Mindfulness practices are a staple of non-medication approaches to managing chronic illness and maintaining mental and physical health, but they have sometimes been considered unscientific, unproven, or just not “modern”. However, more and more experience and research is backing up the claims of mindfulness practitioners. A recent study looking a mood homeostasis, or balance, found that people who utilize strategies such as, among others, mindfulness practices are less likely to experience depression.1 Advice about use of mindfulness as part of a healthy life is found in such mainstream sources as Harvard Medical School’s Health Publishing website, and the National Health Service in the U.K., which has an extensive site for individuals seeking information about mental health and well-being.
Mindfulness Apps and Sites
Not surprisingly, as interest in mindfulness grows, the availability of online resources, such as apps and websites is also growing massively. One study by Lancaster University in the U.K. found 280 apps that claim to help users improve mindfulness.2 Using set criteria, they narrowed their focus down to 14 apps that seem to be helpful. Only one of the apps, Headspace, has so far been experimentally evaluated, but experts believe that many of the new apps may teach useful skills that will improve stress management, anxiety and depression if they are consistently used.
The tech site, Sensor Tower noted that there was a 24% increase in downloads of mental health related apps in April 2020, compared with January of this year, so it would appear that a lot of people have the same idea.3 Taken together, the top ten English-language mental wellness apps had 10 million downloads in the month of April. Calm, which MoodSurfing has recommended before (see our Links and Apps page) was the top seller, with nearly a million new users. Some of this may be attributable to Kaiser Permanente deciding to offer Calm for free to all of its members, another vote of confidence by the medical establishment for the formerly unappreciated practice of mindfulness.
Mindfulness practices are many and varied, and they range from simple breathing exercises to more complex programs, but one thing they all have in common is that they are easier to learn than to continuously practice, and persistence is what makes a mindfulness practice effective in health maintenance. So, apps or no apps, the need for intentionality and discipline on the part of the use remains the same. If you have personal experience with mindfulness or other mental health apps, we’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.
- Taquet, M. et al. Mood Homeostasis, Low Mood, and History of Depression in 2 Large Population Samples. JAMA Psychiatry. Published online April 22, 2020.
- Roquet, Claudia D. and Sas, Corina. Evaluating Mindfulness Meditation Apps. Lancaster University eprint. April 21, 2018. https://doi.org/10.1145/3170427.318
- Chappie, Craig. Downloads of Top English-Language Mental Wellness Apps Surged by 2 Million in April Amid COVID-19 Pandemic. Sensor Tower Blog. May 28, 2020.