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Learning how to mindfully navigate mindfulness apps

mindfulness appThe Trou­ble with Mind­ful­ness Apps (Mind­ful):

Be pre­pared to be bored.

This is the gist of one of the noti­fi­ca­tions you receive before you try the body scan med­i­ta­tion from Mind­ful Mood Bal­ance, a web-based pro­gram cur­rent­ly being pilot­ed in a ver­sion for ther­a­pists…

Vis­it the app store, and you’re greet­ed with hun­dreds of mind­ful­ness apps, a few dozen of them claim­ing to ben­e­fit your brain in some man­ner. Some of the most pop­u­lar ones make health claims with no research to back up their programs—they rely on the sci­ence of mind­ful­ness in gen­er­al to prove the wor­thi­ness of their prod­uct. It seems enough to sim­ply pro­vide a link to the most recent mind­ful­ness study tak­ing place, or a com­pre­hen­sive four-year meta-analy­sis on mind­ful­ness and X, and then men­tion how their app relates—as if some sort of osmo­sis was tak­ing place between the research study, in no way con­nect­ed to the com­pa­ny itself, and the app…

Head­space employs an in-house chief med­ical offi­cer, David Cox, MD, who co-authored a pam­phlet on the “Quan­tifi­able Pos­i­tive Out­comes of Mind­ful­ness Train­ing” with Andy Pud­di­combe. But it’s dif­fi­cult to deter­mine how much research went into Head­space to bring it to mar­ket in 2012…if you can’t show that a cer­tain dynam­ic is at play in your app and in the brains of the peo­ple using your app, such as improved cog­ni­tive gains or reduced crav­ings, it’s going to become more dif­fi­cult to sim­ply say your app is “based in sci­ence” in the future. Lumos­i­ty is a les­son for the bur­geon­ing field, and a warn­ing to mind­ful­ness apps that are eager to har­ness the hype and the excite­ment around the ear­ly sci­ence into mind­ful­ness: it’s not enough to hitch your wag­on to cur­rent sci­ence and say that your app helps with “depres­sion” or the lat­est health fad.”

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As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters and more, SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking health and performance applications of brain science.

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