Technology today is increasingly more prevalent and integrated into everyday life. With the rise of smartphones, individuals are constantly checking their devices. In fact, it’s estimated that users check their devices on average 150 times per day, with the most time engaged with apps. But is this helpful or harmful to health? How does it affect individuals and society? Are there ways in which we may benefit from these apps?
In 2013, an estimated 13,600 health-related apps were on the market. These health-related apps have evolved to help manage stress and promote relaxation. While there are many ways to manage stress and promote relaxation, meditation is a commonly used practice. Meditation has been around for over 5,000 years, but with the introduction of health-related apps, specifically mindfulness-based meditation apps, meditation has been able to reach new audiences. With the growing amount of stress in our society, these meditation-based apps are an easy way to take 5 to 10 minutes from a busy day for a quick meditation.
Some would ask how meditation from a smartphone (the very thing that some media says can harm us) can be beneficial. Yes, some items like screen brightness could detract from the benefits of meditation, but most mindfulness meditation apps present meditation in a way that does not lessen its benefits. These apps include things like mindfulness, progressive muscle relaxation, visualization and diaphragmatic breathing, all of which can be used with the eyes closed while sitting in a relaxed state. Since the benefits of these techniques have been well documented, I’m suggesting that these techniques can be delivered effectively, efficiently — and in a moment’s notice — to promote stress reduction and relaxation in minutes or less.
The Benefit to Society
Now that we have these meditation-based apps that can bring us healthful benefits, whenever and wherever needed, imagine the health prosperities this could generate. So many chronic diseases in today’s society are created by prolonged and untreated stress. With the benefits of these apps, individuals can take a 5 to 10 minute break from their day and receive the relaxation and stress reduction that’s needed. In addition, while meditation is an old practice, apps are widely used by the younger generation. These apps can be used to invite this younger population to benefit from an ancient practice, and receive the benefits meditation has to offer. If our society started taking advantage of these benefits from meditation at an earlier age, this could help prevent chronic diseases, rather than having to treat them.
My colleagues and I conducted a study this year entitled “The Lived Experience of Adults Using a Meditation App: A Phenomenological Study.” The study suggests that 10 minutes of meditation a day from an app called Headspace promotes increased relaxation, stress reduction, and increased awareness of thoughts, emotions, senses and breathing. In fact, 100 percent of the participants in the study mentioned relaxation as a benefit!
There are many ways technology can distract and take away from our daily lives. However, with the use of these meditation-based apps we can help society decrease how often chronic diseases occur and hopefully lessen the severity of symptoms associated with those diseases. The benefits of meditation are vast, and by integrating modern technology, we can help spread these benefits to more people than ever before.