Forgive the daft headline, but as somebody who practices simple mindfulness exercises for stress and anxiety, I’m always trying to come up with ways that work for me. Not all types of mindfulness exercise works for everyone; personally, I find that breathing exercises and visualisations work best, and also visiting calming places. But food is a great one to use. It’s something I feel we really take for granted – the sensations that we get from food.
I sort of came up with this of my own, though it is based on some existing mindfulness practices. What makes it manly? Well, far be it from me to force gender stereotypes, even in the name of humour, but this involves one of two things that most men enjoy. Wait for it…
Beer and Coffee
I thought that would get your attention. But please, try one or the other for the following exercise – not necessarily both because that would just be weird. Unless you are into that sort of thing, but who am I to judge?
Anyway, take a beer or a coffee – it can either be your favourite brand or one you haven’t used before. Put the container (bottle, can, carton) on the table before you and open it. If using beer, you may wish to pour it into a glass at this point. For coffee, use the raw product first.
Next, close your eyes and try to shut out all thoughts and feelings. There may be a lot in there. That’s fine, accept them but don’t let them consume you. Lift the glass / tin to your nose and take a deep breath in.
Notice the scents. Notice beyond the immediate sensations of “coffee” and “beer”. These things both have a universal smell that is immediately identifiable, but there are always subtle variations. Is the coffee nutty or fruity? Heavy or light? What are the deeper scents? Caramel? Vanilla? Smoke? Try to visualise the surprising scents you notice. I first did this with a raisin and was surprised to pick up some unusual scents I had not noticed before, like a hint of cinnamon. They are not hard to find when you get yourself in the zone but the key is getting yourself in that zone.
Notice how it feels. As above, look beyond “wet” for the beer and “dry and powdery” for the raw coffee. Is the beer fizzy? Note the sensation on your finger of those gas bubbles popping against the skin. Submerging my fingers in carbonated water always felt like pin pricks to me. If you are using coffee, is it freeze dried, granules or fresh? Each of these things have a different feeling. Again, compare to other substances and visualise those things.
Taste it: Only when you are fully satisfied that you’ve got the full range of scent and feeling should you attempt to taste. By this time, you will already know what to look for. The point of a mindfulness exercise is to notice and absorb information. Taste the raw coffee if you dare, but I recommend making a cup instead 🙂 Don’t swallow it as if you are late for work – just take a sip. Take several sips and try to notice something different with each one. Think back to the scents you noticed – are they reflected in the flavours? Is there anything else you picked up on? Most drinks have a beginning, a middle and an end flavour. The beginning flavour is that which you notice when you first put something in your mouth. The middle is the “main body” the flavour that lingers while chewing and swallowing. The end flavour is the after-taste and sometimes, these can be three completely different flavours especially when you’re using gourmet coffee and craft beer – that’s why I chose these too drink types (wine is another good one).
Don’t rush through the exercise or you won’t get the full benefit. As I said above, the point is to notice these things and to do them properly or it will not work. We’ve become too fast, too demanding, going through the motions too much in our daily lives and we are really missing out on the finer points in life. I notice it every time I go to beach or my favourite beauty spot just how disconnected I can become at times and need that reconnection. It’s not always possible to go to a beach or to drive to a national park for some nature, but this exercise shows how easy it can be to reconnect and take our mind off of the daily grind.