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OBJECTIVE: Mindfulness-based interventions have been increasingly applied to treat eating-related problems ranging from obesity to eating disorders. Yet few studies have empirically examined the mechanisms of a mindful approach to eating. The current studies examine the potential of brief mindfulness instructions to enhance the psychological and behavioral dimensions of eating.METHODS: In three experiments (total N = 319 undergraduates), we examined whether brief mindfulness instructions would enhance the positive sensory experience involved in tasting food as well as healthy eating behaviors. RESULTS: Relative to distraction control instructions, the first two studies demonstrated that brief mindfulness instructions increased the enjoyment of a commonly pleasurable food (chocolate; Study 1), and a food with generally more mixed associations (raisins; Study 2). The third study replicated and extended these findings to show that brief mindfulness instructions also led to lower calorie consumption of unhealthy food relative to distracted or no-instruction control conditions, an effect mediated by greater eating enjoyment. CONCLUSIONS: Findings demonstrated the power of brief mindfulness instructions to positively impact both health-relevant behavior and sensory experience associated with eating food. Implications for both theory and clinical applications of mindfulness are discussed.

The current study investigated whether a 15min recorded focused breathing induction in a normal, primarily undergraduate population would decrease the intensity and negativity of emotional responses to affectively valenced picture slides and increase willingness to remain in contact with aversive picture slides. The effects of the focused breathing induction were compared with the effects of 15min recorded inductions of unfocused attention and worrying. The focused breathing group maintained consistent, moderately positive responses to the neutral slides before and after the induction, whereas the unfocused attention and worry groups responded significantly more negatively to the neutral slides after the induction than before it. The focusing breathing group also reported lower negative affect and overall emotional volatility in response to the post-induction slides than the worry group, and greater willingness to view highly negative slides than the unfocused attention group. The lower-reported negative and overall affect in response to the final slide blocks, and greater willingness to view optional negative slides by the focused breathing group may be viewed as more adaptive responding to negative stimuli. The results are discussed as being consistent with emotional regulatory properties of mindfulness.

The current study investigated whether a 15 min recorded focused breathing induction in a normal, primarily undergraduate population would decrease the intensity and negativity of emotional responses to affectively valenced picture slides and increase willingness to remain in contact with aversive picture slides. The effects of the focused breathing induction were compared with the effects of 15 min recorded inductions of unfocused attention and worrying. The focused breathing group maintained consistent, moderately positive responses to the neutral slides before and after the induction, whereas the unfocused attention and worry groups responded significantly more negatively to the neutral slides after the induction than before it. The focusing breathing group also reported lower negative affect and overall emotional volatility in response to the post-induction slides than the worry group, and greater willingness to view highly negative slides than the unfocused attention group. The lower-reported negative and overall affect in response to the final slide blocks, and greater willingness to view optional negative slides by the focused breathing group may be viewed as more adaptive responding to negative stimuli. The results are discussed as being consistent with emotional regulatory properties of mindfulness.