Being Mindful of Thoughts and Feelings Benefits Glucose Control
The reason some people are more disciplined in diabetes management might partly be owed to their degree of dispositional mindfulness.
Dispositional mindfulness refers to people's awareness of their thoughts and feelings in the present moment.
A study done at Brown University indicates that dispositional mindfulness “may be associated with better glucose regulation, in part because of a lower likelihood of obesity and greater sense of control among participants with higher levels of mindfulness.” This greater sense of control translates into being better at managing cravings and habits that can undermine health.
Fortunately, the Brown study doesn’t mean the more outwardly focused among us are doomed to go through life with a lesser degree of diabetes discipline. As with most skills, those who are not naturally inclined to be mindful can always learn.
Some people, for instance, are born with the ability to draw a tree that actually looks like a tree, while others reach adulthood drawing trees that look as if they grow on a two-dimensional planet called Draconia. However, with a bit of effort, anyone can learn to draw a recognizable Earth species of tree.
Similarly, certain individuals come into the world with an inclination to notice each moment’s thoughts and sensations, while others reach adulthood inattentive to internal nuances. Yet, with a little effort, anyone can teach themselves to become more mentally and emotionally mindful.
That’s not to say anyone should become more mindful, just as no one must learn to replicate a tree on paper. Yet, mindfulness apparently gives people an edge when it comes to weight and glucose control, and that may be reason enough to cultivate the art of paying attention to current inner realities.
Upgrading our inner attentiveness can be done by practicing yoga, qigong, Tai Chi, or any type of meditation, but there are also simple things people can do throughout a busy day to boost internal awareness. For instance, we might:
- Select a "reminder activity," a task done frequently each day such as washing hands. Then, every time we engage in that behavior we also tune into our emotional state, or how we are feeling.
- Practice, at least once a day, giving our full attention to someone speaking with us. This means focusing on their words without thinking about or observing other things.
- A few times each day, no matter how annoying it may feel, we might purposely walk from here to wherever more slowly than usual, noticing what’s going on around us, and within.
- Choose an activity done each day, such as brushing our teeth, and always do it mindfully—being attentive only to the physical sensations created by doing the task.
Just practicing one of these exercises continuously over several weeks can make a mindful difference. It creates a more conscious and deliberate consideration of the emotional and physical sensations influencing our behavior. This, in turn, may help us mindfully manage the cravings and habits that can sabotage blood sugar control, and compromise overall well being.