Effects of App-Based Meditation

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Effects of App-Based Meditation on Stress in College Students The College of New Jersey Author Note: This paper is written as though the study has already been completed, so the past tense is used when referring to the experiment and results. The experiment was not performed, and the results in this paper do not necessarily reflect accurate, collected data. Abstract This research was prompted by studies showing that mediation can have a relaxing effect for college students, especially when practiced using a meditation app. I hypothesized that college students who practiced daily meditation with an app would show reduced stress levels as compared to those who did not practice meditation. Additionally, I hypothesized that those students who practiced for 10 minutes each morning would show similar stress reduction to those who practiced for 20 minutes each morning.

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The students took an initial stress inventory to measure current stress levels. Students were then randomly assigned to one of three conditions: daily morning meditation for 15 minutes, daily morning meditation for 5 minutes, and a control group, which would receive the mediation treatment after the study to ensure that the benefits were evenly distributed. After three weeks, the students were given the same stress inventory. The results showed that meditation practice was effective in significantly reducing levels of stress, but showed no significant difference between practicing for 5 or 15 minutes. The results suggest that meditation may be a powerful tool in reducing stress, and that busy students could reap the benefits of the practice with just 5 minutes a day. Effects of App-Based Meditation on Stress in College Students Many studies have found that practicing mindfulness by doing meditation has extensive benefits for both physical and mental health, particularly stress reduction (Pascoe, Thompson, Jenkins, & Ski, 2017). To begin with, meditation can help people recover physiologically from immediate stress. It has a unique impact on the sympathetic nervous system; meditating after a stressor can slow the heart rate and lower skin conductance, more so than sitting quietly or doing other calm tasks (Borchardt & Zoccola, 2018). Mindfulness can also help reduce the physiological markers of long-term stress in the body. Meditation practices can reduce blood pressure, and certain types of meditation can even lower cortisol levels or slow the heart rate (Pascoe, Thompson, Jenkins, & Ski, 2017).

Meditation practices can help people with mitigating the effects of both immediate and long-term stress. In addition to its benefits for beginners, meditation can have a host of benefits for those who practice it in the long term. In one study, people who were trained in meditation practices in a longitudinal study were exposed to negative affective processing. During the negative affect processing, those with the training displayed reduced amygdala activity compared to the control group. This suggests that over time, meditation begins to regulate the brain’s responses to negative stimuli, even when the person is not in a meditative state (Leung, Lau, Chan, Wong, Fung, & Lee, 2018). Mindfulness, or the practice of meditation, was also found to be a predictor variable for a reduced cortisol response. In one study, people were exposed to acute stress via a stressful speech task. Those participants who self-reported mindfulness as a trait were more likely to show no cortisol response (Manigault, Woody, Zoccola, & Dickerson, 2018). As this research shows, practicing meditation in the long term can have a host of mental benefits, namely an increased capability to cope with and mitigate the effects of stress. One demographic that this research may be particularly relevant for is undergraduate college students. Stress, both academic and general, is a large problem for college students today, and it can have aversive effects on students’ physical health, mental health, and even their academic success (Yusufov, Nicoloro-Santa Barbara, Grey, Moyer, & Lobel, 2018).

Research has shown that reducing stress for university students can promote and enhance the students’ emotional well-being; one self-report study found a strong correlation between academic stress and negative emotions, as well as a correlation between engagement in leisure activities and positive emotions (Zhang & Zheng, 2017). As these studies have indicated, finding an effective and practical way of reducing stress in students could be instrumental in improving mental health issues and overall well-being. Meta-analyses have shown mindfulness meditation to be an effective form of intervention for college students in particular (Bamber & Morpeth, 2018). From the beginning, practicing meditation during the transition into college life can help new students adjust to changes, and to manage their stress and their emotions during their transition (Finkelstein-Fox, Park, & Riley, 2018). It has also been found to help these students regulate emotions; students who had a 15-minute breathing meditation showed less of a negative response to negatively valanced images than students who had not (Arch & Craske, 2006). Meditation practices also have mental health benefits for current college students; meditation was found to be an effective technique for reducing anxiety in both undergraduate and graduate students (Yusufov, Nicoloro-Santa Barbara, Grey, Moyer, & Lobel, 2018). In addition to its stress-relieving capabilities, meditation can help students with other mental health struggles; engagement in a mindfulness program was also correlated with lower levels of depression and higher acceptance among college students (Sagon, Danitz, Suvak, & Orsillo, 2018). Practicing meditation has also proved to be helpful for students who are at risk for or who struggle with social anxiety. (??tefan, C??praru, & Szil??gyi, 2018).

These studies and many others have shown meditation to be an effective way for college students to manage stress and even to mitigate other mental health issues. App-based meditations, a relatively recent phenomenon, have proved to be very effective. In a fast-paced and technologically oriented age, meditation sessions in-person may not be realistic for many people, especially college students. One study explored the effectiveness of mindfulness meditation apps by having university students practice for 10 minutes each day for 10 days. The students were then allowed to practice however much they wished for a period of 30 days. The results showed that using the app had extensive mental health benefits compared to the control treatment. This research, however, did not focus on the amount of time that was spent meditating each day, and whether or not that could impact the benefits in any way. The students were assigned the same length of mediation and then allowed to practice as they saw fit (Flett, Hayne, Riordan, Thompson & Conner, 2018).

For college students under a large amount of stress and without much free time, it would be helpful to understand the minimum amount of meditation that will yield the same mental health benefits. Determining the minimum number of effective minutes would allow students to reduce stress without requiring any considerable amount of time. My expectation, as indicated by the studies mentioned above, is that if students practice meditation each day, they will show a significant reduction in overall stress levels. Additionally, my expectation is that students who practice 5 minutes of meditation will show the same level of stress reduction as students who practice 15 minutes of meditation each day. Method Participants Participants were college students (N = 120; 60 female and 60 male; M age = 19.8, SD = 2.31) at The College of New Jersey, a public college in New Jersey. They received credits for a course by participating in the research. Participants included 88 white/Caucasian Americans, 16 African Americans, 9 Asian Americans, and 7 Hispanic Americans. No participants were excluded from analysis. Measures Stress level: Overall stress levels will be measured using the Student-Life Stress Inventory, as used by Gadzella, Baloglu, Mastern, & Wang (2012).

This measure has 53 items and is used to measure 2 categories: the stressors in students’ lives, and their reactions to those stressors. There are 5 subcategories in the stressors section: Conflicts, Frustrations, Pressures, Changes, and Self-Imposed. There are 4 subcategories in the reactions section: Physiological, Emotional, Behavioral, and Cognitive. Responses are based on a 5 point Likert scale, from never to always. Sample items could not be included due to copyright. Procedure Students participating in the study arrived at a lab where they were presented with an informed consent form. After consent was given, the participants were given an initial stress inventory to complete. After the stress inventory was administered, the participants were randomly assigned to one of the three groups. The waitlist control group was thanked and told to wait for further contact. The two experimental groups were asked to download a free mediation app and instructed to practice each day for 20 minutes. One group was told to practice for 5 minutes each day, and the other groups was told to practice for 15 minutes each day. 3 weeks after that date, participants were brought into the lab again, including the control group, to take the stress inventory again. All participants were given a debriefing form and thanked for their participation. The control group was offered the chance to download the meditation app after debriefing.

Results The two hypotheses were supported. Discussion In this study, the change in levels of stress was measured. Upon random assignment to either a control condition or a condition of practicing daily meditation, the students who practiced meditation for three weeks showed significant reduction in stress levels while the control group of students showed no statistically significant change in stress levels. Additionally, the students assigned to practice meditation for 5 minutes showed the same reduction of stress as students assigned to practice for 15 minutes. These results support the two hypotheses; meditation has a significant reductive effect on stress for college students, and it tends to be effective even if students practice for just 5 minutes a day. Although the results support the hypothesis, the experiment had some limitations. Stress in college students could have been swayed by sources of stress that affect the collective campus; approaching midterm exams, a campus event, or an upcoming break could have an effect on a large number of the participants and act as a confounding variable. Stress tends to fluctuate naturally, and while random assignment can eliminate some of the confounding effects, it cannot control for events that increase or reduce stress across campus. The research also had many white participants, and a more representative sample could have yielded different results.

Considering the results of this experiment, practicing meditation each day for just 5 minutes may be an effective intervention for college students who are struggling with high levels of stress. It might be beneficial for college campuses to encourage this practice among the students, or to offer students a reduced price on subscriptions to a paid mediation app. This could help institutions reduce stress levels and overall wellbeing of their students. Further research could focus on how meditation affects other aspects of college life. Research into whether meditation practice makes students more productive could also be beneficial. It might be interesting to see if meditation practice correlates to other behaviors, such as alcohol consumption or social activity. Further research could also see if these same results are reflected across age groups, perhaps investigating if high school students could reap the same benefits from meditation practice.

References

Arch, J. J., & Craske, M. G. (2006).

Mechanisms of Mindfulness: Emotion Regulation Following a Focused Breathing Induction. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 44(12), 1849–1858. doi/10.1016/j.brat.2005.12.007

Bamber, M. D., & Morpeth, E. (2018).

Effects of Mindfulness Meditation on College Student Anxiety: A meta-analysis. Mindfulness, doi:10.1007/s12671-018-0965-5 Borchardt, A. R., & Zoccola, P. M. (2018).

Recovery from stress: An experimental examination of focused attention meditation in novices. Journal of Behavioral Medicine. doi:/10.1007/s10865-018-9932-9 DeSteno, D., Lim, D., Duong, F., & Condon, P. (2017).

Meditation inhibits aggressive responses to provocations. Mindfulness. doi:10.1007/s12671-017-0847-2 Finkelstein-Fox, L., Park, C. L., & Riley, K. E. (2018).

Mindfulness and Emotion Regulation: Promoting Well-Being During the Transition to College. Anxiety, Stress & Coping: An International Journal, doi:10.1080/10615806.2018.1518635 Flett, J. A. M., Hayne, H., Riordan, B. C., Thompson, L. M., & Conner, T. S. (2018).

Mobile Mindfulness Meditation: A Randomized Controlled Trial of the Effect of Two Popular Apps on Mental Health. Mindfulness. doi/10.1007/s12671-018-1050-9 Gadzella, B. M., Baloglu, M., Masten, W. G., & Wang, Q. (2012).

Evaluation of the Student Life-Stress Inventory-Revised. Journal of Instructional Psychology, 39(2), 82–91.

Retrieved from https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=psyh&AN= 2013-06939-003&site=ehost-live Leung, M., Lau, W. W., Chan, C. H., Wong, S. Y., Fung, A. C., & Lee, T. C. (2018).

Meditation-Induced Neuroplastic Changes in Amygdala Activity During Negative Affective Processing. Social Neuroscience, 13(3), doi:10.1080/17470919.2017.1311939 Manigault, A. W., Woody, A., Zoccola, P. M., & Dickerson, S. S. (2018).

Trait mindfulness predicts the presence but not the magnitude of cortisol responses to acute stress. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 90, 29–34. doi:/10.1016/j.psyneuen.2018.01.022 Pascoe, M. C., Thompson, D. R., Jenkins, Z. M., & Ski, C. F. (2017).

Mindfulness mediates the physiological markers of stress: Systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 95, 156–178. doi:/10.1016/j.jpsychires.2017.08.004 Sagon, A. L., Danitz, S. B., Suvak, M. K., & Orsillo, S. M. (2018).

The Mindful Way through the Semester: Evaluating the feasibility of delivering an acceptance-based behavioral program online. Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science, 9, 36–44. doi:/10.1016/j.jcbs.2018.06.004 ??tefan, C. A., C??praru, C., & Szil??gyi, M. (2018).

Investigating effects and mechanisms of a mindfulness-based stress reduction intervention in a sample of college students at risk for social anxiety. Mindfulness. doi:/10.1007/s12671-018-0899-y Yusufov, M., Nicoloro-Santa Barbara, J., Grey, N. E., Moyer, A., & Lobel, M. (2018).

Meta-analytic evaluation of stress reduction interventions for undergraduate and graduate students. International Journal of Stress Management. doi:/10.1037/str0000099 Zhang, J., & Zheng, Y. (2017).

How do Academic Stress and Leisure Activities Influence College Students’ Emotional Well-Being? A Daily Diary Investigation. Journal of Adolescence, 60, 114–118. Doi:/10.1016/j.adolescence.2017.08.003 Table 1 Stress Inventory Results for Different Meditation Levels Initial Stress Inventory Post-Practice Stress Inventory Level of Practice M SD M SD Control 140 5.1 139 4.9 5 Minutes 139 4.9 100 5 15 Minutes 141 5 99 5.1 Figures Figure 1.

The control group showed no reduction in average stress level, while both the meditation conditions showed a significant reduction in stress levels. There was no statistically significant difference in stress reduction between the two meditation conditions.

Hypothesis: Practicing daily app-based meditation will have an effect on stress in college students, such that those students who practice daily meditations will show reduced levels of overall stress and those who do not will show no significant change in overall stress levels. Additionally, students who practice morning meditation will show a greater stress reduction than those that practice at night. Meditation practice will be manipulated using a similar method to that used by DeSteno, Lim, Duong, & Condon (2017).

Student participants will be randomly assigned to practice a daily meditation using an app for 3 weeks, either in the morning or in the evening, or to the control group, who will not be asked to practice the meditation until after results are collected.

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Effects of App-Based Meditation. (2019, Dec 09). Retrieved January 31, 2023 , from
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