Being Mindful Helps Chocolate Boost Your Mood
There’s no denying that chocolate is a feel-good food — which is why so many of us reach for it at the first sign of stress or unhappiness. The problem is that by the time we’ve mindlessly munched down an entire candy bar or several handfuls of Hershey’s Kisses, we don’t necessarily feel any better. In fact, we’re more likely to feel overly full, plus a bit guilt-stricken for gorging on sweets.
But what if you could not only feel satisfied, but also actually boost your mood by eating just one small square of chocolate? According to a study recently published in the journal Appetite, it is possible.
Researchers at Gettysburg College recruited 258 students and assigned them to one of four groups. In one group the participants each ate 75 calories’ worth of chocolate while being mindful; participants in another group each ate five crackers in the same manner; and participants in the other two groups each ate either the chocolate or the crackers without being mindful.
The two groups assigned to be mindful were instructed to hold the food and think about the farmers who produced the ingredients necessary to make it. After that, they were told to focus on the sensations of the food in their mouths as they ate. Start to finish — eating either the chocolate or the crackers mindfully — took about four minutes. The non-mindful groups were instructed to eat half their food, then wait four minutes to eat the other half, in order to keep the time frames of consumption similar.
“We did show that the mindful chocolate group liked their food more than the other three groups, which led to increased positive mood,” says Brian Meier, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Gettysburg College and lead author of the study. But it doesn’t appear that eating mindfully will turn just any food into a mood booster. “The participants in the cracker group did not report more positive mood after eating the crackers more mindfully,” says Meier.
What this study does show is that slowing down and taking the time to savor a delicious food can make you feel better — probably a lot better than when you mindlessly overeat!
Sally Wadyka is a Boulder, Colorado-based journalist who writes about nutrition, health and wellness.