Study: Mindfulness Fosters Willpower

A study linking mindfulness practice to lower glucose levels also discovers that mindfulness motivates you to lead a healthier life.

No, researchers have not discovered that mindfulness helps you lose weight and fight obesity. But an epidemiologist at Brown University just released a study calling out the “greater sense of control” and “lower risk of obesity” associated with people who have a high degree of everyday mindfulness.

The study was actually looking at how mindfulness might be connected to heart health, but in the process they found that people who are mindful are also more likely to have healthy glucose levels.

The study authors make it clear that this research does not prove causation. In other words, we can’t say: meditate and your glucose levels will become healthy. They simply found an association between mindfulness and normal glucose levels. They did not prove that there’s any link between mindfulness and your risk of type 2 diabetes. Instead, what’s interesting about this research is what it says about people who practice mindfulness.

When the researchers tried to drill down into the specific factors that explain the link between mindfulness and glucose levels they narrowed it down to two things: obesity risk and sense of control. In their analysis:

“Mindful people are less likely to be obese and are more likely to believe they can change many of the important things in their life.”

That’s right—mindful practitioners are both less likely to be obese (kudos) and more likely to feel empowered to change their lives. If you’re a practitioner, you might know these things already (although, meditators come in all sorts of healthy shapes and sizes). If you don’t yet have a mindfulness practice, this study provides a window into the kinds of benefits meditators often talk about. Namely: our lives are changeable, and meditation is a powerful motivator for that change.

The study says that people practicing mindfulness may be better able to motivate themselves to exercise, resist cravings for high-fat, high-sugar foods, and stick with a diet and exercise program.

It’s these modifiable wellness factors that can help you lead a healthy, empowered life. We suggest you combine the elements of mindfulness and willpower into a mindful eating practice and see what happens.