Mindfulness interventions can help people change unhealthful behaviors, such as smoking, drinking, and overeating. However, fostering self-compassion may be crucial for the interventions’ success, according to a review of existing research.
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Most people are aware that adopting a more healthful lifestyle can bring enormous benefits for their physical and mental well-being. However, initiating and sustaining the necessary changes, such as quitting smoking, getting more exercise, and eating a more healthful diet, can be challenging.
According to a roundup of research published in Harvard Review of Psychiatry, mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) can improve a person’s ability to change their behavior by boosting their capacity for focused attention and emotion regulation.
In 1977, Jon Kabat-Zinn of the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester began creating the first MBI called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. He defined mindfulness as “awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.”
In recent years, psychiatrists have developed other MBIs tailored for specific conditions. These include mindfulness-based relapse prevention, for helping people overcome addictions to alcohol and illicit drugs, and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, for preventing relapse in depression.
The authors of the new review, led by Dr. Zev Schuman-Olivier of Harvard Medical School in Boston, MA, cite clinical evidence that MBIs can reduce a wide range of unhealthful behaviors, such as smoking and binge eating.
They also cite preliminary research, which suggests that MBIs can improve patients’ ability to manage chronic conditions, such as hypertension, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and diabetes.