Chocolate cravings can rival those of highly addictive drugs—but now there might be a pretty simple solution.
Sure, meditation has been scientifically associated with lowering blood pressure, diminishing some symptoms of autism, and alleviating PTSD. But far and away the greatest benefit of mindfulness may just have been revealed by Australian researchers: Meditation may cure you of your debilitating chocolate addiction.
The researchers tested two mindfulness techniques and found that it can indeed help practitioners learn to curb their chocolate cravings.
We probably don't need to tell you that chocolate addiction is no joke. Previous research has revealed that people experience feelings of intense pleasure and craving while indulging in chocolate—just like they do when they take drugs. What's more, people get dependent on chocolate because it has that drug-like effect on them, scientists say.
The Australian researchers decided to attack the problem by examining the "elaborated-intrusion theory of desire," which says that desire for food is a two-step process. First, there is the "initial intrusion" stage, when the desired food captures our attention, and then there's the "elaborated mental imagery" stage, when we focus in on—and obsess over—the object of our desire. The new study, which was published in the journal Appetite, looked at whether mindfulness could successfully combat both of these stages.
Bottom line: Yes, mindfulness can distract us long enough to drop and step away from the offending—but deliciously compelling—chocolate.
The study was led by Sophie Schumacher, a PhD candidate at Flinders. She and her colleagues tested two groups of women: a general group, who had no special love of chocolate, and another group who are really into the stuff. The scientists studied the women's chocolate-related thoughts, the intrusiveness of those thoughts, the vividness of the imagery in their minds, their craving intensity, and, ultimately, chocolate consumption.
Participants were randomly assigned to practice two mindfulness techniques: something called "cognitive defusion" and good old-fashioned guided imagery. A control group was told to let their minds wander. Cognitive defusion works by having the subject distance herself from the craving thought, and "see it as something that doesn't need to be followed up with an action." In guided imagery, the subjects distracted themselves from the offending chocolate by focusing on something else—like a beautiful beach or other peaceful place.
The results? Cognitive defusion was found to lower intrusiveness of thoughts, vividness of imagery, and craving intensity for both groups. Guided imagery reduced chocolate-related thoughts, intrusiveness, vividness, and craving intensity but only for the chocolate lovers, not for the general population. All in all, the researchers say that their results "suggest that acceptance- and imagery-based techniques have potential for use in combatting problematic cravings."
Which brings us to this important question: Does the Dalai Lama already know about this shit? We have a feeling that the answer is yes. Of course, he does.