It’s hard to think of anything better than chocolate, but according to scientific findings, mindfulness has the ability to make you happier than your favourite delectable treat.
Research from Harvard University’s Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert points to this somewhat shocking fact: we spend a whopping 47% of our day lost in thought, and this is correlated with unhappiness. In other words, instead of focusing on what is in front of us, we’re drifting through our lives in a daze, consumed by thoughts of what could have been or planning things that are out of our control.
The study summarises:
“A human mind is a wandering mind, and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind. The ability to think about what is not happening is a cognitive achievement that comes at an emotional cost.”
What’s more, according to the research, the type of activity we’re engaged in doesn’t really change whether or not our minds wander. So whether you’re taking a shower or eating a block of your favourite chocolatey goodness, you’re just as likely to have a wandering mind – and thus be somewhat unhappy.
Mindfulness, on the other hand, allows us to be more present and more engaged in what we’re doing. Therefore, mindfulness trumps chocolate when it comes to delivering happiness.
So, what is mindfulness? Simply put, it is the ability to pay attention on purpose. It cannot be readily bought at the store but is, in fact, free and can be practiced anywhere you go. It’s benefits are far-reaching – from improving your immune system and energy levels to relieving stress and improving sleep. Mindfulness is also kick-ass for reducing worry, anxiety and emotional reactivity.
It allows us to engage with the here and now and approach our lives with greater clarity and peace of mind.
Mindfulness and meditation are hot-topics today, with a slew of ‘unlikely meditators’ – US Marines, Google employees, corporate executives, and high profile athletes – learning this powerful skill.
The roots of mindfulness lie in Eastern Buddhist traditions and the practice is deceptively simple – focusing attention on the breath, sensations in the body or paying attention to the senses of smell, taste, touch, hearing, and sight.
The best way to experience mindfulness is to try it for yourself. In fact, it could make the experience of eating chocolate even more delightful!
Try this mindful eating exercise to experience the concept of Mindfulness:
1. BREATHE: Take a few deep breaths to settle your mind and body.
2. LOOK: Let your eyes explore your whole plate, noticing the colours and textures.
3. TOUCH: If it’s not too messy, touch your food, noticing the way it feels.
4. SMELL: Hold the food beneath your nose, and observe its aroma, noticing as you do this if there’s anything interesting happening in your mouth or stomach.
5. TASTE: Very consciously, take one or two bites into your meal.
6. FEEL: Chew your food slowly and mindfully swallow.
Repeat this for a few mouthfuls of food, noticing your thoughts as you do so.
Notice how slowing down and tasting your food helps bring you into the present moment and can change the nature of your experience. To learn more, pick up a copy of ‘Why Mindfulness is Better Than Chocolate’ by international best-selling author David Michie.
So the verdict is in: mindfulness is better than chocolate for long-term happiness, but hey…why not put them both together for an even better experience?
Be mindful and really enjoy that chocolate!