Meditation and mindfulness are getting more attention now than almost ever before. We use technology in all aspects of our lives today, including in meditation. Do meditation apps work? Yes, they can. However, they have limitations.
Mindfulness practice can improve wellness and mental health among a diverse range of people. However, some people are concerned that its current “trendiness” encourages a watered-down version of meditation.
Technology has the potential to feed into this concern. If you understand their pros and cons then you can maximize the apps’ benefits in your own life.
How Do Meditation Apps Work?
Asking “do meditation apps work?” is a more complicated question than it may seem at first. One core reason is that there are such a variety of different apps. If you head to the app store on your own device right now, you’ll like be able to find dozens of mindfulness apps on your own. Dig a little bit deeper and you’ll discover that there are actually hundreds of them on the market today.
There are many different types of meditation. Mindfulness is one form of meditation, in which you focus entirely (in so much as possible) on the present moment. Most meditation apps are mindfulness apps.
In other words, meditation is the broader category. Mindfulness is a meditation practice but not all meditation is mindfulness. There are other types of meditation.
Most meditation apps focus on bringing your attention to the present moment. Thus, most meditation apps work by helping you practice mindfulness.
Benefits of Mindfulness Apps
Mindfulness apps have only been around for a handful of years. Therefore, we don’t have access to extensive research indicating the scientific benefits. There have been a few studies however. Plus, of course, we have anecdotal evidence from those who use meditation apps that suggest what some of the benefits may be.
Stress reduction is the number one benefit of mindfulness apps.
This is no small thing. Stress is a leading cause of many of our mental and physical health issues. Research indicates that many people feel significantly less stressed after using meditation apps for as little as two weeks. Even those who don’t report this destressed feeling show signs in their bodies that indeed the meditation apps are helping to reduce their stress.
Do meditation apps work? Here are some of the additional benefits:
- Enhanced focus and less wandering of the mind
- Increase in overall positive emotions
- Improvement in symptoms of depression and anxiety
- Lower levels of fatigue
- Reduced aggression and judgment of others; increased compassion
- Reduced sense of external pressure
- Self-acceptance improves
Limitations of Mindfulness Apps
Clearly, the number one limitation of meditation and mindfulness apps is that they require you to use your technological gadgets.
We already spend more and more time on our phones, tablets, and laptops. People everywhere are showing increasing signs of technological stress. Everything from the pinging of notifications to the blue light emanating from the screen may have potential harm for our mental health.
Therefore, using technology to practice mindfulness is ironic at best. It may come with some risks that we aren’t yet aware of.
Other limitations of mindfulness apps include:
- There are hundreds of them so it’s challenging to find the one or two that are right for you.
- They focus on very short sessions. People seeking more than ten minutes of practice at a time may feel limited.
- If you don’t know what your goal is then the apps might not feel useful.
- They are one-sided rather than truly interactive.
Why Meditation Apps Can’t Replace Meditation Courses
Do meditation apps work? Sure, to some degree. However, they simply can’t replace meditation courses. In particular, apps are no substitute for in-person meditation classes and retreats. The technological aspect is one key reason.
People benefit more from mindfulness practice if they are able to enter a serene space. Technology naturally limits that serenity.
Additionally, when you go to a place outside of your home to practice meditation, your focus is already honed. If you’re on your phone, you can easily become distracted. It’s hard enough to sit still with your monkey mind in a retreat setting; trying to do so in your own home or office while on your mobile phone is asking a lot of your brain.
Moreover, meditation isn’t as simple as what’s offered in a mindfulness app. Meditation, and true in-depth mindfulness practice, is something that you hone over time.
An app can only teach you so much. An in-person teacher, on the other hand, has the experience and wisdom to be able to provide you with more insight.
You can take your meditation to the next level when you attend meditation courses. You can ask questions. Moreover, you can go deeper to figure out where mindfulness fits in your own life including within your spiritual practice, relationships, and career.
Mindfulness apps can provide a first step. They can’t accompany you along the entire journey.
Do Meditation Apps Work For Everyone?
With all of that in mind, there’s certainly nothing wrong with trying meditation apps. They may be helpful. If you need immediate stress reduction in your life then you should certainly give mindfulness apps a try.
Meditation practioners may benefit some from the apps. If you seek to supplement your regular mindfulness practice with technological aids, they can be a complement to what you’re already doing.
If you’re new to the concept of meditation and just want to get a flavor for what it’s all about, then apps can help you learn. Just remember that there is a lot more to them than what you see from an app or two.
All that said, though, meditation apps aren’t for everyone. People who want to really dig deep into the practice aren’t going to get enough info from an app. People with a lot of questions about mindfulness may find the apps frustratingly limited.
Most importantly, although meditation and mindfulness can offer mental health benefits, they are definitely not a substitute for therapy. If you have depression, anxiety, or another mental health condition then it’s important to work with professionals and not rely on app to relieve symptoms.