Improvements in Stress, Affect, and Irritability Following Brief Use of a Mindfulness-based Smartphone App: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Mindfulness (N Y). 2018;9(5):1584-1593. doi: 10.1007/s12671-018-0905-4. Epub 2018 Mar 1.

Abstract

Mindfulness training, which involves observing thoughts and feelings without judgment or reaction, has been shown to improve aspects of psychosocial well-being when delivered via in-person training programs such as mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT). Less is known about the efficacy of digital training mediums, such as smartphone apps, which are rapidly rising in popularity. In this study, novice meditators were randomly allocated to an introductory mindfulness meditation program or to a psychoeducational audiobook control featuring an introduction to the concepts of mindfulness and meditation. The interventions were delivered via the same mindfulness app, were matched across a range of criteria, and were presented to participants as well-being programs. Affect, irritability, and two distinct components of stress were measured immediately before and after each intervention in a cohort of healthy adults. While both interventions were effective at reducing stress associated with personal vulnerability, only the mindfulness intervention had a significant positive impact on irritability, affect, and stress resulting from external pressure (between group Cohen's d = 0.44, 0.47, 0.45, respectively). These results suggest that brief mindfulness training has a beneficial impact on several aspects of psychosocial well-being, and that smartphone apps are an effective delivery medium for mindfulness training.

Keywords: Digital health; Meditation; Mindfulness; Positive affect; Smartphone app; Stress; Well-being.