At Sensory Intelligence® Consulting, we have always had a special interest in promoting effective learning in schools, improving wellness and productivity in corporate businesses & call centres and helping individuals to live a balanced, healthy life. And now Tiger Woods – winning his 5th Master’s title – has shown that Sensory Intelligence® is just as important in sport as well.
Our founder and CEO, Dr Annemarie Lombard, has been talking about the benefits of chewing gum for a very long time. She might be the only person who highly recommends that school children should be chewing gum in class – with the necessary rules in place of course! And her reason for this is based on neuroscience – a field she is passionate about.
Annemarie did a PhD through the University of Cape Town, focusing on how we are affected by our direct environment. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines environment as “the circumstances, objects, or conditions by which one is surrounded”. We experience everything in our environment through our senses. And becoming Sensory Intelligent® means understanding how our senses affect the way we work, learn, live and play. Everyone is familiar with the 5 senses of hearing, seeing, feeling, smelling and tasting. But there are 2 additional senses – the proprioceptive and vestibular senses. By chewing gum, the brain receives proprioceptive messages which are known to regulate (organise) the brain.
This brings about the following benefits:
- It improves cognitive functions like focus, concentration and reaction times
- It promotes alertness – and even better if you chew a mint-flavoured gum to give your senses and additional boost
- It helps to decrease stress levels by decreasing cortisol levels, the stress hormone
- Another sensory benefit is that it freshens your breath and can help fight bacteria
- Some research has shown that it might even prevent ear infection. What we do know is that it can reduce ear pain during flights.
How does this work?
It’s all neuroscience, aka brain stuff. The brain is the most complex object in the universe – we understand parts of it but research into its complexity is ongoing. Two insights regarding the brain and self-regulation:
- The mouth is a primary self-regulation tool to calm and organise the brain. We use the mouth to eat, chew, crunch, blow, suck, spit and smoke to gain personal composure on a totally unconscious level. These mouth actions utilise the muscles in the mouth, tongue and jaw area. When muscles move, the brain receives proprioceptive messages which are known to regulate the brain. Babies understand this intuitively at birth and will suck to calm and feed. These are automatic, reflexive loops built into the brain for survival.
- Proprioception is our universal modulator. Any movement of the body against resistance will activate muscles and joints to process information and send it to the brain for use, and in the case of proprioception will be to organise and regulate.
So there you have it – gum is a wonderful self-regulation tool – it combines the mouth and proprioception – a match made in heaven!
*Disclaimer – we hate any gum anywhere else. It should be in your mouth, or in the trash can. Not on sidewalks or underneath tables, please?