Improve Psychological Well-Being with a Mindfulness Smartphone Ap
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“When it comes to building a mindfulness meditation practice, “there’s no substitute for a live connection with a teacher — and encouragement from a group or class. But for people who have already taken a class or been introduced to the basics apps are a terrific support to the process.” – Steven Hickman
Mindfulness training has been shown through extensive research to be effective in improving physical and psychological health and particularly with the physical and psychological reactions to stress. The vast majority of the mindfulness training techniques, however, require a certified trained therapist. This results in costs that many clients can’t afford. In addition, the participants must be available to attend multiple sessions at particular scheduled times that may or may not be compatible with their busy schedules and at locations that may not be convenient. As an alternative, Apps for smartphones have been developed. These have tremendous advantages in decreasing costs, making training schedules much more flexible, and eliminating the need to go repeatedly to specific locations. But, the question arises as to the effectiveness of these Apps in inducing mindfulness and improving psychological health.
In today’s Research News article “Improvements in Stress, Affect, and Irritability Following Brief Use of a Mindfulness-based Smartphone App: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6153897/ ), Economides and colleagues recruited meditation naïve adults on-line and randomly assigned them to practice either meditation or psychoeducation with a cellphone ap. They practiced for 10 minutes per day for 10 days. The meditation ap presented meditation instructions and guided meditations while the psychoeducation ap was structured identically but contained a presentation about the concepts of mindfulness and how an individual applied them. They were measured before and after training for stress, positive and negative emotions, and irritability.
Approximately 20% of the initial participants in both groups dropped out before completing the study. Of the completers, compared to baseline and the psychoeducation group, the participants who received the meditation training had significantly lower levels of stress and irritability, and greater levels of positive emotions. Hence, a simple meditation training with a smartphone ap produced significant improvements in psychological well-being.
These results are interesting and potentially important as they demonstrate that a simple practice guided with brief smartphone instructions can significantly improve psychological health in individuals without mental or physical illness. A strength of the study was that there was an equivalent comparison condition, psychoeducation ap, to the meditation ap. This suggests that meditation practice was responsible for the results and not some confounding factor such as participant bias, attentional effects, practice effects, experimenter bias, or expectancy effects. Hence, it appears that meditation practice via smartphone ap may be a simple, inexpensive, convenient way to spread the benefits of meditation practice to widespread populations.
So, improve psychological well-being with a mindfulness smartphone ap.
“Mindfulness based programs in person have been found to be effective for reducing stress, anxiety, and depression. However, it’s unclear if you can reap the same benefits of mindfulness programs with mobile apps. There is only one scientific study on the effectiveness of a mindfulness app . . . showed improvement in mood and fewer symptoms of depression.” – Marilyn Wei
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Economides, M., Martman, J., Bell, M. J., & Sanderson, B. (2018). Improvements in Stress, Affect, and Irritability Following Brief Use of a Mindfulness-based Smartphone App: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Mindfulness, 9(5), 1584–1593. http://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-018-0905-4
Mindfulness training, which involves observing thoughts and feelings without judgment or reaction, has been shown to improve aspects of psychosocial well-being when delivered via in-person training programs such as mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT). Less is known about the efficacy of digital training mediums, such as smartphone apps, which are rapidly rising in popularity. In this study, novice meditators were randomly allocated to an introductory mindfulness meditation program or to a psychoeducational audiobook control featuring an introduction to the concepts of mindfulness and meditation. The interventions were delivered via the same mindfulness app, were matched across a range of criteria, and were presented to participants as well-being programs. Affect, irritability, and two distinct components of stress were measured immediately before and after each intervention in a cohort of healthy adults. While both interventions were effective at reducing stress associated with personal vulnerability, only the mindfulness intervention had a significant positive impact on irritability, affect, and stress resulting from external pressure (between group Cohen’s d = 0.44, 0.47, 0.45, respectively). These results suggest that brief mindfulness training has a beneficial impact on several aspects of psychosocial well-being, and that smartphone apps are an effective delivery medium for mindfulness training