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Can mindfulness help us to be healthier? A recent study by the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania found that mindfulness can motivate us to make healthier choices, increasing positive health behaviour. But how?

Mindfulness & Exercise Motivation: We like the sound of that

Here at PPC we’re in training for the Great North Run so you can imagine how our interest was piqued by the promise of an extra dose of motivation. In the cold, dark and let’s face it, usually wet days at this time of year, it can be a struggle to get out and pound the pavements.

Increased motivation

The researchers at Penn University discovered that people who were mindful were more likely to take heed of health advice, making positive behavioural changes as a result. Subjects were asked to complete the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MASS). Those who had lower totals on the MASS were less likely to implement positive changes in their health related behaviour. Instead, they just felt bad about themselves when having health related conversations. The opposite was true of those with high mindful scores who reported experiencing increased exercise motivation.

Putting it into practice

Here’s a short one minute mindful breathing practice that we’ll be doing before each run. We will, of course, report back on the results.

Mindful breathing for one minute.
Lower your eyes and observe your breath. Perhaps you notice the air going in and out at your nostrils, into the nasal cavities and down your throat into the lungs? As best you can, notice what’s here, right now.

Maybe you can detect the rise and fall of your chest or stomach. If you don’t notice anything, place your hand on your abdomen and observe how your hand gently rises and falls with your breath. If it feels comfortable to do so, lengthen the in breath and the out breath or just breathe naturally.
Focus on your breath. When your mind wanders, as it will, notice the distraction and bring your attention back to your breath.

Reference: Yoona Kang, Matthew Brook O’Donnell, Victor J. Strecher, Emily B. Falk. Dispositional Mindfulness Predicts Adaptive Affective Responses to Health Messages and Increased Exercise Motivation. Mindfulness, 2016; DOI: 10.1007/s12671-016-0608-7

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