There is something special about eating your meals around a table—it has always signified a time to connect, and enjoy good food and good company.
As we get older those around-the-table meals often become food on the run, shovelling a breakfast bar into your mouth on the way to school or work or grabbing a salad between meetings or classes. Working lunches and multiple family schedules can lead to quick-fix meals on the go or in front of the computer or TV.
The art of eating around a table has simply gotten lost in the shuffle. A practice that was once an intentional time of building relationships and learning to be present has been replaced by more and more doing.
With a little planning and persistence, you can carve out time for you and your loved ones to enjoy a meal together. Eating around a table doesn’t need to be a big ordeal. If you’re not a cook and you hate cleaning, then grab food from a favourite restaurant to enjoy around the table. This isn’t a time to get everything perfect, it’s about creating a chance to connect with those you love.
Here are three reasons to eat your meals around a table. By making this a regular practice, you will reap the benefits of slowing down, being present, and connecting with others.
Eating around the table challenges your busy schedule. It takes a stand against feelings of stress and anxiety, and instead, puts your basic needs first and foremost. It’s a time to take a break from your daily responsibilities and focus on taking care of your body, your mind, and your relationships.
In the morning, taking the time to sit down for breakfast will help you feel less rushed and be more prepared for the day ahead. By telling the day to wait just a minute, you will feel more centred and better able to tackle whatever surprise the day might bring.
At lunchtime, even If your work days are full, schedule just 30 minutes for a lunch break a few days a week. During that window of time, choose not to do any work. You will not only get a much-needed break, you will probably be more productive afterwards.
For dinner, try planning a fun meal with a friend or loved one. Whether you cook or go out, spend time just being present during the meal. Set no agenda or time restraint and see how much your body and mind can relax and let go.
Technology can do wonders for your life—after all, it’s how you’re reading this article—but it can also distract you from being fully present, especially around the table. When you’re constantly checking your email, looking up the latest shopping deal, or seeing how awesome your friends’ lives are on social media, you’re stealing time away from being present with your body and being aware of your own needs.
Eating around a table can help you practice being present. Taking the time to eat your meal—without your smart phone or other distractions—allows you to taste the flavors of each bite and actively listen to others. It also helps you take inventory of your body, recognising when you’re full and should stop eating.
You can even create a little friendly competition out of it by challenging yourself and others to disconnect from technology while at the table. If you’re eating with others, have everyone put their silenced phone on the table next to their fork, face down. Whoever reaches for theirs first either picks up the bill or washes all the dishes. That way, you’re all in it together and can have fun encouraging one another.
Connect with Others
When you eat on the go or in front of the TV, you are either eating alone or, if you are with others, you have little chance for quality conversation. On the flip side, if you’re with loved ones around a table, you can create some of the most precious memories you’ll ever have—that time Johnny fell out of his chair because he was laughing so hard or the time Aunt Sally poured sugar over her chicken thinking it was salt.
Meals around the table have no other agenda other than to eat and enjoy the company of others. They also take longer, creating opportunities to connect. If you’re at work, ask a colleague to eat lunch with you and get to know him or her. If you’ve been missing old friends, invite them over for a dinner, complete with appetisers, a main course, and dessert—ask each person to bring a different dish. Start a family tradition of always eating Sunday dinner at the table. Each week, a different person can be in charge of the menu.
If you’re longing for connection, but need a little help spurring conversation, create a list of things you’d like to know about the lucky person you’ll be dining with.
By choosing to eat your meals at the table, you are choosing to honour and respect yourself and others. It can be a powerful time of sharing, enjoying, and creating special memories. So, next time you feel the urge to grab something on the go, figure out a way to enjoy that meal with a little more intentionality and with people who love and support you.