Digital Mindfulness Applications

There has been a rapid increase of interactive apps designed for health and well-being. Yet, little research has been published on developing frameworks for design and evaluation of digital mindfulness facilitating technologies | Journal of Medical Internet Research

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Background: Many existing digital mindfulness applications are purely software based. There is room for further exploration and assessment of designs that make more use of physical qualities of artifacts.

Objective: The study aimed to develop and test a new physical digital mindfulness prototype designed for stress reduction.

Methods: In this case study, we designed, developed, and evaluated HU, a physical digital mindfulness prototype designed for stress reduction. In the first phase, we used vapor and light to support mindful breathing and invited 25 participants through snowball sampling to test HU. In the second phase, we added sonification. We deployed a package of probes such as photos, diaries, and cards to collect data from users who explored HU in their homes. Thereafter, we evaluated our installation using both self-assessed stress levels and heart rate (HR) and heart rate variability (HRV) measures in a pilot study, in order to measure stress resilience effects. After the experiment, we performed a semistructured interview to reflect on HU and investigate the design of digital mindfulness apps for stress reduction.

Conclusions: Our evaluation of HU indicated that HU could facilitate relaxed breathing and stress reduction. There was a difference in outcome between the physiological measures of stress and the subjective reports of stress, as well as a large intervariability among study participants. Our conclusion is that the use of stress reduction tools should be customized and that the design work of mindfulness technology for stress reduction is a complex process, which requires cooperation of designers, HCI (Human-Computer Interaction) experts and clinicians.

Full reference: Zhu, B. et al. (2017) Designing, Prototyping and Evaluating Digital Mindfulness Applications: A Case Study of Mindful Breathing for Stress Reduction.
Journal of Medical Internet Research. 19(6):e197

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