Mindfulness Reduces Cravings

In a project to study the effects of meditation on smoking behaviors, 60 participants were enrolled in a Texas Tech University and University of Oregon research study. About half of the participants were smokers and the other half were not.

The participants were only told they would either learn “integrative body–mind training” or shutterstock_189115727a simple relaxation technique. Integrative body-mind training “….is a form of mindfulness meditation that involves body relaxation, mental imagery, and mindfulness training accompanied by selected music background. Cooperation between the body and the mind is emphasized in facilitating and achieving a meditative state.”

No one knew the researchers were really measuring how mindfulness meditation affects smoking behavior. Before the study started each participant had an MRI scan of the brain, completed a questionnaire and received a carbon dioxide breath test.

The smokers who were assigned to the mindfulness meditation group, smoked 60% fewer cigarettes than the non-mindfulness meditation group. This was measured by the breath test. Interestingly, the smokers didn’t even realize they had cut back so much on their smoking.

When you try to change a behavior, such as quitting smoking or going on a diet, you suddenly start craving those things even more. Being mindful doesn’t create this tension between what you want and what you can’t have. Instead, it helps bring better balance and well-being to life, which can help transform unhealthy behaviors.

UC Berkley offers many free resources to learn more about mindfulness. You can learn more here.

The information contained on this site is for educational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for diagnosis or treatment rendered by a licensed medical professional. It is essential that you discuss with your primary care provider any symptoms or medical problems that you may be experiencing.

Circuitry of self-control and its role in reducing addiction, Yi-Yuan Tang et al., Trends in Cognitive Sciences, doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2015.06.007, published online 30 July 2015

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