Mindfulness in elite athletes: conceptualisation, measurement, and application

Emilie Thienot

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Over the last twenty years, mindfulness has generated a large amount of research interest in psychology and cognitive neuroscience, and has gained some recognition as a relevant skill for performance in sport (Bernier, Thienot, Codron, & Fournier, 2009; Gardner & Moore, 2004). The first chapter in this thesis presents an overview of the literature on mindfulness, highlighting the different conceptualisations within the literature, as well as identifying the research gaps within the specific context of sport. The opening study of this thesis was designed to investigate the use of mindfulness processes by elite athletes during competition (using video-stimulated interviews), and to assist in the development of a conceptual mindfulness framework relevant for the sport context. At the conclusion of this study, it is proposed that mindfulness can act as a self- regulatory process in sport. The second study was designed to develop the Mindfulness Inventory for Sport (MIS) using the three-factor model conceptualisation of mindfulness in sport: (1) the ability to be aware of thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations in the present-moment (i.e., meta- awareness); (2) a non-judgmental attitude towards these internal events; (3) the ability to remain focused (or quickly refocus). Results indicated that this three-factor measure displayed an acceptable model fit and the subscales of the MIS displayed favourable correlations with conceptually-related variables such as flow, worry, concentration disruption, and perfectionism. The final study of this thesis was designed to evaluate a program used to train mindfulness according to the three-component conceptual framework. Elite swimmers were tested before and after assignment to a four-week mindfulness training or control condition. Testing included the completion of the MIS, a swimming-task and a balance-task, both involving the use of visual and auditory distractions, and a Stroop task. The focus of attention and ones mindfulness state was assessed for each task using a 7-item self-report form. Analyses revealed that there was no significant multivariate effect for mindfulness training on mindfulness skills, swimming performance, or attention control. However, greater engagement in mindfulness practice during the intervention period was positively correlated with performance outcomes as well as the scores on the MIS. In summary, the results of the three studies presented in this thesis provide a preliminary understanding of mindfulness in sport. This thesis contributes to the literature at a conceptual level by identifying a three-component framework and emphasising the self- regulatory and meta-cognitive characteristics of mindfulness in sport. In addition, this work also contributes on a methodological level by developing a tool to measure the three-component construct as well as outlining relevant mindfulness-based intervention techniques for sport.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2013


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