Feelings can shape how people respond to persuasive messages. In health communication, adaptive affective responses to potentially threatening messages constitute one key to intervention success. The current study tested dispositional mindfulness, characterized by awareness of the present moment, as a predictor of adaptive affective responses to potentially threatening health messages and desirable subsequent health outcomes. Both general and discrete negative affective states (i.e., shame) were examined in relation to mindfulness and intervention success. Individuals (n = 67) who reported less than 195 weekly minutes of exercise were recruited. At baseline, participants’ dispositional mindfulness and exercise outcomes were assessed, including self-reported exercise motivation and physical activity. A week later, all participants were presented with potentially threatening and self-relevant health messages encouraging physical activity and discouraging sedentary lifestyle, and their subsequent affective response and exercise motivation were assessed. Approximately 1 month later, changes in exercise motivation and physical activity were assessed again. In addition, participants’ level of daily physical activity was monitored by a wrist-worn accelerometer throughout the entire duration of the study. Higher dispositional mindfulness predicted greater increases in exercise motivation 1 month after the intervention. Importantly, this effect was fully mediated by lower negative affect and shame specifically, in response to potentially threatening health messages among highly mindful individuals. Baseline mindfulness was also associated with increased self-reported vigorous activity, but not with daily physical activity as assessed by accelerometers. These findings suggest potential benefits of considering mindfulness as an active individual difference variable in theories of affective processing and health communication.
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This study was a part of a larger investigation on neural predictors of health behavior change (reported in Cascio et al. 2016; Falk et al. 2015). Although health-related outcomes are included in those previous reports, no reports using this data have focused on individual differences in mindfulness and subsequent motivation changes. We thank Chris Cascio, Kristin Shumaker, and Frank Tinney for research assistance; Larry An, Ken Resnicow, Thad Polk, and Angie Fagerlin for helpful discussions and input; Holly Derry, Ian Moore, and Michele Demers for assistance in developing intervention materials; and the staff of the University of Michigan fMRI Center for support and assistance.
This research was funded by The Michigan Center of Excellence in Cancer Communication Research/NIH Grant P50 CA101451 (principal investigator (PI), V.J. S.), NIH New Innovator Award 1DP2DA03515601 (PI, E.B.F.), and NIH/National Cancer Institute Grant 1R01CA180015-01 (PI, E.B.F.). We also thank HopeLab for generous support.
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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Kang, Y., O’Donnell, M.B., Strecher, V.J. et al. Dispositional Mindfulness Predicts Adaptive Affective Responses to Health Messages and Increased Exercise Motivation. Mindfulness 8, 387–397 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-016-0608-7
- Health communication
- Physical activity