How to Resist Temptation in 12 Minutes

You’ve heard about mindfulness. It can reduce stress, help you be less influenced by others, and improve your decision making. One more for the list: it can help you beat temptation.

A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Science has found that a mere twelve minutes of training in mindfulness  can help you beat everyday temptations, like eating unhealthy food or not sleep with the wrong person.

In one experiment, researchers approached 114 university undergraduates on their way to the cafeteria. One third did a twelve-minute long training course in mindfulness. Using a computer, they looked at a series of pictures of food, healthy and unhealthy. All they had to do was “observe all their responses” to the images. Another third of the students looked at the pictures too, but were merely told to study them closely. A final third didn’t look at the pictures at all. All subjects rated their levels of hunger as they went to the cafeteria.

All groups ate roughly the same amount of calories, but the third who did the mindfulness exercise made healthier choices, going with more salads and fewer snacks or deserts. Researchers write, “Mindful attention led to healthier choice patterns among all participants, regardless of their chronic dieting goal.”

In another experiment, 78 heterosexuals looked at pictures of the opposite sex; half of the subjects did the same mindfulness prior. They then had to rate the attractiveness and possible desirability as a romantic partner of each of the people in the photographs. Interestingly, “Mindful attention decoupled participants’ sexual motivation from their behaviour toward potential partners by reducing the impact of sexual motivation on perceived attractiveness.”

More to the point: when you’re horny, everyone looks pretty good. When you aren’t, you’re able to think more clearly and maybe not sleep with the wrong person. Mindfulness managed to make that happen for a group of students.

According to the researchers, “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.”

Not a bad deal for something that takes a scant twelve minutes to master.



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