For centuries, Eastern spiritual philosophies have had the principles of mindfulness and meditation as part of their formal observations. In recent decades, the West has begun to adopt these practices for spiritual purposes and more recently therapeutic approaches in mental health and wellness.
Mindfulness in Your Pocket
The app store has a myriad of health-related apps, and there are over 10,000 in the mental health arena alone. You may be familiar with solutions like Headspace, Calm, Buddhify, and Whil. The choices are endless and can be tailored to a preference of philosophy, voice, and length. Headspace recently announced it was launching Headspace Health so it could pursue FDA approval to be a “prescription grade” app. Calm has one of the most popular apps and has recently added masterclasses if you want to go deeper into your practice. My personal favorite is Buddhify; it suits my needs, as I like the practical topics and variety of voices that lead the meditations.
The Evidence for Mindfulness and Meditation
Once these companies enter the health and wellness space, they need to demonstrate they are effective in helping reduce stress and improve mood. The evidence base for these approaches has been growing, and data show positive mental and physical health outcomes in the general public as well as clinical populations. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) are the most well-established approaches. They are generally 8-week group-based programs that teach participants the techniques of mindfulness and foster a routine practice to achieve benefits. Data show these programs reduce stress, anxiety, and improve depressive symptoms.
A recent study by Marcos Economides of Headspace, published in the March edition of the journal Mindfulness, used the gold standard randomized control trial methodology to explore the efficacy of mindfulness and meditation in reducing stress and improving mood. The 41 participants in the intervention group had access to digital training in mindfulness via Headspace, their “Take 10” package of introductory meditations. The control group, comprised of 28 participants, had access to psychoeducational audiobooks, also delivered via the app. Findings, despite a small sample size, add to the growing literature that app-based meditation and mindfulness is a viable way to reduce stress, improve mood and wellbeing. Prior studies have often included wait-list control groups; an active control group was used in this study, as they had access to psychoeducational audiobooks for the study duration. Results indicate the intervention group developed an improved ability to cope with external pressure (life’s stresses) when compared to the control group. This paper also attempts to answer what the right dose of meditation is to achieve a heightened sense of wellbeing. They conclude that ten sessions of Headspace were sufficient to demonstrate improvements in irritability, stress, and mood. These findings are encouraging, and more studies need to address the duration of exposure for benefit in different populations so digital solutions can be tailored to group needs.
A Moment of Zen
I will leave you with a new personal favorite of mine – I love the simplicity of the design and focus. If you are looking for a few moments of (free, for now) Zen, look no further than http://www.pixelthoughts.co/#
Thanks for reading- Trina
(My opinions are my own)
Business Insider article on Headspace Health
The Benefits of Being Present
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Evidence on MBSR and MBCT
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Headspace Study on Mindfulness and Meditation
Economides, M., Martman, J., Bell, M.J. et al. Mindfulness (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-018-0905-4