Mindfulness meditation app

New research shows that mindfulness meditation app can reduce the body’s response to biological stress | Psychoneuroendocrinology | Story via ScienceDaily

A new study has found that one component of mindfulness interventions is particularly important for impacting stress biology. Acceptance, or learning how to be open and accepting of the way things are in each moment, is critical for the training’s stress reduction effects. The researchers offer the first scientific evidence that a brief mindfulness meditation mobile app that incorporates acceptance training reduces cortisol and systolic blood pressure in response to stress.

Objective

Mindfulness interventions, which train practitioners to monitor their present-moment experience with a lens of acceptance, are known to buffer stress reactivity. Little is known about the active mechanisms driving these effects. We theorize that acceptance is a critical emotion regulation mechanism underlying mindfulness stress reduction effects.

Method

In this three-arm parallel trial, mindfulness components were dismantled into three structurally equivalent 15-lesson smartphone-based interventions: (1) training in both monitoring and acceptance (Monitor + Accept), (2) training in monitoring only (Monitor Only), or (3) active control training (Coping control). 153 stressed adults (mean age = 32 years; 67% female; 53% white, 21.5% black, 21.5% Asian, 4% other race) were randomly assigned to complete one of three interventions. After the intervention, cortisol, blood pressure, and subjective stress reactivity were assessed using a modified Trier Social Stress Test.

Results

As predicted, Monitor + Accept training reduced cortisol and systolic blood pressure reactivity compared to Monitor Only and control trainings. Participants in all three conditions reported moderate levels of subjective stress.

Conclusions

This study provides the first experimental evidence that brief smartphone mindfulness training can impact stress biology, and that acceptance training drives these effects. We discuss implications for basic and applied research in contemplative science, emotion regulation, stress and coping, health, and clinical interventions.

Full reference: Emily K. Lindsay et al. | Acceptance lowers stress reactivity: Dismantling mindfulness training in a randomized controlled trial. | Psychoneuroendocrinology, 2018; Vol 87 p63 – 73

Full story at ScienceDaily

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Encouraging Mindfulness in Medical House Staff via Smartphone App

Stress and burnout are increasingly recognized as urgent issues among resident physicians, especially given the concerning implications of burnout on physician well-being and patient care outcomes | Academic Psychiatry

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The authors assessed how a mindfulness and meditation practice among residents, supported via a self-guided, smartphone-based mindfulness app, affects wellness as measured by prevalidated surveys.

Study limitations include self-guided app usage, a homogenous study subject population, insufficient study subjects to perform stratified analysis of the impact of specialty on the findings, lack of control group, and possible influence from the Hawthorne effect. This study suggests the feasibility and efficacy of a short mindfulness intervention delivered by a smartphone app to improve mindfulness and associated resident physician wellness parameters.

Full reference: Wen, L. et al. Encouraging Mindfulness in Medical House Staff via Smartphone App: A Pilot Study (2017) Academic Psychiatry. Published online: 09 August 2017

Mindfulness- and Relaxation-Based eHealth Interventions for Patients

This systematic review aims to summarize eHealth studies with mindfulness- and relaxation-based interventions for medical conditions and to determine whether eHealth interventions have positive effects on health | International Journal of Behavioral Medicine

A comprehensive search of five databases was conducted for all available studies from 1990 to 2015. Studies were included if the intervention was mainly technology delivered and included a mindfulness- or relaxation-based intervention strategy and if patients with a medical condition were treated. Treatment effects were summarized for different outcomes.

A total of 2383 records were identified, of which 17 studies with 1855 patients were included in this systematic review. These studies were conducted in patients with irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome, cancer, chronic pain, surgery, and hypertension. All but one study were delivered online through a web-based platform; one study delivered the intervention with iPods. The studies indicate that mindfulness- and relaxation-based eHealth interventions can have positive effects on patients’ general health and psychological well-being. No effects were found for stress or mindfulness. Only five studies reported economic analyses of eHealth interventions without any clear conclusion.

There is some evidence that mindfulness- and relaxation-based eHealth interventions for medical conditions can have positive effects on health outcomes. Therefore, such interventions might be a useful addition to standard medical care. No app studies were retrieved, even though a vast number of smartphone apps exist which aim at increasing users’ health. Therefore, more studies investigating those health apps are needed.

Full reference: Mikolasek, M. et al. (2017) Effectiveness of Mindfulness- and Relaxation-Based eHealth Interventions for Patients with Medical Conditions: a Systematic Review and Synthesis. International Journal of Behavioral Medicine. Published Online: 27 July 2017

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

Web-Based Mindfulness Intervention for Families Living With Mental Health Problems

Stjernswärd, S. et al. (2017) Health & Social Care in the Community. 25(2) pp.700-709.

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The aim of this study was to explore the participants’ experiences of using an 8-week web-based mindfulness programme in terms of user value and usability.

The programme’s usability was satisfactory and largely corroborated by the surveys. The programme was experienced as a valuable tool to cope with stress in both private and professional contexts, making it a viable option to support families living with mental health problems. Time for self-care, a widened perspective, a less judgmental and more accepting attitude, deterring automatic reactions and setting limits helped the participants to deal with their situation and health. The programme’s ease and flexibility of use were major advantages, although the training requires discipline.

Motivators and barriers to use were illuminated, which should be considered in the development of further online services and study designs.

Read the full abstract here

Effects of preventive online mindfulness interventions on stress and mindfulness

Jayewardene, W.P. et al. (2017) Preventive Medicine Reports. 5. pp. 150- 159

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Empirical evidence suggested that mind-body interventions can be effectively delivered online. This study aimed to examine whether preventive online mindfulness interventions (POMI) for non-clinical populations improve short- and long-term outcomes for perceived-stress (primary) and mindfulness (secondary).

Read the full article here