Everyday I see so many studies on meditation. These include all types (mindfulness, TM, etc..). The studies only report positive results. Meditation has been purported to increase self-control and willpower. But it seems that implementation intentions combined with mental contrasting would be better. Implementation intentions take the following form: "If I encounter situation X then I will do this." Mental contrasting sets the future goal with the current obstacles and creates an "energization." So it seems that this intervention (MCII) would be better than meditation by itself.

The reason I ask is I have been meditating for a month and have not noticed changes in my self-control. It seems that the so-called benefits of meditation could all be part of a placebo effect.

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    $\begingroup$ People would mention that self-help questions are generally off topic on this site $\endgroup$
    – Alex Stone
    Commented Apr 18, 2013 at 2:25
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    $\begingroup$ So, could you phrase your question more precisely: (a) is it about the effects of mediation on a given outcome? or (b) is it about a critical analysis of existing meditation research? $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 18, 2013 at 4:38
  • $\begingroup$ @guest43434: Perhaps it is possible both together can be more powerful than either alone? $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 20, 2013 at 6:16
  • $\begingroup$ the previous link is not working, do you have a copy of such document? $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 14, 2019 at 8:57

3 Answers 3


I cannot fit this into a comment, so I would post this answer, hoping it may be useful to someone.

The affirmation of the form

"If I encounter situation X then I will do this."

Has been tried by amateurs in the field of lucid dream induction. Lucid dreaming is about realizing that one is dreaming from within a dream. Normally people have very limited self control during dreams, and the affirmation statement attempts to increase it. Such statement usually includes a "dreamsign", followed by an intention to realize the fact that the person is dreaming:

"If I will find myself in math class, I will realize that I'm dreaming, because I have graduated from high school and college, and don't have to take any more math classes for the rest of my life".

Normally, rational thought is very hazy in a dream. For example, a typical scenario is a person may find himself in a math(chemistry/other hard subject) class dream, taking an exam that the person is not prepared for. The rational mind does not question this.

The interesting thing happens (at least to me) when the above mentioned affirmation does get triggered - still without clear rational thought I get up from the desk and walk out of the class. There's no clear awareness of why, but the behavior is changed when the stimuli is experienced.


Did you have a problem with self-control then that you felt needed improvement? "Self-control" is really rather vague- what were you looking for that would have said to you that your self control had "improved"?

Perhaps your self-control is already pretty good. For those who LACK self-control many times their inability is due to their not knowing what having self-control feels like, if you will. It is far easier to return to a state which one has memory of the experience of than it is to get to it for the first time. Meditation has us do that which causes us to be in the mental state we are in when we are practicing self-control. It is like exercise and practiced over time it mainly allows one to "drop into" that mindstate more easily and quickly until one can just remain there.


The trick is that the word "meditation" can be used for many various things. For example, are you sure you understand what is a meditation? Are you sure you're meditating?

Or put it another way, why do you think that "implementation intentions combined with mental contrasting" is not a meditation?

Also, please notice that in the traditions from where we have the notion of meditation, people can spend years before they really get it. I mean, not how to meditate, but what meditation is about.

Effectively, considering your question: either "implementation intentions combined with mental contrasting" is a meditation technique too, or meditation is not about techniques at all. Depends on how you use the word.


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