New research suggests that mindfulness meditation helps people to reduce tobacco use and manage stress, according to scientists Michael Posner and Yi-Yuan Tang.
It has long been established that addiction to drugs, alcohol, and even cigarettes involves a specific area of the brain related to self-control. This area, which is located in the fronto-median cortex, has been studied by researchers using brain scans and other brain imaging methods. In a recent study conducted by scientists at the University of Oregon, researchers wanted to determine if they could use a meditation program designed to target the area of the brain related to self-control and addiction in order to influence cigarette smokers to reduce their tobacco use.
A method of mindfulness meditation known as Integrative Body-Mind Training (IBMT) was utilized. IBMT is a form of guided mediation involving whole body relaxation, mental imagery, and mindfulness training led by an expert. IBMT meditation has long been practiced in the Far East, especially China. It has been the focus of research recently in the West for its potential impact on a variety of stresses and related brain changes, including function and structure. The authors of this study, Michael Posner and Yi-Yuan Tang, have worked in conjunction on a series of studies involving IBMT. This form of meditation doesn’t focus on forcing participants to resist craving or quit smoking, but rather it focuses on improving self-control and the ability to resist craving and related smoking behavior.
Although the scope of the study was relatively small, involving only 27 subjects who are cigarette smokers, the findings were significant. The smokers who practiced IBMT meditation reduced their smoking rates by 60 percent, while those who did no meditation didn’t reduce their cigarette smoking at all. Those who were involved in IBMT also were found to have significantly reduced their overall craving for cigarettes. One of the researchers involved commented on the findings and takes them a step further, saying “Because mindfulness meditation promotes personal control and has been shown to positively affect attention and openness to internal and external experiences, we believe that mediation may be helpful for coping with symptoms of addiction.”
However, researchers caution that the results of this study are based upon a small pool of participants and a time period of only 6 weeks, with one stating “This is an early finding, but an encouraging one. It may be that for the reduction or quitting to have a lasting effect, smokers will need to continue to practice meditation for a longer period.”
Additional investigation is warranted.
One of the most fascinating aspects of this study involves the subjects, who were smokers and had no desire to reduce their habits. Similar studies on smoking usually recruit folks desiring to quit or cut back. However, in this particular scenario, a different approach was used. They sought volunteers interested in lowering stress and improving personal performance.
The results of the study have been published online in the Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, entitled “Brief meditation training induces smoking reduction.”
“Area Responsible for ‘Self-control’ Found in the Human Brain.” Phys.org. Phys.org, 21 Aug. 2007. Web. 05 Sept. 2013.
Nauert, Rick, Ph. D. “Mindfulness Meditation Can Reduce Tobacco Cravings | Psych Central News.” PsychCentral.com. Psych Central, 6 Aug. 2013. Web. 05 Sept. 2013.
Filed under: Addiction, Latest News, Recovery, Research, Spirituality · Tags: Addiction, alcohol cravings, Cigarette smokers, Cravings, IBMT, Integrative Body-Mind Training, meditation, Michael Posner, mindfulness, nicotine, positive effects of meditation, self control, smokers, smoking, stress, stress management, tobacco, University of Oregon, Yi-Yuan Tang