Many of us spend our lives rehashing the past or rushing into the future without pausing to enjoy the present. Distracted from the world around us, our life might feel only half-lived, as we’re too busy to savor—or even notice—everyday pleasures.
Practicing mindfulness can help. Mindfulness helps us tune into what we’re sensing and experiencing in the present moment—it’s the ability to pay more careful attention to our thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations, without judging them as good or bad. Research suggests that it can not only reduce stress but also increase our experience of positive emotions.
One of the most basic and widely used methods for cultivating mindfulness is to focus your attention on each of your senses as you eat a raisin. This simple exercise is often used as an introduction to the practice of mindfulness. In addition to increasing mindfulness more generally, the raisin meditation can promote mindful eating and foster a healthier relationship with food. Try it with a single raisin—you might find that it’s the most delicious raisin you’ve ever eaten.
Five minutes daily for at least a week. Evidence suggests that mindfulness increases the more you practice it.
Praissman, S. (2008). Mindfulness-based stress reduction: a literature review and clinician's guide. Journal of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, 20(4), 212-216.
A review of research published between 2000 and 2006 concluded that the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program (MBSR), an eight-week training program that includes the raisin meditation described above, developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, is an effective treatment for reducing the stress and anxiety that accompanies daily life and chronic illness.
By increasing awareness of internal mental and physical states, mindfulness can help people gain a greater sense of control over their thoughts, feelings, and behavior in the present moment. Paying closer attention to the sensations of eating can increase our enjoyment of our food and deepen our appreciation for the opportunity to satisfy our hunger. Mindfulness can also help people become more attuned to hunger and fullness signals and therefore avoid overeating or “emotional eating.” In the words of mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinn, “When we taste with attention, even the simplest foods provide a universe of sensory experience.”
“Eating One Raisin: A First Taste of Mindfulness.” Extension Service, West Virginia University.
Adapted from: Williams, M., Teasdale, J., Segal, Z., & Kabat-Zinn, J. (2007). The Mindful Way through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness. New York: Guilford Press.