MINDFULNESS AND HEALTH BEHAVIORS: DOES AUTONOMOUS MOTIVATION MEDIATE ASSOCIATIONS BETWEEN MINDFULNESS AND HEALTH BEHAVIORS IN COLLEGE STUDENTS?
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College is a critical period for the development of life-long health behaviors, and college students are particularly vulnerable to engaging in high risk health behaviors, including physical inactivity and poor nutritional habits, that are risk factors for the development of chronic diseases. Current interventions aimed at promoting positive health behaviors in this population have shown limited efficacy. However, prior research suggests that both mindfulness and autonomous motivation are important theoretical constructs in health promotion and disease prevention research and intervention. To date, limited research has been conducted to understand the relationship amongst mindfulness, autonomous motivation, and health behaviors. This study examined the relationship between mindfulness, autonomous motivation, and health behaviors in college students. Based on self-determination theory, it was hypothesized that autonomous motivation would mediate the relationship between mindfulness and health behaviors, specifically physical activity and fruit and vegetable intake. Participants were 187 college students who completed a series of online questionnaires including demographic information, mindfulness, autonomous motivation for physical activity and to eat fruits and vegetables, physical activity, and fruit and vegetable intake. Results indicated that autonomous motivation to eat fruits and vegetables mediated the association between mindfulness and fruit and vegetable intake. Similarly, autonomous motivation for physical activity mediated the association between mindfulness and physical activity. These findings support autonomous motivation as a mechanism through which mindfulness impacts health behaviors. Thus, mindfulness should be incorporated into the self-determination theory of health-behavior change and represents a promising avenue for health behavior intervention in college students.