Often feel overwhelmed at work? Don’t have time for more traditional forms of stress reduction? Then grab a raisin – it could well help calm you down.
Most of us have that point in the week when we feel like we’re going to drown in an avalanche of work. One minute you’re fine, the next, you’re sitting on 800 unread emails, you’re being instant messaged by your boss and you’re cancelling your 6pm gym class because you just don’t have the energy to do it.
That’s no way to live. Short of throwing your laptop out of the window, it’s important to have a couple of tools up your sleeves for dialing down that stress quickly and refocusing your priorities. You don’t have to be productive all the time… but few of us can afford to simply walk away from work.
Fortunately, there are things we can do to reduce stress in a matter of seconds. The other day, at Stylist’s Restival, mindfulness teacher Kareen Griffiths re-introduced me to something called the ‘raisin meditation’ – a two-minute exercise that almost immediately calms the mind, focuses the attention and dials down the tension.
The first time I came across Griffiths’ raisins was at an event months ago. I was due to participate in a panel discussion later in the evening and was feeling full of anxiety at the prospect of public speaking. And then Griffiths handed me a raisin.
What is ‘raisin mindfulness’?
She got everyone in the room to take a single raisin and start to look at it. I looked at all the lines and crags on the fruit’s surface, noticing the colour gradient between one end and the other. We were invited to notice how the light bounced off the skin and where shadows clung to the crevices. After 20 seconds, Griffiths then asked us to listen to the raisin by holding it up to our ears, rolling it on the tragus, rubbing it between the forefinger and thumb close to the ear hole. It sounded waxy but textured, rough but soft.
Finally, we were invited to pop the raisin on our tongues to feel how it felt in the mouth. One bite released a subtle tang of flavour, the second unleashed a tidal wave of juice.
Suffice to say, it was the best bloody raisin I’d ever tasted.
Why raisin mindfulness works
Not a regular raisin eater, I’d not tried the experiment again… until Griffiths got us to do it at Restival. This time, I knew what to expect but I was still surprised to find just how effective this two-minute practice is.
When was the last time you spent a lot of time concentrating on what you’re eating? This isn’t so much about mindful eating or concentrating on our food habits, but using everyday, simple objects and activities to ground the mind in the present.
GPs recommend mindfulness as a proven way of calming the mind. We previously spoke to Dr Zoe Williams, who suggested spending a few minutes tapping into the five senses by noting:
- Five things you can see
- Four things you can hear
- Three things you can feel (like your toes in your shoes, the air going past you)
- Two things you can smell
- One thing you can taste
But for those of us who need something a little more concrete, the raisin meditation is arguably more effective. You can focus your whole attention on this one thing, starting with sight and touch, moving onto sound and smell and finishing with taste.
Of course, it doesn’t have to be a raisin; you could do this with any fruit, nut or even chocolate (although that probably won’t be as visually interesting). And eventually, you’ll get to a point, Griffiths says, when you won’t need a prop at all. That’s when you could revert to Dr Williams’ five senses meditation.
I’ve got a little box of raisins in my bag and keep a box of dates in my drawer in the office. And despite being a date stan anyway, they taste even more incredible after I’ve spent a couple of minutes really exploring how they look, smell and feel. And after doing those examinations, I’m more focused and calmer, even when the office is super busy and full of distractions.
So, if you tend to feel overwhelmed or stressed during the day but don’t have the time or patience to do a yoga practice or take a mindful walk, grab a raisin. You may just find that those 120 seconds become the highlight of your working day.
For more mindfulness tips, check out the Strong Women Training Club.
Miranda Larbi is the editor of Strong Women and Strong Women Training Club. A qualified personal trainer and vegan runner, she can usually be found training for the next marathon, seeking out vegan treats or cycling across London on a pond-green Tokyo bike.