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My grandmother, a feisty and athletic woman in her younger
years, was a gum-chewer. She was never without a pack or two of
Wrigley's Doublemint gum.
She wasn't a snapper or bubble-blower--she viewed that as highly
uncivilized. Grandma kept her mouth closed, thank you very much,
and her chewing silent.
She insisted that it helped her concentrate. It turns out that
she was right.
Research has shown that chewing does indeed increase our ability
to concentrate and to retain what we've learned. In fact,
studies indicate that, for both kids and adults, mental tasks
are completed up to 20% more effectively when we chew gum.
Here's why: When we chew--whether it's food, gum or just air--we
respond by salivating, which releases a surge of insulin. Our
body gets ready for a meal. The insulin leads to an increased
heart rate and sends glucose and oxygen to our brain.
The result? This blast of brain food helps us learn faster and
retain this information longer.
If that's all it takes to boost learning, I'm all for it! In
fact, I'd like to suggest that we chew gum as a mindfulness
Really. Perhaps instead of "Om" we should be chanting
Why not? We already know that mindfulness can be very
effectively practiced during repetitive physical activity. It's
hard to find a more repetitive and less demanding activity than
Try this: Sit comfortably in any position that allows you to
breathe with a relaxed belly. Pop some gum into your mouth and
Pay attention to the burst of flavor and accompanying saliva.
Feel the texture of the gum as it softens and stretches. Focus
on chewing the gum on only one side of your mouth ten times,
then switch to the other side. Continue as you slowly chew,
allowing yourself to count to ten before switching sides again.
Keep this up for about two minutes while concentrating on the
Simple? Sure. Mindfulness IS simple. And it can become pretty
easy to focus for short periods, especially if we have a
particular physical activity as the center of our attention.
Many people find this a much easier and more effective way to
experience mindfulness than simply sitting and watching
There's no need to make mindfulness difficult, uncomfortable or
woo-woo. If chewing gum is good for your brain, take advantage
of it as an easy way to practice mindfulness.
On a bus? At your desk? Take a two-minute break to chew gum.
Nobody needs to know what you're doing. It will be your minty
Salvation? Okay, maybe not. Here's to salivation!