Mindful thinking can help you change your behavior

Created date

April 6th, 2017
Senior Asian man looking thoughtful, resting chin on hand.

More than likely, you hear information or advice about your health several times each day—whether the source is your doctor, your family, television, or the radio. If you’re like a lot of us, you forget about it as you go about your daily routines.

Some people disregard certain health messages because they think the topic doesn’t pertain to them. Other people view it as “nagging,” especially if it comes from a (albeit well-meaning) spouse or family member. 

Now, in a new study, researchers have found that paying more than passing attention to what you hear may help you give more consideration to health messages and make better choices—big or small.

It’s called mindful thinking or mindfulness, which essentially means that when a thought occurs to you, you think about how it pertains to you in the present, not in the context of the past or the future.

Awareness scale

The researchers exposed a group of people who exercised very little to several different health messages. Their reactions were observed and recorded, and each participant also completed a Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS). The MAAS is composed of 15 scenarios such as “I forget a person’s name almost as soon as I’ve been told it for the first time” and “I tend to walk quickly to get where I’m going without paying attention to what I experience along the way,” that are answered on a scale of 1 to 6, ranging from “almost always” to “almost never.” The higher a person’s total score, the more mindful that person is.

The participants were later asked if they had changed their behavior. Results showed that less mindful people were less likely to make a positive change in behavior as a response to health messaging; whereas, more mindful people reacted less negatively and were more likely to change to healthier behaviors.

The researchers hope that more people will get healthier by learning to cultivate mindfulness.