11/18/2014 12:38 EST | Updated 11/19/2014 10:59 EST

12 Minutes Of Mindfulness Training Can Take Away Temptations

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If you've ever felt regret over eating a piece of cake, but told yourself you just couldn't help it, you know exactly how hard it is to overcome temptations.

But what if you took a few minutes — 12 in fact — to experience that feeling of temptation, then observe how it passes? That's what the authors of new research suggest can be helpful when it comes to being tempted by others and food.

The new study, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, points to mindfulness training as a tool to help deconstruct our cravings and treat them as just passing thoughts.

The study consisted of three experiments involving university students in the Netherlands, according to Pacific Standard magazine. In the first experiment, students were approached as they walked to their campus cafeteria.

The first third of the group spent 12 minutes looking at pictures of healthy and unhealthy food, then were asked to pay close attention to their responses to each picture and notice, “how they arise, and possibly dissipate, as passing mental states.”

The second group looked at the same pictures, but were told to look at them in a relaxed way. The third group didn't look at the pictures at all. All three groups were asked to rate their hunger afterwards.

The researchers found that those who had used some mindfulness training picked healthier foods than those that did not. This was because their "levels of hunger no longer boosted the attractiveness of unhealthy foods, resulting in healthier eating choices."

In another experiment, students were told to look at pictures of the opposite sex. When asked again to rate the desirability of the people in the pictures, the students who had practiced mindful attention no longer found them as attractive.

Rewarding yourself when confronted with something appealing helps create a craving for it, but taking a few minutes to detach yourself from those feelings and see them as short-lived thoughts can help you overcome them.

While you may not have 12 minutes the next time you're confronted with that platter of brownies, take at least a few minutes to evaluate your reaction -- you could be able to prevent that feeling of regret afterwards.


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