Mindfulness may help to prevent cravings for food or even cigarettes or alcohol.
The practice works by keeping busy the part of the mind that relates to the cravings.
Regular practice may be even more beneficial.
A study at the City University of London has found that mindfulness helps cravings by occupying short-term memory.
The strategy brought about an immediate reduction in craving which the researchers defined as an “intense, conscious desire” for a specific food or drug.
The findings are in line with the teachings of the ancient Buddhist texts which stipulated that craving leads to suffering but can be avoided through mindfulness meditation practice.
The interventions employ a range of different strategies like exercises to promote greater awareness of bodily sensations, developing an attitude of acceptance for uncomfortable feelings or helping individuals see themselves as separate from their thoughts and emotions.
The scientists looked at 30 studies and found that mindfulness interrupted cravings by filling the part of our short-
term memory which is linked to the area of cravings.
Regular practice reduced cravings even further.
“The research suggests that certain mindfulness-based strategies may help prevent or interrupt cravings by occupying a part of our mind that contributes to the development of cravings” explains Dr Katy Tapper, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Psychology at the University.
“Whether mindfulness strategies are more effective than alternative strategies, such as engaging in visual imagery, has yet to be established.
“However, there is also some evidence to suggest that engaging in regular mindfulness practice may reduce the extent to which people feel the need to react to their cravings, though further research is needed to confirm such an effect.”
The study is published in the Clinical Psychology Review.