Do we need an ‘app’ for mindfulness?

Software application developers will always be looking to create the next big thing (Twitter etc.) and come up with a killer app to forge their name in history.

So what’s trending next?

A recent BBC television documentary by Dr Chris and Dr Xand Van Tulleken investigated mental health and stress — currently linked here — and suggested that apps which promote mindfulness could help those of us who want to slow the world down… and perhaps even get off it altogether.

What is mindfulness?

Wikipedia defines mindfulness as the psychological process of bringing one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present moment, which one can develop through the practice of meditation and through other training.

Mindfulness itself is thought to be derived from sati, a significant element of Buddhist traditions.

The UK NHS pages on this subject note comments made by Professor Mark Williams, former director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, who says that mindfulness means knowing directly what is going on inside and outside ourselves, moment by moment.

“It’s easy to stop noticing the world around us. It’s also easy to lose touch with the way our bodies are feeling and to end up living ‘in our heads’ – caught up in our thoughts without stopping to notice how those thoughts are driving our emotions and behaviour,” said Williams.

Williams also notes that another important part of mindfulness is an awareness of our thoughts and feelings as they happen, moment to moment.

An app, or device

So given this trend (albeit an ancient practice now presented as a trend), do we need an app (or perhaps even a device) to help us achieve mindfulness?

We downloaded ‘The Mindfulness App – meditate’ from the Apple app store for iPad in the hope that it might do what it says on the tin.

Despite its 4.6 out of 5 stars ***** rating, this is app is basically just a selection of intros to meditation speeches that appear to be almost entirely delivered by chilled out sounding probably 40-something American female ‘specialists’ who would all no doubt like you to buy their book.

The full speeches (or monologues) are only available with a premium membership, so we didn’t bother.

There is a neat timer function that allows you to start your mindfulness session and opt to listen to a looped soundtrack of the beach, forest, rain, stream, waves or nothing… and this is nice.

Breathy & deliberately monotone

Users can opt for the above with or without the breathy and seemingly deliberately monotone American lady telling you to ‘find your presence and notice the breath in your nostrils’ as needed.

As an additional comment on this story (and something of an experiment), we tried the mindfulness techniques using a set of Jabra Evolve 80 headphones with Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) technology as reviewed here on Computer Weekly.

Switching on noise cancellation appears to be a good thing.

It cuts out the planes coming into Heathrow and allows the user to really focus on the relaxing sounds. In fact, simply turning them on with no sound is also a good idea as it helps to shut out the world and perhaps puts you one step closer to inner peace.

As Buddha said, “To conquer oneself is a greater task than conquering others.”

… and, no, sorry developers, he didn’t need an app for that.

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