Every week during the volleyball season, I attend a cocktail hour with our volleyball coach. He normally brings a player along and we ask questions. Last week’s guest was our star middle blocker. One of the academics in the audience asked her about the wad of gum that was her trademark.
Coach Tom said when he first started coaching, he banned gum, just as our teachers and other adults did for much of our lives. Another coach, though, took him aside and suggested he allow his players to chew. Tom said he was told chewing gum tricked the brain into thinking it was getting an infusion of glucose. He also mentioned this affected the right side of the brain. He related this to creativity. I’d assume being in the right side of the brain helped them get in the zone.
As a near constant gum chewer, this theory interested me. I especially chew a lot when I’m writing. I did some preliminary research on the Internet to see what I could find. An overview article–with links to original research and references–from Forbes mentions many brain benefits of gum chewing, including possible anti-depressant effects, and a boost to both alertness and intellectual performance.
A number of articles referenced chewing and an increase in concentration, with a few in dissent. A Psychology Today summary mentions increased reaction time, which might be why some volleyball players find chewing beneficial. A second study found that chewing decreases anxiety, another factor that might help in a team sport. I’ll continue to look for a connection to creativity or being in the zone while I chomp on!
And if you’d care to comment, I’d find it edifying to hear if gum chewing, donut eating, or anything else helps you concentrate or increases your creativity while writing.