The Potential of Promoting Mindfulness in a University Physical Activity and Wellness Course

The Potential of Promoting Mindfulness in a University Physical Activity and Wellness Course

Michelle Lee D'Abundo (Department of Interprofessional Health Sciences and Health Administration, Seton Hall University, South Orange, NJ, USA), Cara L. Sidman (School of Health and Applied Human Sciences, University of North Carolina Wilmington, Wilmington, NC, USA) and Kelly A. Fiala (Seidel School of Education and Professional Studies, Salisbury University, Salisbury, MD, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/IJAVET.2016010103
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Abstract

Due to its well documented benefits, it has been recommended to integrate mindfulness into health promotion programming. The purpose of this study was to determine if mindfulness was impacted by demographic variables and/or the completion of a stress management unit including mindfulness and application activities focused on paying attention and living in the present. Students completed (n=225) the 15-item Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS) at the beginning and end of a 15-week semester. Student completion of a stress management unit including mindfulness and application activities focused on paying attention and living in the present did not result in improved mindfulness. The extent that instructors covered mindfulness in the lab portion of the course, as well as potentially higher stress levels at the end of the semester, may be factors associated with lower post-course mindfulness. These results, combined with previous research showing mindfulness-based programs to be effective in stress reduction, support the need to directly educate students about mindfulness. It may be advantageous to increase the focus on mindfulness in university lifetime wellness curricula, in addition to improving instructor training and monitoring course fidelity among large multiple-section courses.
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Defining Mindfulness

The concept of mindfulness has become increasingly popular, yet there is no functional definition commonly accepted by all researchers and practitioners. The definition by Jon Kabat-Zinn, a leader and catalyst to the mindfulness movement, is often cited that includes the following: “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally” (Kabat-Zinn, 1994, p.4). Kabat-Zinn more recently proposed the following operational working definition, “the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment” (Kabat-Zinn, 2003, p. 145). In other words, mindfulness is listening, and being present without judgment of yourself or others.

Another mindfulness definition provides further clarification regarding its components, “mindfulness can refer to any one or a combination of three things: 1) a form of awareness, 2) the practice that elevates that form of awareness, and 3) the application of that awareness for specific perceptual and behavioral goals” (Young, 2013, p. 14). Further contributing to the definition of mindfulness, Shapiro, Carlson, Astin, Freedman (2006) posited a theory that mindfulness contains three axioms, intention, attitude, and attention, or “observing one’s moment-to-moment, internal and external experience…in the here and now” (Shapiro et al., 2006, p. 4).

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