Mindfulness Apps need time to give benefits

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Auckland, December 3, 2018

Mindfulness-based therapies have shown promise in reducing stress and improving psychological wellbeing.

Using a novel approach to mindfulness training, Doctor of Clinical Psychology graduate Dr Amy Granberg investigated the effectiveness of a mindfulness-based phone app for students.

“I was interested in the active components of mindfulness underlying clinical benefits observed in the literature. Most studies investigating mindfulness report outcome measures and not changes in mindfulness per se,” she said.

The Challenges

According to Dr Granberg, mindfulness is difficult to define in view of its multifarious aspects.

Her research utilised laboratory measures and self-report measures of mindfulness, in an attempt to capture information about mindfulness skills acquisition and processes.

A randomised controlled design was used to test the feasibility of a low intensity mindfulness app intervention to improve stress and enhance wellbeing in a student population.

Fifty-four University students, new to mindfulness, participated in the study, which compared seven days of mindfulness practice using a mindfulness-based mobile app (MBMA), to an active control.

Dr Granberg said that the assumption was that mindfulness would reduce on measures of perceived stress, negative affect and emotion reactivity, and increase mindfulness and positive affect, compared to the control.

No major differences

“There were no significant differences for perceived stress or wellbeing, and both groups demonstrated a significant decrease in negative affect. While the results of this study failed to provide support for the use of a mindfulness-based mobile app to reduce student stress, results indicate such an intervention for seven days may cultivate the ability to act with awareness and presents an original contribution to knowledge about the efficacy of mindfulness-based interventions,” Dr Granberg said.

She said that the brief, seven-day intervention may not have allowed sufficient time for the effects to be captured. It may be that self-directed mobile mindfulness apps require more time to generate beneficial effects.

About Dr Granberg

Dr Granberg lives in Grey Lynn in Auckland, with her husband Michael and nine-year-old daughter Beata. She holds a Master of Health Sciences, a Bachelor of Science and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Auckland. She works as a Clinical Psychologist at Comprehensive Care in Albany, and is working to set up her own private practice in Grey Lynn.

She said that her PhD studies would not have been possible without the support of School of Psychology staff and her family.

She expressed her gratitude to her Primary Supervisor Dr Heather Kempton, Dr Peter Cannon for training in the lab and facilitating data processing, Ella Kroch for her contribution to study recruitment and laboratory assessments as part of her Honours project and her family.


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