Looking for a way to keep cravings in check? You might want to give breathing exercises a try. A new review from City, University of London reports that mindfulness strategies, such as meditation, interrupt food and drug cravings. Specifically, mindfulness techniques engage the portion of the mind that controls short-term memory, which diffuses cravings in the moment.
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A 30-study review reveals mindfulness meditation reduces cravings
The review of 30 studies confirms what ancient Buddhist texts articulated all along – cravings (which lead to suffering, say Buddhists) are avoidable through mindfulness meditation practice. The compilation of studies reveals that mindfulness strategies are effective because they interrupt cravings by loading “working memory” – a part of short-term memory associated with perception and language skills. Additionally, the review asserts that mindfulness reduces cravings over the medium-term, due to the “extinction process.” This means by meditating, you block cravings and related behaviors at the onset, which translates to reduced cravings overall.
“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. 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,” says Dr. Katy Tapper, author of the review and a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Psychology at City, University of London.
Practice mindfulness to strengthen your willpower and avoid cravings
Mindfulness interventions like meditation encompass a variety of goals including cultivating greater awareness of bodily sensations, creating an attitude of acceptance towards discomfort, and even helping you to perceive yourself as distinct from your thoughts and emotions. In other words – you don’t have to act on every urge or impulse. Mindfulness teaches you to observe and accept the present moment – without judgment. This trains your brain to build resilience against discomfort and distractions, like pain or cravings.
Related: The Benefits of Meditation
In Bulletproof speak, reacting mindlessly to external stimuli is letting your “Labrador brain” get the best of you. Your Labrador brain is the area that controls your survival instincts and urges you to pursue food and sex impulses indiscriminately. This can make you want to devour everything in the fridge. However, there are ways to tame (and train) your Labrador – through willpower, which, just like any other muscle in your body, can get stronger and more resilient with practice. Meditation helps flex your willpower muscles by adding a moderating step between impulse and action, so you don’t act on your impulses as readily. Get specific tips on how to strengthen your willpower muscle here to get a handle on those cravings once and for all.
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