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Eleven-minute mindfulness practice could help heavy drinkers cut back

A session of mindfulness lasting just 11 minutes could help heavy drinkers start to cut back on alcohol consumption, according to a new study.
Mindfulness

A brief mindfulness session could help heavy drinkers to cut back on alcohol consumption, according to a new study.

Researchers from University College London (UCL) found that heavy drinkers who were shown how to practice mindfulness drank less the following week than those taught relaxation techniques.

Writing in the International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology , the team said they recruited 68 people they had defined as drinking heavily, but not to the point of having an alcohol use disorder.

Half were shown how to be mindful of their cravings instead of suppressing them.

The practice involved them having a heightened awareness of their feelings and bodily sensations, and being told they could tolerate cravings as a temporary event without needing to act

A brief mindfulness session could help heavy drinkers to cut back on alcohol consumption, according to a new study.

Mindfulness
Picture: iStock

Researchers from University College London (UCL) found that heavy drinkers who were shown how to practice mindfulness drank less the following week than those taught relaxation techniques.

Writing in the International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, the team said they recruited 68 people they had defined as drinking ‘heavily, but not to the point of having an alcohol use disorder’.

Half were shown how to be mindful of their cravings instead of suppressing them.

The practice involved them having a heightened awareness of their feelings and bodily sensations, and being told they could tolerate cravings as a temporary event without needing to act on them.

The session, which involved audio recordings lasting only 11 minutes, concluded with participants being encouraged to continue the techniques for a week.

The other half of the volunteers were taught relaxation strategies, with neither the researchers nor those taking part being aware of which group the participants were in.

Benefits

The mindfulness group drank 9.3 units of alcohol – around three pints of beer – fewer in the following week than they had in the week before the study.

There was no significant reduction in alcohol consumption among those who had learned relaxation techniques.

The team hopes that mindfulness could help people to reduce their drinking before more severe problems develop.

Lead author of the study, reader in clinical, education and health psychology at UCL’s clinical psychopharmacology unit, Sunjeev Kamboj, said: ‘We found that a brief, simple exercise in mindfulness can help drinkers cut back, and the benefits can be seen quite quickly.

‘Practising mindfulness can make a person more aware of their tendency to respond reflexively to urges.

‘By being more aware of their cravings, we think the study participants could bring intention back into the equation instead of automatically reaching for a drink when they feel a craving.’


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