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Ultra-Brief Breath Counting (Mindfulness) Training Abolishes Negative Affect–Induced Alcohol Motivation in Hazardous Community Drinkers

Bakou, A. E. ORCID: 0000-0002-4813-7212, Hardy, L., Shuai, R. , Wright, K. & Hogarth, L. (2024). Ultra-Brief Breath Counting (Mindfulness) Training Abolishes Negative Affect–Induced Alcohol Motivation in Hazardous Community Drinkers. Mindfulness, 15(3), pp. 653-664. doi: 10.1007/s12671-024-02315-8


Mindfulness therapy improves drinking outcomes arguably by attenuating negative mood–induced drinking, but this mechanism has not been demonstrated in hazardous community drinkers. To address this, three studies tested whether a key ingredient of mindfulness, breath counting, would attenuate the increase in motivation for alcohol produced by experimentally induced negative mood, in hazardous community drinkers.

In three studies, hazardous community drinkers were randomized to receive either a 6-min breath counting training or listen to a recited extract from a popular science book, before all participants received a negative mood induction. Motivation for alcohol was measured before and after listening to either the breath counting training or the control audio files, with a craving questionnaire in two online studies (n = 122 and n = 111), or an alcohol versus food picture choice task in a pub context in one in-person study (n = 62).

In Study 1, breath counting reduced alcohol craving. However, since the mood induction protocol did not increase craving, the effect of breath counting in reversing such increase could not be demonstrated. Online breath counting eliminated the increase in alcohol craving induced by negative mood (Study 2) and eliminated the stress-induced increase in alcohol picture choice in the pub environment (Study 3).

Briefly trained breath counting attenuated negative mood–induced alcohol motivation in hazardous community drinkers. These results suggest that breath counting is a reliable and practical method for reducing the impact of negative emotional triggers on alcohol motivation.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit
Publisher Keywords: Stress, Mood Induction, Mindfulness, Breath Counting, Alcohol Craving
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Healthcare Services Research & Management
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