Chewing On Mindfulness:
Gum Is Your Secret
by Maya Frost
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
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
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
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!
Try this: Sit comfortably
in any position that allows you to breathe with a
relaxed belly. Pop some gum into your mouth and begin
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 pause for a moment to notice the sensations before you 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
Simple? Sure. Mindfulness
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!
© Copyright 2004, Maya Frost
Maya Frost has taught thousands of people how to pay attention. Her playful, eyes-wide-open approach to everyday awareness has been featured in over 100 media outlets worldwide. To read her free tips and tricks for getting calm, clear and creative, visit