Use chocolate to be more mindful.
BY DIANE R GEHART
Make a date and time to savour the gift of cocoa and become more mindful. Mindful eating encourages us to fully experience our food—its aroma, flavour, texture—and how it makes us feel. Eating chocolate is proven to calm nerves and promote happiness (it releases dopamine), and when we practice mindfulness as we consume it, we’re offered a window into our mind and its long-held associations with this food. With practice, mindful eating can help you be more present in other areas of your life—making you better equipped to handle anything that comes your way, whether sour or sweet.
Diane R. Gehart, PhD, is an author, psychotherapist, and professor of counselling and family therapy at California State University,Northridge. Her new book, Mindfulness for Chocolate Lovers: A Lighthearted Way to Stress Less and Savour More Each Day, was released in September 2019. Learn more at dianegehart.com
How to Practice Mindful Eating
Hold the chocolate in your hand. Mindfully take in what you see: What colour is the wrapper? Is light reflecting off of it? Can you smell the candy? Feel its texture and its weight in your hand. Study it with curiosity.
Listen as you remove the candy from its wrapper. What sounds does it make? Do you smell anything? Keep focusing on shape, colour, and texture. Does it feel soft or hard? Smooth or rough?
Bring the chocolate toward your mouth, but don’t bite into it yet. How does your body react? Are you salivating? Can you feel anticipation arising elsewhere for the bite you’re about to take? What thoughts can you identify? Do you feel excited? Impatient? Hesitant? Observe your thoughts and feelings as though you’re watching them move through your mind like clouds in the sky.
Now, take a small bite, and let it linger on your tongue, slowly rolling the creamy morsel around in your mouth. Is it sweet? Salty? Bitter? Fruity? Nutty? Try not to judge the flavour or categorize it as good or bad—simply experience it. Slowly begin to chew, keeping mindful of the texture you experience. Continue eating, slowly taking bites and immersing yourself in the experience—the aroma, the textures, the taste. When you’ve finished, sit for a few moments and reflect.
Do it all again—tomorrow. Chocolate meditation can help you develop a consistent practice. Try filling a clear glass bowl with treats, leaving it someplace where you’ll see it frequently (hello, work desk!). Pick a time you’d like to practice, then set a daily reminder. When your alarm sounds, set a timer for up to5 minutes (even 1 minute works wonders). As chocolate meditation becomes easier, add a focus on your breath. After two weeks, odds are minor irritations won’t be as bothersome and you’ll feel better equipped to manage stress.