Brief mindfulness exercise and response conflict about unhealthy food
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People are constantly triggered by tempting, unhealthy food, which makes them easily come into cognitive conflict when making food choices and therefore require self-control to choose the healthier option. The lower the response conflict the less self-control is needed and the happier and healthier people are. Practicing mindfulness has beneficial effects on reducing response conflict. However, in modern, fast-paced lives, time is precious and people do not have time for extended mindfulness exercises. Therefore, this study examined if a brief, single mindfulness exercise would be an effective tool to avoid making unhealthy food choices and, if so, which components of mindfulness – present-moment awareness, acceptance and decentering – would contribute to the effect. The study is an experimental cross-sectional design offered online. It included 86 participants, who were randomly assigned to either a 10-minute mindfulness or history audio. After the audio, participants were shown unhealthy food images and were asked to rate their conflicts towards them. In contrast to expectations, no direct or mediating effects were found between a mindfulness exercise and response conflict about unhealthy food. The small sample size and, therefore also, the lenient exclusion criteria could explain the lack of significant results in the study. Moreover, the strong correlation found between present-moment awareness and acceptance, provokes further investigation about the use of components. This study suggests that the state mindfulness components relevant for response conflict are not obvious, and that further research with a larger sample size is needed to draw more concrete conclusions.