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URMC / BHP / BHP Blog / December 2020 / Are Mindfulness Apps Effective?

Are Mindfulness Apps Effective?

By: Sara Hanson, BSW

There is an abundance of evidence to support mindfulness practice for improving overall health. If you have spent time searching the App Store on your phone, chances are you have stumbled upon a variety of Mindfulness apps. But, what exactly is mindfulness? And, how can using an app on my phone help with it?

Mindfulness is defined as:

  1. the quality or state of being mindful
  2. the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one's thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis

Recent research has identified over 600 "mindfulness apps". In a time where we are using technology more to stay connected, it is not surprising that many of us are using our phones, tablets and computers to also help manage our health. While there are hundreds of these apps to choose from, few actually provide mindfulness training and education. More research is needed in order to help identify the best resources, and to help us understand their benefits.

Headspace is one of the few apps that have been experimentally studied, and was linked to decreased depression and increased positive emotions after use for 10 days. Multiple studies have compared Headspace to brain training apps like Lumosity, or other apps or computer programs that help with organization or provide logic exercise games. After training for 10-20 minutes a day for 2-4 weeks, Headspace users had a reduction in mind-wandering, increase in positive emotions, decrease in irritability and aggression, and reduced symptoms of depression. Another study focused on the Calm app, and whether or not using this app helped reduce stress in college students. The study found that the Calm app was effective in reducing stress while improving mindfulness and self-compassion. Additional research analyzed mindfulness-based iPhone apps. Based on a researchers list of criteria, these apps were found to have the highest scores:

  • Headspace
  • Smiling Mind
  • iMindfulness
  • Mindfulness Daily

The bottom line is that while there are so many options to choose from, looks can be deceiving. Lumosity has since been fined for advertising that claimed it could help reduce memory loss and cognitive decline. If you are searching for any wellness related app, it is critical that you understand what the app is for, how it might help, and if there is research to back it up. If you would like explore mindfulness training further, you can contact Behavioral Health Partners for further information and support. 

Behavioral Health Partners is brought to you by Well-U, offering eligible individuals mental health services for stress, anxiety, and depression. Our team of mental health professionals can accurately assess your symptoms and make recommendations for treatment. To schedule an intake appointment, give us a call at (585) 276-6900.


Efficacy of the Mindfulness Meditation Mobile App “Calm” to Reduce Stress Among College Students: Randomized Controlled Trial

Mindfulness Apps: How Well Do They Work?

Evaluating Mindfulness Meditation Apps

Choosing a Mindfulness App

Review and Evaluation of Mindfulness-Based iPhone Apps

The Trouble with Mindfulness Apps

Do Mindfulness Apps Work?

Keith Stein | 12/1/2020

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