Mindfulness Supports “Wise” Indulgence

A recent study finds that mindfulness may not help us overcome all of our urges, just the ones that count.

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Mindfulness has been positively linked with emotional regulation and self-control, leading many to tout it as the secret sauce for making behavioral changes and achieving goals, like losing weight. Indeed, brain scans have shown that regular meditation practice strengthens the brain’s “executive functions,” a set of cognitive processes that, among other things, helps us to control our behavior and to set and reach goals.

But a new study found that when it comes to exerting self-restraint over our desires, it’s the conviction in the perceived payoff that matters.

For the study “State Mindfulness and Self-Regulation,” researchers at Saarland University in Saarbruecken, Germany, and at the University of Cologne, Germany, tested how people experienced and dealt with their desires when in a self-reported mindful state.

That last bit is an important distinction, says study author Malte Friese, Ph.D. State mindfulness refers to a temporal experience that varies within you, from one moment to another or over the course of the day. For this study, it was measured by a set of tailored questions to suss out study participants’ internal experience.

Trait mindfulness, on the other hand, speaks to a person’s general disposition, a part of…