Natural Health News — For heavy drinkers cutting back can be difficult – even if the willingness is there.
But new research from the UK suggests that brief training in mindfulness strategies could help.
After a short training session and encouragement to continue practising mindfulness – which involves focusing on what’s happening in the present moment – heavy drinkers drank less over the next week than people who were taught relaxation techniques, according to the study published in the International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology.
“We found that a very brief, simple exercise in mindfulness can help drinkers cut back, and the benefits can be seen quite quickly,” said the study’s lead author, Dr Sunjeev Kamboj of University College London’s Clinical Psychopharmacology Unit.
The researchers brought in 68 drinkers, who drink heavily but not to the point of having an alcohol use disorder.
» For heavy drinkers cutting back can be difficult – even if the willingness is there.
» A new study has foudn that after one short training session in mindfulness – which involves focusing on what’s happening in the present moment – heavy drinkers drank less over the next week.
» Severe alcohol problems are often preceded by patterns of heavy drinking and suggest mindfulness could help to reduce drinking before more severe problems develop.
Half of them were trained, using an 11 minute audio recording, to practise mindfulness, which teaches a heightened awareness of one’s feelings and bodily sensations, so that they pay attention to cravings instead of suppressing them.
The other half were taught relaxation strategies, chosen as a control condition that appeared to be just as credible as the mindfulness exercise for reducing alcohol use.
A significant reduction
At the end of the training participants were encouraged to continue practising the techniques for the next week.
The mindfulness group drank 9.3 fewer units of alcohol (roughly equivalent to three pints of beer) in the following week compared to the week preceding the study. There was no significant reduction in alcohol consumption among those who had learned relaxation techniques.
“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 were able to bring intention back into the equation, instead of automatically reaching for the drink when they feel a craving,” Dr Kamboj said.
Severe alcohol problems are often preceded by patterns of heavy drinking, so the researchers are hopeful that mindfulness could help to reduce drinking before more severe problems develop.
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