Bad decisions—we’ve all made them, but we’d prefer not to repeat them. It can be anything from eating a piece of cake to choosing a bad partner during last call at the bar. Impulses arise in the moment and it’s hard to take control. But Tom Jacobs of the Pacific Standard has found a study that concludes taking 12 minutes to be mindful of yourself might free you from the motivation to pursue that cake and one-night-stand.
Esther Papies, a Utrecht University psychologist who led the study, says that:
“Mindful attention keeps strong temptations from developing in the first place.”
If you know you’re itching for some sweets, you can pause and turn your attention to these impulsive thoughts. This mindfulness allows you to dissect and recognize your feelings before they grow into an action plan to track down candy or comfort food.
In one experiment, the research team took 114 university undergrads about to walk into the campus cafeteria one-third of them took a 12-minute mindfulness course. Before they sat down to eat, two groups viewed images of healthy and unhealthy foods, but in one group researchers we told to “simply observe all their responses” and notice “how they arise, and possibly dissipate, as passing mental states.” The second group was observed by researchers “closely, and in a relaxed manner.” A third group didn’t see any photos, but were asked to scale their hunger.
Those who took the mindfulness course consumed the same amount of calories, but made more healthy food choices (i.e. salads over chips).
“Mindful attention led to healthier choice patterns among all participants, regardless of their chronic dieting goal.”
The same idea can be used when sexual desire strikes. If you’re itching to have sex, anyone who is available starts to look appealing. You have stars in your eyes when you look at someone across the room, but once you take note that your impulse is nothing more than just that—an impulse–the magic starts to fade.
“…when participants were instructed and trained to see that their experiences were mere thoughts, constructed by their own minds, the stimuli themselves became less attractive, and resisting them became easier.”
Before you make a decision you may regret, it might be best to take 12 minutes to step back and observe. The cake will still be there and the guy or girl across the room might be, too.
Read more at Pacific Standard
Photo Credit: Evgeny Atamanenk/ Shutterstock