How do non-meditators learn brief mindfulness and apply it to their food cravings? A qualitative study.
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Mindfulness, in the secular context, refers to an awareness which arises from paying attention to one’s experiences in the present moment non-judgementally. Mindfulness-based interventions are most commonly delivered over several weeks. However, research shows that mindfulness-based instructions as brief as 3-12 minutes hold benefits for various domains of mental health and wellbeing, including the domain of food cravings. However, the majority of these findings are based on experimental research, and not much is known about individual experiences. Here, in a qualitative study, we explored how individuals learn brief mindfulness techniques and apply them to their food cravings. Ten non-meditators viewed a video of attractive foods, which aimed to bring their food-related experiences into conscious awareness. Following, they listened to a 5-minute recording of mindfulness instructions and viewed another food video while applying these. We conducted interviews after each food video. Our results showed that while applying brief mindfulness, individuals were able to change how they related to their food-related experiences. They started perceiving them as transient, rather than something that they needed to act upon. Specific factors such as the use of visual metaphors facilitated the process of learning and applying brief mindfulness techniques. Participants expressed that they would apply mindfulness in their daily lives if they identified a need, including other domains than food. Nevertheless, they expected some challenges such as finding the time and remembering to apply the technique. These findings may inform future research and the development of accessible interventions in various areas of health and wellbeing.