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 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.
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 exercise.
Really. Perhaps instead of “Om” we should be chanting “Grom-grom-grom”.
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 chewing gum!
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 chewing motion.
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 thoughts.
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 little secret.
Salvation? Okay, maybe not. Here’s to salivation!