Entries in smartphone (1)

Tuesday
Apr072015

11. Smartphones can teach mindfulness

Summary written by Rachel Green, Director of The Emotional Intelligence Institute.

A mindfulness study

"Putting the ‘app’ in Happiness: A Randomised Controlled Trial of a Smartphone-Based Mindfulness Intervention to Enhance Wellbeing", by Annika Howells, Itai Ivtzan, and Francisco Jose Eiroa-Orosa. Published in Journal of Happiness Studies, 29th October 2014.

Can you use your smartphone to help you develop mindfulness and as a consequence feel better?

This is the basic question asked by this study, which was conducted as part of a positive psychology Masters degree by Australian based, Annika Howells, at the University of East London.

There are many different Apps available which are said to improve one's wellbeing but the driving question behind Annika's research was "are they effective?".

Very few Apps have been evaluated scientifically, until this point.

In this study mindfulness is defined as the practice of non-judgmental awareness of present moment experiences.

If you are interested in learning more about mindfulness and meditation, and the positive research outcomes that have resulted from studies into their results, then this paper provides some very useful material.

There is no doubt in the scientific literature that mindfulness has a positive impact on people's emotions and it is therefore an important methodology in emotional intelligence development.

Annika and her colleagues state: By researching long-term meditators and delivering mindfulness-based training to novice meditators, scientists are building a deeper understanding of the multiple pathways influenced by the practice, that lead to greater psychological health.

Mindfulness methodology

  1. A  randomized-control trial was conducted. Subjects self-selected in response to advertisements on social media and in newsletters inviting volunteers to participate in a wellbeing study on their phones.
  2. Subjects were randomly assigned to a mindfulness intervention (n = 57) or a control intervention (n = 64) for 10 days.
  3. Headspace On-The-Go was the free smartphone application used by the mindfulness intervention group. Participants had to engage with simple daily activities based on mindfulness practice for 10 mins a day.
  4. The control group engaged in a neutral task using a list-making application called Catch Notes. They were asked to write a list of what they did on a particular day for 10 mins a day over 10 days.

Want to learn how to meditate? Our professionally produced recordings "Happy not hassled" explain how to meditate, what to do if you think you can't and how to manage your emotions through meditation, and they include four guided meditations of different lengths and types so you can practise in the comfort of your own home.

MP3s: $29 (US). Add to Cart

Mindfulness results

Results showed for the mindfulness intervention group:

  1. Statistically significant increases in positive affect with a medium effect size.
  2. Reduced depressive symptoms with a small effect size.
  3. Positive correlatations between ratings of task enjoyment and an increase in positive affect.
  4. No statistically significant changes in satisfaction with life, flourishing or negative affect.

No statistically significant gains were observed in the control group.

Mindfulness implications by the authors

The results support the viability of the Headspace On-The-Go smartphone-based intervention to significantly enhance elements of wellbeing in the short-term.

Smartphone-based interventions may be able to play a significant role in the daily practice of mindfulness and the development of wellbeing and happiness.

Mindfulness comments by Rachel 

  • The subjects only used the mindfulness Headspace On-The-Go App for 10 days. This is a very short period of time given that many people learn to meditate over a number of years. The fact, therefore, that there was an improvement in positive affect and a decrease in depressive symptoms in such a short time is very encouraging.
  • Many people do not have the time to go to a meditation group and therefore risk missing out on developing mindfulness. The availability of such an App allows people far more flexibility in being able to access mindfulness training.
  • Being able to demonstrate the short-term effectiveness of such an App is important, given the popularity of Apps. It would be helpful if further Apps could be similarly evaluated. We do not know how this one compares to others. Nor do we know how results compare on a Smartphone versus an ipad, for instance, or versus group mindfulness training. Is it more or less effective? And what if the two were used together - a once weekly group with use of the App during the week?
  • Clearly not everybody will enjoy using such an App and further investigation is needed with different types of people. The group were already biased towards happiness. For example, some people are looking to mindfulness and meditation as a way of reducing stress and anxiety and lowering blood pressure - would it work as well for them? 
  • We now need to know how long such benefits last and how long people will use the App for after the 10 day period and outside study conditions? Do people tire of an App more easily than a regular face-to-face teaching? Or is it more reliable?
  • There are lots of exciting questions waiting to be answered. In the meantime this study offers us important insights, and highlights the value of using a smartphone to teach mindfulness. 

Full article is available here: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10902-014-9589-1

Want to gain the benefits of meditation? You can do it now using our professional recordings "Happy not hassled". There are four guided meditations of different lengths and types for you and instructions on how to meditate.

MP3s: $29 (US). Add to Cart
Please note: Depression occurs to varying degrees, and takes on different forms. Please seek the professional help you need. Mindfulness and meditation are not a cure-all for all depression problems.