Did you know that 10% of the population can expect to become clinically depressed in the coming year? Or that the WHO estimates that depression will impose the second biggest health-burden GLOBALLY by 2020. That means it will soon impose a bigger burden than heart disease, arthritis and many types of cancer! Depression is taking a massive toll on us as individuals and society.
Now I don’t know about you, but there have been a host of reports of how chocolate may affect your mood. Current thinking is that the dark variety really can help boost your mood as it helps to release serotonin and relaxes the blood vessels of the cardiovascular system.
So I was really happy to find that the first exercise in the introductory section of my mindfulness practice course involved the lovely brown stuff. Well actually the white version is my personal favorite. Apparently this is the less healthy version of the raisin meditation that I tested last week.
Now as you also heard last week I don’t have to sit cross-legged on the floor unless I feel the need, but after my soporific experience last week I think I’ll still sit on the floor, just to be safe.
So here’s what this exercise involved:
Step 1 – Choose your poison.
I had to find a chocolate that I’d either:
(a) never eaten before – hmmmmmm… bit of a challenge when chocolate is my favorite food and I can’t even think of a type I might like that I haven’t eaten. I have visions of having to travel to some far-flung country I’ve never visited to find some weird chocolate and blue cheese combination.
(b) not eaten recently – OK, now that gave me at least a fighting chance. But after a trip to the shops and 15 minutes standing in the chocolate aisle at the supermarket it turned out to be a slim chance.
In the end I settled on Ritter Sport Strawberry Yogurt. Not with a massive amount of enthusiasm I have to say, but it was probably the one I hadn’t eaten for longest.
Step 2 – Smell it.
I had to open the packet and inhale all that chocolatey aroma that wafted out.
Now I’m not sure I chose the right chocolate for this. Perhaps if I’d gone for a nice 70% dark chocolate then I’d have got more of an appreciable waft of chocolateness. Instead I got more of a synthetic strawberry and plastic aroma.
But I spent my 20 to 30 seconds trying to smell something more attractive.
Step 3 – Inspect it.
Finally I got to break off a square and had to examine every aspect of it in exquisite detail.
The positive was there didn’t seem to be too much of the strawberry stuff in there. The negative – it all looked a bit bashed about after the trip home from the supermarket in the bumpy basket of my bike. The Danes are no better at repairing holes in the roads and bike paths than the Brits!!
Step 4 – Pop it in.
Finally – the good bit – I got to put it in my mouth. Oh but then the purgatory … I was required to let melt on my tongue, while resisting the resist the urge to suck it or chew it.
Now a piece of advice. For goodness sake don’t pick a large piece of chocolate. Even those of us with the most destructive saliva in the world will be sat there until the cows come home waiting for this darn stuff to melt.
This is the part where my mind wandered off the most. Suddenly the birds seemed to be chirping even louder, the rush of the traffic from the street increased to storm force and everything seemed more interesting than sitting here waiting for chocolate to melt.
Watching paint dry could have been an improvement …
And that stuff about resisting the urge to suck it. Does sticking it to the roof of your mouth and squidging it there with your tongue count?
Now this is mindfulness so I have to remember self-compassion and to not criticise myself. Just bring myself back to the task at hand.
Now where’s that pot of paint?
Step 5 – Down it goes.
After it has completely melted I’m allowed to finally swallow it, slowly and deliberately…
Does it matter that most of it has already tricked down my throat already? Couldn’t really be helped – it was either swallow or drown in saliva. Sorry – awful imagery I know.
Step 6 – Repeat … as long as the packet and waistline allows.
I’ll leave to you draw your own conclusions on this one!
Step 7 – Assess and evaluate.
How did I feel? Was it different to normal? Did the chocolate taste better than before?
Well I have to admit it was interesting. I was far more aware of what I was eating and of not only the depth of taste, but also particularly the different textures – the smooth chocolate, the chewy little bits of strawberry (well I can hope they were strawberry) and the little crunchy bits (freeze-dried bits of strawberry I’m guessing). I will make an effort to eat more mindfully from here on to make sure I appreciate my food.
Did it also make me feel different? Well it certainly made me feel more relaxed. Especially after I’d done it a couple of times. The swirling maelstrom of thoughts in my head seemed to have reduced to a gentle swell.
Did I find it hard? I certainly had some challenges keeping my mind on the task at hand. Everything suddenly seemed more interesting that doing this task. It seemed to take forever. I kept on working at it and bringing my awareness back to the chocolate. It’s hard though to quiet my ‘inner critic’ that says I should have done better. I guess that’s the reason this stuff takes practice and there is no such thing as better.
Was it the chocolate or the meditative part that had a relaxing impact?
No idea, but then does it matter?
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking out new landscapes but in having new eyes.” (Marcel Proust, 1871-1922)
- Mindfulness for Beginners: Week #1 (nlp13.com)
- Is Mindfulness Meditation Linked With Positive Brain Changes? (meditationclasssydney.wordpress.com)
- Mindful in May: a month of mindfulness (existimatio.wordpress.com)
- Why do we crave chocolate? (berries.com)
- What Meditation Is and Is Not (lvbm.org)
- Depression – Swim not sink (bpchronology.wordpress.com)
- Study Shows How Meditation Helps Reduce Anxiety (medindia.net)
- Dark Chocolate Covered Strawberries (goodthingsalways.wordpress.com)