Improve Psychological Well-Being and Emotion Regulation with a Mindfulness Smartphone App
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“We know that the effect of this pandemic on people’s mental health is huge. . . Through the app . . You are led through a multi-sensory process of imagining yourself in a particular situation. . . Those techniques can in fact help people to reduce depression, reduce anxiety, and improve their mood,” – Judith Gordon
Mindfulness training has been shown through extensive research to be effective in improving physical and psychological health. But the vast majority of the mindfulness training techniques, however, require a 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, mindfulness training with smartphone apps has 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. In addition, research has indicated that mindfulness training via smartphone apps can be effective for improving the health and well-being of the participants.
In today’s Research News article “A Self-Compassion and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Mobile Intervention (Serene) for Depression, Anxiety, and Stress: Promoting Adaptive Emotional Regulation and Wisdom.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.648087/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1616048_69_Psycho_20210504_arts_A ) Al-Refae and colleagues recruited adults and assigned them to a wait-list control condition or to receive a 4-week program of mindfulness, self-compassion, and cognitive restructuring training delivered by a smartphone app (Serene). They were measured before and after training for depression, stress, anxiety, self-compassion, wisdom, psychological well-being, and subjective well-being.
They found that in comparison to the wait-list group, after the 4-weeks of training the participants that received the mindfulness training had significant decreases in depression, anxiety, perceived stress self-judgement, isolation, and overidentification and significant increases in self-compassion, common humanity, mindfulness, and emotion regulation. In other words, the participants had improvements in psychological health and well-being.
Previous research has established that mindfulness training decreases depression, anxiety, perceived stress, and self-judgement and increases self-compassion, and emotion regulation. The contribution of the present study was demonstrating that mindfulness training with a smartphone app was also capable of producing these same benefits. This improves the scalability and convenience of training and reduces the cost, expanding the number of people who can benefit from mindfulness training.
So, improve psychological well-being and emotion regulation with a mindfulness smartphone app.
“The Serene app features support videos that introduce users to meditation and other safe activities. . . It offers more than 250 activities and provides link to . . . mental-health support services, including crisis centers. This app is for all ages and is meant to help track your emotions and mood swings.” – Fontaine Glenn
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Al-Refae M, Al-Refae A, Munroe M, Sardella NA and Ferrari M (2021) A Self-Compassion and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Mobile Intervention (Serene) for Depression, Anxiety, and Stress: Promoting Adaptive Emotional Regulation and Wisdom. Front. Psychol. 12:648087. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.648087
Introduction: Many individuals and families are currently experiencing a high level of COVID-19-related stress and are struggling to find helpful coping mechanisms. Mindfulness-based interventions are becoming an increasingly popular treatment for individuals experiencing depression and chronic levels of stress. The app (Serene) draws from scholarly evidence on the efficacy of mindfulness meditations and builds on the pre-existing apps by incorporating techniques that are used in some therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy.
Methods: Participants were randomly assigned to a 4-week mindfulness and self-compassion-based cognitive smartphone intervention (Serene) or a wait-list control group. They were instructed to engage in self-compassion and mindfulness practices and a cognitive restructuring task. They also completed measures that evaluated their levels of depression, stress, anxiety, self-compassion, wisdom, psychological well-being, and subjective well-being. The intervention group was also instructed to track their weekly engagement with the app. Standardized effect sizes for between-group differences were calculated using Cohen’s d for complete case analyses.
Results: Complete case analyses from baseline to the end of this randomized controlled trial demonstrated significant moderate between-group differences for depressive symptoms (d = −0.43) and decisiveness (d = 0.34). Moderate between-group differences were also found for self-compassion (d = 0.6) such that significant improvements in self-kindness, common humanity, mindfulness and decreases in self-judgement, isolation, and overidentification were observed. A small between-group difference was found for emotional regulation (d = 0.28). Moreover, a significant moderate within-group decrease in stress (d = −0.52) and anxiety symptoms (d = −0.47) was also observed in the intervention group.
Conclusions: Serene is an effective intervention that promotes increased levels of self-compassion and emotional regulation. Engaging with Serene may help reduce depressive symptoms through mindfulness, self-compassion, and cognitive restructuring which help reduce overidentification with one’s negative emotions. As individuals rebalance their thinking through cognitive restructuring, they can identify the varying stressors in their life, develop action plans and engage in adaptive coping strategies to address them. Serene may promote greater self-understanding which may provide one with a more balanced perspective on their current upsetting situations to positively transform their challenges during the pandemic.