I am always amazed when I read about innovative new technology for things that ten years ago I would never have imagined.
Video games that help surgeons improve their skills, iPhone Apps for measuring happiness. I could go on and on, but you get the point.
I recently read an article in BMC Psychiatry that documented a very brief, randomized, controlled pilot study looking at the use of the internet for teaching mindfulness meditation.
Drs. A. Maercker and TM Gluck out of the University of Vienna, Austria and the University of Zurich, Switzerland, took 49 adults who were randomized into either a two-week treatment group or a wait-list control group.
These adults were recruited using the internet and e-mails sent out to the staff, faculty, and students at the university. Anyone receiving treatment for a mental condition was excluded from the study, as was anyone suffering from a substance abuse problem.
During the thirteen-day intervention, participants were given two online modules, each of which lasted 20 minutes a day for 6 days.
The first module consisted of audio recordings and written texts explaining mindfulness meditation, as well as animated meditation exercises. The second module showed a blue sky with clouds that slowly moved as you hit the space bar. Participants were supposed to practice the mindfulness exercises from the first module and mindfully watch the clouds move.
Distress, perceived stress, mindfulness, and emotion regulation were measured before the study, after the two-week program, and then at a 3-month follow-up. Anyone who indicated high levels of distress going into the program were given additional references to counseling services for additional assistance.
While most measurements weren’t statistically significant, there were some interesting trends. Those participants who reported the most distress going into the program reported the most distress reduction. Stress relief and improved emotional regulation were statistically significant for those participants who participated in the online program more than 50% of the time.
This study is just a very small, very early study, yet the possibility of internet-based interventions is something to ponder.
There’s one huge caveat that I want to add to this discussion of technology and mindfulness: mindfulness meditation isn’t appropriate for everyone. We know of all the wonderful effects that a mindfulness meditation practice can have on our health and the health of our patients, but also know that mindfulness isn’t appropriate in all contexts.
We recently launched a Mindfulness and Psychotherapy distance learning class with Ron Siegel, PsyD. The class is now closed for registrations, but we thank everyone who has expressed continued interest in it.
We put together a video with Ron, talking about some situations where mindfulness wouldn’t be advisable. If you haven’t yet seen it, we’ve reposted the video for the next few days. You can view it by clicking here.
Have you ever used technology to teach mindfulness to your patients? Please leave a comment below.