Effects of technology-mediated mindfulness practice on stress: psychophysiological and self-report measures

Stress. 2019 Mar;22(2):200-209. doi: 10.1080/10253890.2018.1531845. Epub 2018 Nov 24.

Abstract

Repeated exposure to stressors, even if mild, may alter the efficiency of optimal stress responses and hinder emotion regulation skills. Mindfulness meditation, by strengthening self-regulation and awareness, may optimize the efficiency of physiological, cognitive, and behavioral reactions to stressful events but typically requires notable commitment to practice, which often leads to disengagement. Recent research suggested that such practices may be made more accessible and that the potential for self-enhancement and stress management of meditation might be improved by supporting mental training with wearable neurofeedback devices able to inform the practicer on ongoing modulation of bodily and brain activity. This study aimed at testing the effect of such novel training approach based on the integration of mental training with brain-sensing wearable devices on physiological (heart rate and variability) and subjective markers of stress (perceived stress, anxiety, and mood states). Participants (N = 55) have been randomly divided into an active control (CONTg) and an experimental group (EXPg). Both groups completed a four-week training constituted by brief daily activities based on mindfulness practices. Experimental participants practiced with the support of dedicated brain-sensing devices. By analyzing pre- and post-training assessments, we observed relevantly decreased stress and anxiety measures in EXPg, as well as relevantly decreased mental fatigue and increased vigor. EXPg also showed improved physiological markers of vagal tone both at rest and during exposure to a cognitive stressor. Reported findings add to the limited available literature on potential effects of technology-supported mental training protocols for promoting subjective well-being and enhancing self-regulation skills.

Keywords: HRV; Perceived stress; anxiety; mindfulness; neurofeedback; wearable device.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Meditation*
  • Mindfulness*
  • Self Report
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Stress, Psychological / therapy*
  • Young Adult