Five minutes daily for at least a week. Evidence suggests that mindfulness increases the more you practice it.
How to Do It
- Holding: First, take a raisin and hold it in the palm of your hand or between your finger and thumb.
- Seeing: Take time to really focus on it; gaze at the raisin with care and full attention—imagine that you’ve just dropped in from Mars and have never seen an object like this before in your life. Let your eyes explore every part of it, examining the highlights where the light shines, the darker hollows, the folds and ridges, and any asymmetries or unique features.
- Touching: Turn the raisin over between your fingers, exploring its texture. Maybe do this with your eyes closed if that enhances your sense of touch.
- Smelling: Hold the raisin beneath your nose. With each inhalation, take in any smell, aroma, or fragrance that may arise. As you do this, notice anything interesting that may be happening in your mouth or stomach.
- Placing: Now slowly bring the raisin up to your lips, noticing how your hand and arm know exactly how and where to position it. Gently place the raisin in your mouth; without chewing, noticing how it gets into your mouth in the first place. Spend a few moments focusing on the sensations of having it in your mouth, exploring it with your tongue.
- Tasting: When you are ready, prepare to chew the raisin, noticing how and where it needs to be for chewing. Then, very consciously, take one or two bites into it and notice what happens in the aftermath, experiencing any waves of taste that emanate from it as you continue chewing. Without swallowing yet, notice the bare sensations of taste and texture in your mouth and how these may change over time, moment by moment. Also pay attention to any changes in the object itself.
- Swallowing: When you feel ready to swallow the raisin, see if you can first detect the intention to swallow as it comes up, so that even this is experienced consciously before you actually swallow the raisin.
- Following: Finally, see if you can feel what is left of the raisin moving down into your stomach, and sense how your body as a whole is feeling after you have completed this exercise.
Why You Should Try It
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.
Why It Works
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.”
Evidence That It Works
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.
Raisin Meditation is one of the practices included in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). Developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn and based on Buddhist teachings, MBSR is a six- to 10-week program that teaches various mindfulness techniques through weekly sessions and homework assignments. More information about this program is available in Kabat-Zinn’s book Full Catastrophe Living.
A review of research published between 2000 and 2006 concluded that MBSR is an effective treatment for reducing the stress and anxiety that accompany daily life and chronic illness.
Who Has Tried the Practice?
While there is no demographic data included in the above review, at least one study found that a mindfulness-based group therapy incorporating Raisin Meditation and Body Scan was effective in Japan. After eight weeks, Japanese people with depression and anxiety decreased in clinical symptoms and increased in self-compassion.
Research suggests that MBSR benefits the mental health of various groups, including the following:
- People in different cultures and countries, such as bilingual Latin-American families, university students in China, disadvantaged families in Hong Kong, low-income cyclo drivers in Vietnam, males with generalized anxiety disorder in Iran, Indigenous people in the Republic of Congo, and Aboriginal Australians.
- Women around the world, including pregnant women in China, rural women in India who experienced still-birth, at-risk women in Iran, Muslim women college students in the United Arab Emirates, American survivors of intimate partner violence, and socioeconomically disadvantaged Black women with post-traumatic stress disorder.
- People with certain diseases, such as New Zealanders with rheumatoid arthritis, male patients with heart disease in India, patients with diabetes in South Korea, cancer patients in Canada, breast cancer survivors in China, and HIV-positive individuals in Toronto, San Francisco, Iran, and South Africa.
More research is needed to explore whether, and how, the impact of this practice extends to other groups and cultures.
Keep in Mind
The suitability of this meditation may vary depending on your culture or other life circumstances. even when certain adaptations are made. For example, when researchers taught this exercise in Tagalog and a raisin was swapped for the culturally familiar tomato, the participating Filipino elementary and high school students showed no changes in depression, anxiety, or emotion regulation.
For MBSR in general, a 2015 study found that the program “improved depressive symptoms regardless of affiliation with a religion, sense of spiritually, … sex, or age.” However, other studies suggest that MBSR may not benefit everyone equally:
- When MBSR was administered in Massachusetts correctional facilities, male prisoners experienced less mental health improvement than female prisoners.
- MBSR may not be beneficial in all cultural contexts. For Haitian mental health practitioners and teachers, MBSR contradicted some of their cultural worldviews and everyday practices. Brazilian medical students who participated in MBSR experienced no significant changes in mental health or quality of life.
“Eating One Raisin: A First Taste of Mindfulness.” Extension Service, West Virginia University.
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The Raisin Meditation can help us learn to savor the pleasures of food, rather than eating mindlessly. Are you attuned to the present moment? Take our Mindfulness quiz to find out: