New Mindfulness Practice App and Research Project, by Christine Parsons
'Meditation practice is the slow, disciplined work of digging trenches, of working in the vineyards, of bucketing out a pond. It is the work of moments and the work of a lifetime, all wrapped in one’. Jon Kabat-Zinn
One of the challenges that students face when they begin a Mindfulness training course is how to get started with the home practices they are assigned. In Mindfulness Based-Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), students are asked to do daily formal meditation practices of around 45 minutes over the 8-week course. These formal practices are typically guided meditations, like the Body Scan, Sitting Meditation and Yoga. These practices are considered to be fundamental to student learning.
There is emerging scientific evidence that these practices are important too. Our recent analysis of other published studies suggested that students do complete a lot of their assigned practices (Parsons et al., 2017). On average, students said they did around 30 minutes of formal practice every day, but there was a lot of variability in practice time. Some students said they practiced a lot, even more than the 45 minutes, and some practiced far less.
We also looked at the relationship between how much practice students reported doing and the benefit they obtained from MBSR or MBCT. There was a small, but significant relationship between students’ practice time and the positive changes measured at the end of the course. Students who said they did more practice reported getting more benefit, but the effect was a small one.
Using smartphone technology
Given that practice is important, and a challenge for many students, we have recently turned to technology to see if we can support students during their MBSR and MBCT courses. We have now launched a research project that provides students with a smartphone app (Android or iOS) to listen to their own teacher’s meditation guides. We are hoping that lots of teachers will sign up to use the app. This will provide us with new and informative data on how students tackle their practices.
We will also be able to address some really important questions about students’ practice. For instance, is it important that students practice at the same time everyday? We will also be able to record listening times automatically, rather than asking students to fill in paper diaries.
How to get involved
If you are a Mindfulness teacher, and might consider using the app with your students, we would love to hear from you. The smartphone app is free to use, and has features designed to be helpful to students, like reminders to practice, a diary function and a place to note down practice intentions. It is also customisable to include your own meditation guides.
Please email:firstname.lastname@example.org to receive more information.
Parsons, C. E., Crane, C., Parsons, L. J., Fjorback, L. O., & Kuyken, W. (2017). Home practice in Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction: A systematic review and meta-analysis of participants’ mindfulness practice and its association with outcomes. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 95, 29–41.doi:10.1016/j.brat.2017.05.004
Author note – Christine Parsons is Associate Professor at the Interacting Minds Centre, Aarhus University, Denmark.