Feeling Calm. Mindfulness & Meditation Apps – review

A 2015 review of mindfulness-based apps found 560 apps available on Apple products (Mani et al.,2015). That number would increase substantially if Android apps and those released since 2015 were included. It is obvious that mindfulness and meditation (guided or independent) are trending in a big way.

Apps 1

Evidence from the field of mindfulness suggests that mindfulness interventions can improve physical and mental health outcomes (Khoury et al., 2013). Mindfulness based approaches are used in clinical practice, schools, workplaces, prisons and the military (Creswell, 2017). Mindfulness interventions used in research studies and interventions often have mindfulness meditation practice or mindfulness components, but some only have informal mindfulness practice.  It is important to be aware that many mindfulness apps are using this evidence base to suggest that their app is “based on scientific research”. However, the research does not often use app technology as the intervention, and therefore the evidence base does not necessarily support the specific app. Some apps (e.g. ‘Craving to Quit’ and a mindful eating app called “Eat Right: Now!”) were put through clinical trials and studies before they were brought to market. Ideally, all apps claiming to benefit people’s well-being would be put through rigorous, scientific trials before being released to the general population. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case with the apps available. Therefore, it is important to check out the claims of the app before signing up to any subscriptions.

Apps 2

Teaching mindfulness and meditation strategies is not a magic wand. People usually feel stress and anxiety as a result of difficult situations in their environment. It is easy to think ‘I’m not coping well’ or ‘I’m not good at managing stress’ and try to find a solution that involves the individual learning ‘skills’ e.g. calming strategies, anger management etc. However, it is important to be careful not to ‘blame’ the individual for their emotional and psychological responses as a ‘lack of skills’. There are often environmental and social factors that could be causing significant stress, anxiety, worry or other mental health difficulties. The environment and social situations of individuals must also be taken into account and changes made where necessary to reduce the factors that are causing the stress, anxiety etc. in the first place.

If practicing mindfulness is your goal; here’s some helpful guidelines to aid you in finding the right mindfulness app for you (as suggested by Tlalka, 2016) :App 4

  • Be clear about why you want the app. Is it to help with anxiety? Is it to help with stress? Is it to help with sleep? Think about how the app will help.
  • Be aware that fancy music doesn’t always help. They might induce a state of calm, but they are not helpful if the goal is to observe and experience the present moment.
  • Look at the research. Any apps making claims about benefits to well-being should have an evidence base of studies that use the app as an intervention.
  • Check out the reviews from real people who have used the app. What are they saying?

It also may be helpful to take a look at the recent review of 23 mindfulness based apps. This review used the Mobile Application Rating Scale (MARS) to analyse the apps (Mani, 2016). Unfortunately some popular apps (e.g. Calm) were not including, possibly because they were too new at the time of the study. This study found that the ‘Headspace’ app had the highest average score, followed by Smiling Mind, iMindfulness and Mindfulness Daily.

Find HEADSPACE app on android –>here<—

Find HEADSPACE app on apple –>here<—

Find CALM app on android –>here<—

Find CALM app on apple –>here<—

Find SMILING MIND on android –>here<—

Find SMILING MIND on Apple –>here<—

Find MINDFULNESS DAILY on apple –>here<— (only available on apple products)

Find iMindfulness on Apple –>here<— (only available on apple products).

REFERENCES

Creswell, J. D. (2017). Mindfulness Interventions. Annual Review of Psychology, 68(18), 1-18.26.

Khoury, B., Lecomte, T., Fortin, G., Masse, M., Therien, P., Bouchard, V., Chapleau, M., Paquin, K., & Hofmann, S. G. (2013). Mindfulness-based therapy: A comprehensive meta-analysis. Clinical Psychology Review, 33(6), 763-771. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2013.05.005

3Mani, M., Kavanagh, D. J., Hides, L., Stoyanov, S. R. (2015). Review and evaluation of mindfulness-based iPhone Apps. JMIR MHealth and UHealth, 3(3), e82. doi: 10.2196/mhealth.4328

Talalka, S., https://www.mindful.org/trouble-mindfulness-apps/ ) 2016

ChatHealth -Text a School Nurse!

ChatHealth is a fantastic new service for children and young people who live in Hampshire and aged 11 to 19 years. If they are worried about their health or have health related questions they can text the school nursing team on 07507 332160. They will receive a reply that includes signposting to additional services.

This service is available Monday to Fridays 08.30 to 16.30, including the school holidays (but not Bank Holidays). If a child or young person messages outside these times they will receive a message directing them to other sources of support. The ChatHealth Nurses will reply to their message during opening times.

Chat Health poster option 4 (your body)

Children and young people might want to text about a range of issues. Some of these might include:

  • Relationships
  • Weight
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Drugs
  • Smoking
  • Stress
  • Alcohol
  • Self-harm
  • or questions about their body

To text this service, they need to send their message to – 07507332160

The ChatHealth website (click here) offers some additional information about the service including a disclaimer that reads:

We do not usually inform your parents, teachers or anyone else if you contact the school nurse. We might inform someone if we were concerned about your safety, but we would usually speak to you first. Your messages are stored and can be seen by other healthcare staff who follow the same confidentiality rules. We aim to reply to you within one working day and you should get an immediate bounce-back to confirm we received your text. Texts will not be seen outside of normal working hours. If you need help before you hear back from us, contact a member of school staff or your doctor. Our text number does not receive voice calls or MMS picture messages. Prevent the school nurse from sending messages to you by texting STOP to our number. Please respect your schools mobile phone policy. Messages are charged at your usual rate.”

 

Alternative Advent – Share kindness this year.

A really simple but great idea for the festive month that costs nothing but a kind act everyday….

Acts of kindness make a huge difference and help to brighten the day for other people. During these times of trouble and turmoil, it’s a beautiful way to show there is still good in the world. This is especially true in the lead up to Christmas which can be a difficult time for a lot of people.

Mindfield Psychology would like to invite lovely you and yours to join us in using this fabulous festive resource (developed by psychologist Patricia Lavelle at Maketodayhappy.co.uk) and spread a little kindness this year.

For anyone new to Kindness Advent Calendars, they work just like a normal advent calendar but instead of the usual chocolate countdown, they embrace the true spirit of Christmas by encouraging 24 random acts of festive kindness.

You really are amazing

(Click picture to make larger, save to your photographs or print to keep track)

Kindness-Advent-Calendar-2017-copy-1.jpg

Working Memory and Anxiety

It is suggested, in an article for the BPS Digest, that anxiety can upset the brain’s balance between ‘focus’ and ‘vigilance’. That control of what to pay attention to is sacrificed at the “expense of worrisome thoughts” and a quick response to potential danger.  The article cites a paper published in Biological Psychology that tested whether computer-based working memory training could reduce anxiety. The small number of participants in this study make it difficult to judge how long the benefits would last or whether there is generalizability of the results to the wider population. The authors suggest that their study outcomes are “proof of principle”.

What are your thoughts? Comment below.

Sari, B., Koster, E., Pourtois, G., & Derakshan, N. (2016). Training working memory to improve attentional control in anxiety: A proof-of-principle study using behavioral and electrophysiological measures Biological Psychology DOI: 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2015.09.008

BPS Psychology at Work – Improving well-being & productivity in the workplace

On 14th November ’17, the BPS published it’s new report “Psychology at Work: Improving wellbeing and productivity in the workplace“.  This reports examines issues around work, health and disability and recommends ways that both employers and policy makers can tackle poor practice.

The report makes recommendations in three key areas:

  • Supporting people into appropriate work
  • Creating a psychologically health workplace
  • Supporting neurodiverse people in the workplace.

Click here to get your PDF copy of the report, and perhaps share it with your colleagues and line managers.

What are your thoughts on this advice to employers and policymakers?