Sunday, November 23, 2014

Another drink? Nah man, I'm good with just some breathing

Colleges and universities across the country spend a lot of time and resources addressing this common problem: binge drinking. Binge drinking can hinder students’ learning and academic achievement. Further alarming is how binge drinking leads to bodily injury, sexual assault, and even death. A complex problem with many roots, one team of researchers investigated the impact of a 4-week mindfulness intervention on students’ level of binge drinking.

Results indicated that after the intervention, students in the mindfulness intervention group reported significantly less binge drinking and fewer negative consequences of drinking. Further, they had increased levels of self-efficacy and dispositional mindfulness than the control group.

The authors of the study didn’t fully explore why the mindfulness intervention was successful, so here's a bit of back story based on other research and a plethora of anecdotal evidence. Binge drinking in college students (as well as adults) is often a reaction to difficult emotions - stress, overwhelm, uncertainty about belonging, etc. So one potential mechanism of why the intervention worked would be mindfulness’ strength as an emotion regulation skill. All of us to one degree or another try to soothe ourselves or escape from the difficulty of our current experience in one way or another - chocolate cake, TV, alcohol. Being mindful of our feelings, needs, and behaviors, we can begin to question whether having that next drink, or eating that entire cake is really going to help us feel better. And learning more skillful ways to soothe ourselves (i.e. breath and body practices, cognitive reframing, self-compassion, social connection), then we can be more efficacious in supporting ourselves through the often difficult situations we face in our lives.

Keryn Breiterman-Loader

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