How does mindfulness improve self-control?

March 27, 2014 by
Filed under: Research, Spinewave Bulletin 

mindfulness chiropracticWe have emotions for a reason. Anger in response to injustice can signal that the situation needs to change; sadness in response to loss can signal that we’d like to keep the people we love in our lives.

When we ruminate, or get caught up in our emotions, that’s when they might become maladaptive. Emotional regulation can be helpful and healthy.

Previous research has shown that mindfulness can be an effective tool to help regulate our emotions. But why? A new model suggests that the ability to control one’s behaviour – a concept that researchers call executive control – may play a role.

In a recent paper published in Current Directions in Psychological Science, researcher Rimma Teper and her colleagues at the University of Toronto write that despite the common misconception that meditation “empties our head” of emotions, mindfulness actually helps us become more aware and accepting of emotional signals, which helps us to control our behaviour.

So rather than getting rid of emotional experience altogether, this model provides insight into ways in which we can prevent or limit the disruptive aspects of emotions, like rumination. This can be done by monitoring thoughts and sensations, and also by adopting a non-judgmental attitude towards them.

Dr Neil is currently undertaking post-graduate study in mindfulness, chronic pain and the autonomic nervous system.

For more information on mindfulness practice, please email us.

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