As many of us start the year with aims for healthier lifestyles, we are faced not simply with the creation of new habits but also with the management of temptation.
Over the last decade, a surge of research has emerged in science publications about the psychological and physiological benefits of ancient Eastern mindfulness meditation. Newer research now documents that different forms of mindfulness practice—seated and walking meditations, scanning and relaxing tension through the body, and breathing awareness—may significantly reduce stress, anxiety, and depression symptoms as well as increase self-regulatory behaviors and help develop self-control.
Intrigued by the possibility of mindfulness regulating appetitive behaviors, social psychology professor and expert in dieting and goal-related behavior at Utrecht University, Esther K. Papies, Ph.D., lead a three-part study on the initial effects of mindful attention on behavioral responses to two common appetitive stimuli: food and sex appeal.
When resolving to change our behaviors related to food and sex, much of the battle occurs in the mind before the tasty dish is even in our hands. Among a number of mechanisms, the act of simply looking at food or even just reading appetizing words can stimulate gustatory and pleasure centers in the brain, suggesting that the viewer processes a food cue as if actually eating it. Such mental “reward simulations” are also seen in processing…