What’s the hype all about?
There is an overwhelming amount of research that discusses the positive impact of meditation on the human mind and body. A study published this month in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology discussed the benefits of meditation implemented specifically through an app. Participants using the Headspace App for 10-20 minutes, 3-4 times a week for 2 months, were found to have decreased levels of job-related stress and an increase in feelings of well-being and feelings of workplace support. Basically, 238 people without depression, heart disease, high blood pressure, or cancer were asked to use the Headspace app every day for 2 months. The participants were on average 35 years old and almost all were full-time workers.
The participants took a survey and blood pressure was measured at the beginning of the study, at the 8-week mark, and 16 weeks after starting. There was a control group in the trial, these people were sent some work stress information from the National Health Service to read. This group participated in the surveys and blood pressure checks at the same times.
How do you even measure well-being? There is an official scale with a fancy name called the Warwick Edinburgh Mental Well-being Scale (WEMWBS), that pretty much just presents 14 statements about your feelings and asks you to rate them on a numeric scale. It asks things like how optimistic you are about your future and how relaxed you are. In this study job strain, daily well-being, psychological distress, workplace social support, and mindfulness were measured in the same fashion.
On the days blood pressure was measured, they asked the participants to measure at different times throughout the day, for a total of 5 times a day.
After they collected all the data and analyzed it, they found that the meditation group improved in ALL markers measured with statistical significance (p < 0.5) except for blood pressure. Systolic and diastolic blood pressure improved slightly but were not considered statistically significant (p = 0.071 and p= 0.262 respectively). The crazy part is, that most participants didn’t even use the meditation app as much as they were asked to which makes these results even more impressive in my opinion.
There may have been selection bias, as only people who wanted to do the study joined so this may have impacted the results. However, as this applies to real life most people who implement meditation into their routine are ones that choose to do it.
This study is one of many that expresses that there are both psychological and physiological benefits of meditation. Click here for an excellent breakdown and explanation of a portion of the research done. https://chriskresser.com/5-reasons-you-should-start-meditating-today/
TOOLS TO LEARN TO MEDITATE
There are many apps, courses, and free meditations to choose from that walk you through the process of learning how to meditate.
The Headspace app used in the study can be found in the app store and downloaded for free. There is a free 10-day intro to meditation course with daily 10 minute meditations. There is an option to buy a subscription to the site for access to all of their meditation courses. I’ve had multiple friends and family members purchase the subscription who said it was totally worth it. https://www.headspace.com/
Insight Timer is another free app with thousands of mediations covering a variety of topics and types. There are meditations created specifically for sleep, relaxation, confidence, energy, etc. Many of the meditations on this app are guided however it also provides a meditation timer for those wanting to do it on their own. https://insighttimer.com/
Calm is another meditation app that includes both free and premium versions. https://www.calm.com/
The Muse Headband fits in the meditation tech category, it is a headband that uses EEG (electroencephalogram) technology to evaluate brain waves in real time. This biofeedback device gives you audible feedback on whether or not you are entering a calming state while you meditate. This is an awesome tool that can help eliminate the question, “am I doing it right”? It allows the user to learn to efficiently get into and maintain a meditative state. https://choosemuse.com/
The Yoga Collective is a website with hundreds of yoga and meditation videos. Membership to this app can often be found discounted on Groupon. https://www.theyogacollective.com/classes/ Discount: https://www.groupon.com/browse/new-orleans?lat=29.955&lng=-90.075&query=the+yoga+collective&address=New+Orleans&division=new-orleans&locale=en_US
YouTube has many awesome meditations, this is an easy and quick no-cost place to play with different mediation types to find out what you like before committing to a subscription or downloading an app.
You really don’t need any electronic assistance to learn to meditate, you can simply read about how to meditate and try it on your own. Here are a few links to get you started. https://www.nytimes.com/guides/well/how-to-meditate
If you’re interested in reading this study more in-depth, the .pdf can be found on the link below.
Bostock S, Crosswell AD, Prather AA, Steptoe A. Mindfulness on-the-go: Effects of a mindfulness meditation app on work stress and well-being. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology. 2019;24(1):127-138. doi:10.1037/ocp0000118.