself without food?

If you often find yourself going through bags of Doritos or cartons of ice cream at the end of a stressful day, chances are high that you’ve developed the habit of eating as a way to comfort yourself. 

How to comfort yourself without food: 20 alternatives to eating. #emotionaleating #overeating #diet #emotions #health #wellness

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Why does eating relax me?

There are a number of reasons why eating has taken on the role of comforter.

As babies, we were likely often soothed from our crying with a bottle of milk or breast milk.  This may have unintentionally conditioned us to associate eating with comfort and self-soothing at an early age.

Many of us also grew up with comfort foods, whether it’s rice porridge for when our tummy aches or milk and cookies for when we are feeling the blues.

Eating is also a big part of celebrating holidays, milestones, and special occasions.  When we eat to celebrate, we feel good.

And then there are the sugary processed foods that release dopamine (the feel-good hormone) that can lead to increased desire for more junk food.

It’s no wonder our brains have been conditioned over time to seek food for comfort. 

If emotional eating is a habit you’ve adopted subconsciously over time, you may be wondering how do you deal with emotions without food.

What can you do instead of comfort eating?

Here are 20 ideas on alternative activities to replace emotional eating that’ll help you feel better.

How to Comfort Yourself Without Food: 20 Activities to Replace Emotional Eating 

How to comfort yourself - reading

1. Reach out and connect with a friend.  We are social creatures by nature.  Call a friend that you trust to lend a helping hand and ears in times of need.

2. Diaphragmatic breathing.  Our diaphragm is designed to be the dominant breathing muscle in our body.  However, most of us have adopted the shorter, shallower chest breathing over time.

Not only is diaphragmatic breathing is more efficient and effective, but it can also promote feelings of relaxation and reduce stress.

Check out this quick and easy to follow video on diaphragmatic breathing by Kai Simon.

3. Take a relaxing hot bath with candlelight.  Turn your home bath into a spa bath with these bath bombs infused with essential oils for stress relief and just sit back, relax and enjoy.

4. Play with a pet dog or cat.  Spend quality time with your fur friend.  If you don’t have one at home, you can always visit a local doggie or kitty cafe.  Our little friends love the attention they get!

5. Practice gratitude.  Put aside your troubles for just a moment to take inventory of all that you still have that you are grateful for. 

Gratitude is one of the most effective practices to help us feel higher levels of positive emotion, more joy, optimism, and happiness, and reduce the feelings of anxiety, loneliness, and isolation.

Our ability to be grateful is a mental muscle that can be trained just like other muscles in our body.  One of the best tools for this training is this simple yet powerful 5-Minute Gratitude Journal.   

6. Take a walk in the garden.  Especially in the spring.  You’ll be reminded of the powerful resilience of nature when you see the trees and flowers bloom, and the bees and butterflies go about their busy day. 

7. Aromatherapy.  Scent can affect your mood, level of stress and energy.  Research has shown that aromatherapy using essential oils such as lavender can improve mood and lessen anxiety (1).

A study in 2008 from Wheeling Jesuit University also found that participants that were exposed to peppermint on a consistent basis consumed about 2,800 fewer calories per week than those who were not. And the peppermint was effective whether ingested or inhaled.

Disperse the essential oils into fine vapor mists so they can be easily absorbed through your respiratory system by using an essential oil diffuser.

8. Listen to soothing music.  Music is a well-known stress management tool.  Listening to slow, quiet classical music can actually slow our pulse and heart rate, and decrease our levels of stress hormones. 

9. Art therapy with mandala coloring.  Studies have found that participants who spend 20 minutes to color in a guided mandala coloring book showed a reduction in anxiety (2).  

Unleash your creativity and reduce your anxiety with this popular mandala coloring book for adults.    

10. Relive past happy moments.  Take a trip down memory lane and revisit your past travels and other amazing experiences.  This is especially fun to reminisce with those you had the experience with. You’ll be surprised at all the little amazing details you might have forgotten.

11. Pamper yourself with a manicure, pedicure.  You can visit the nail salon or have fun with a friend or family at home with these durable non-toxic nail polishes.

12. Watch a movie.  Not only does watching movies provide us with an escape to another time, place, and story, it encourages our emotional release and helps us make sense of our own lives.  So strong are these comfort and stress relief benefits, this effect is coined “cinema therapy”.

Just be aware to not grab food to the sofa to avoid eating mindlessly.

13. Read a book.  Lose yourself in a book for ultimate relaxation.  Researchers at the University of Sussex found reading just 6 minutes a day can reduce a person’s stress level by a whopping 68 percent!

14. Take a yoga class.  Yoga combines physical stretches, controlled breathing, and meditation to help reduce stress and increase your sense of well-being.

15. Get a message.  A deep tissue massage can go a long way to relieve muscle tension and reduce stress.

16. Take a trip.  Sometimes a change of environment is just what you need to lift your spirits.

17. Buy yourself a present.  Don’t forget to shower yourself with love and appreciation every once in a while.  You deserve it!      

18. Declutter.  Your external environment is a reflection of your internal environment.  If you find yourself surrounded by clutter, set aside 10-15 minutes each day to clear away stray items.

The decision-making process in choosing what to do with your stray belongings can strengthen your mental decision muscle in deciding what to do with your thoughts and feelings.

In Marie Kondo’s original Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, she wrote about her tidying clients that have gone on to losing weight, making more money in their business, and generally making improvements in their life beyond just having a clean and organized home.

19. Make a bucket list.  While thinking about your own mortality may not be the most comforting thing, making a list of your dreams that you have yet to accomplish can bring a sense of excitement and joyful anticipation.

20. Volunteer.  Not only do you help others in need, but you may also gain fresh perspectives on your own circumstances when you find others in less fortunate circumstances than you are.

21. Bonus: be okay with your feelings and know that it’ll pass.  This may be the hardest one to practice and learn, but ultimately learning to process your thoughts and feelings that are the root source of your discomfort is going to be key to permanently overcome emotional eating.

When you learn the ability to be present with your discomfort and process them without resisting or avoiding them, you can then take your emotional power back to feel better.

Sharing is caring!  Have you tried other effective ways on how to comfort yourself without food?  Let us know in the comments!

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