Very brief mindfulness training could help heavy drinkers to start cutting back. So concludes a new study that found that as little as 11 minutes of mindfulness training helped heavy drinkers to reduce their alcohol intake in the following week.
An article in Medical News Today announced that researchers from University College London (UCL) in the United Kingdom ran an experiment that compared the effect of "ultra-brief" mindfulness training against relaxation training (the controls).
Lead author Dr. Sunjeev Kamboj, deputy director of the Clinical Psychopharmacology Unit at UCL, says, "We found that a very brief, simple exercise in mindfulness can help drinkers cut back, and the benefits can be seen quite quickly."
Writing in the International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, he and his colleagues explain that in recent years, there has been much interest in incorporating mindfulness training into psychological treatments for addiction.
Mindfulness training teaches people to heighten their "moment-to-moment awareness" of what is going on in the mind without judging it. Thus, when a craving arises, mindfulness training teaches you how to just observe the sensations, thoughts, and feelings of that moment without evaluating or analyzing them.
"As such, this process is antithetical to the fixation upon and elaboration of desire states that characterize addictions," note the authors.
One theory is that by suspending judgment, mindfulness helps individuals to become more aware of their automatic responses to stimuli and that alternatives are possible, even if it is just to observe without reaction. This, in turn, leads to "uncoupling between drug-taking and automatic motivational tendencies."
Many studies have already suggested that mindfulness-based treatments are "superior" to alternatives for helping people to overcome problems with substance use.