Many athletes seek to embody a mindful state when competing. However, amidst competitive pressures and demands to perform at their best, athletes report similar or even higher levels of psychological distress than community norms. Despite the widespread use of mindfulness as a sport performance strategy, few studies have examined the mechanisms behind mindfulness, and the role egoic fixation plays, in athlete well-being. The current study aimed to explore the role of mindfulness and nonattachment-to-self (NTS) in athlete well-being and self-actualization.
An online survey was administered to 223 athletes (53.8% men), predominantly from Australia and New Zealand. Two-thirds of the sample were elite athletes. We used structural equation modeling to test a hypothesized model whereby NTS mediates the relationship between mindfulness and both well-being and self-actualization. We also tested an alternative model that positioned mindfulness as the mediator between NTS as the predictor, and well-being and self-actualisation as outcomes.
Both models exhibited similar fit to the data, although the alternative model displayed slightly better fit than the hypothesized model. Partial mediation was found for the hypothesized and alternative models, highlighting both as plausible pathways. Interestingly, NTS was found to exhibit a stronger effect on well-being and self-actualization than mindfulness, suggesting it may play a central role in athlete well-being.
The findings highlight the need for researchers to consider mindfulness and NTS in tandem, acknowledging the role that egoic fixation plays in athlete mental health—especially when designing mindful-based interventions for athletes.