Meditation apps and the promotion of health insurance companies
How can meditation apps strengthen our psyche and nerves?
Health is our most valuable asset – but promoting it is not just a matter of a balanced diet or regular exercise; a focus on mental well-being is also essential for a holistic, healthy life. Especially in the course of the Corona pandemic, an increase in threatening symptoms such as anxiety, frustration as well as stress can be seen in the population (1). The resulting negative effects can have a lasting impact on health. This makes it all the more important to take a mindful approach to oneself, part of which is strengthening the psyche and nerves. Meditation apps promise to support this approach and also help combat anxiety during the Corona pandemic. They act as a digital companion and motivate users to consciously relax every day.
Meditation apps and digitalization in healthcare
The ongoing digitalization in healthcare also enables the rise of apps that can support preventive self-care in the context of ‘mobile health’ (mHealth) (2) – including meditation apps, which are therefore promoted by some health insurers. The popularization of mindfulness or ‘self-care’ and the associated training of qualities such as trust, patience, or acceptance, has also increased the range of apps designed to deliver positive mental health value (3). Furthermore, an increasing professionalization and quality assurance of mental health app offerings can be observed. This is reflected in the growing number of certifications as prevention products according to § 20 SGB V (e.g., 7 Mind) or as DiGa (‘app on prescription’; e.g., Selfapy).
The motto is: switch off, relax and concentrate on the here and now and on yourself – strengthen your psyche and nerves at any time and any place. Depending on the intention of the user, such as improving sleep, reducing stress or increasing concentration, there are different exercises. In addition to guided and open meditations, many popular meditation apps include relaxation music, breathing exercises, and stories to help you fall asleep (4).
Can meditation strengthen the psyche and nerves?
While physical training can be consciously interrupted by breaks, the mind is difficult to pause. The brain works incessantly, as our everyday life is determined by numerous thought processes. In addition, external stimuli also influence mental well-being. In this respect, it is not surprising if this gets out of balance.
Meditation is the solution for many people to stop the incessant carousel of thoughts. Scientific research shows that mindfulness meditation, in particular, can facilitate the cultivation of a healthy mind and increase one’s well-being (5). For example, mindfulness practices can help reduce stress as well as improve emotion regulation (5). A good meditation app can assist in adhering to these routines.
Is mindfulness the same as meditation?
When it comes to meditation, there is always talk of mindfulness. However, a distinction must be made here.
Principle of mindfulness
The principle of mindfulness characterizes the conscious concentration on the present. The past and the future are disregarded. This leads to the fact that certain moments can be reflected with thoughtfulness. In everyday life, it often happens that many actions are performed routinely, because a certain habit has formed. This reduces the perception of mental processes. By focusing on a mindful attitude, feelings, thoughts and sensations can be better sorted (6). In addition, there is no judgment of experiences or experiences, i.e., they are not categorized as either ‘good’ or ‘bad’ (6).
The mediation process
Meditation is a practicing method that, with the help of different techniques, pursues different goals, such as reducing stress or improving the ability to concentrate (7). Consequently, mindfulness meditation is a method that focuses on the essential features of mindfulness practice to strengthen the psyche and nerves.
Is meditation always the same? What are the types?
There are countless ways to keep the body moving – cycling, swimming, running, climbing, etc.. The type of exercise depends on different needs and intentions. To improve endurance, running is recommended. For more flexibility, yoga is a possible alternative. If the primary goal is to have fun and interact with others, volleyball, for example, can be considered.
In meditation practice, too, there are different techniques that can be implemented individually. While there are people who find more peace with the help of relaxation music, it is quite conceivable that others need complete silence to be able to switch off. In addition, the motivations for a meditative practice vary from person to person. Meditation apps can therefore provide support in many ways: Whether through music, meditation coaches or simple reminders for the daily routine.
In our everyday lives, we are confronted with a multitude of information, impressions and experiences. Too much to be able to process it directly. That is why a large part of the processing takes place during sleep. In this way, the body regenerates itself to be able to draw new energy. Sleep disorders prevent this process. Studies show that sleep can be improved with the help of meditation (8). This often involves relaxation exercises to be practiced before falling asleep and after waking up (8).
Valuing oneself should be a given, but it is not always. Meditations that focus on more self-love – also called loving-kindness meditations – target one’s own care and also emphasize connection with others (9). A nonjudgmental awareness of the present moment lies at the heart of meditative practice, which is said to involve the promotion of awareness, presence, acceptance, and self-regulation (9). The goal is to build a healthy connection to self and others (9). Digital solutions can also help strengthen self-love. Meditation apps, for example, can help with tips for focused awareness.
Transcendental meditation is an important component of yoga practice and one of the most studied meditation techniques (10). The term transcendence means transcending any form of mental engagement to achieve a state of restful wakefulness (10). Usually, this form of meditation is taught by certified teachers who assign an individual mantra to each practitioner (10). A mantra is a sound word that is used to prevent thought processes during meditation (10). In yoga practice, a common mantra is the word ‘Om’. For transcendental meditation without a teacher, it is important to observe the following points (10):
- Regularity (meditation twice a day for 15-20 minutes)
- Comfortable sitting posture
- Awareness of the physical state
constant repetition of the set mantra
- short rest after meditation
Unlike transcendental meditation, which focuses only on the individual, guided meditation focuses on the voice of a meditation leader (11). The emergence of pictorial associations visualized by what is said is intended to help meditators relax and come to rest. Guided meditation is especially suitable for beginners. Especially for the inexperienced it helps to concentrate on certain instructions, which are transmitted by a guiding person. During a meditative practice in complete silence, it may be difficult not to drift off with your thoughts. Most meditation apps offer guided meditations.
How does meditation via a meditation app work?
Reach for the smartphone for more relaxation? That sounds paradoxical at first. After all, cell phones are full of triggers that can trigger stress: the constant barrage of news or e-mails and the need to always stay up to date, whether through social media or news platforms. Despite this, good meditation apps can help if they follow the right strategy. Maintaining mental well-being also involves mindful smartphone use. If this component is taken into account, a proven benefit cannot be ruled out.
The number of meditation apps in the App Store or Google Play Store is endless: if you enter the keyword ‘meditation’, a long list of suggestions appears that are suitable for this purpose. Among them are good meditation apps that are designed in such a way that you can ideally incorporate their use into your everyday life, i.e. short relaxation exercises for your lunch break or on your way to work. The type of meditation depends on the mood or intention of the person practicing. For example, if the person is feeling stressed, anxious or unable to concentrate, short exercises from the meditation app can help. In addition, background sounds such as rain or forest sounds are integrated into most meditations (12).
Connection to trackers, devices, mobile devices
To keep track of the minutes of mindfulness, most meditation apps can be connected with Google Fit or Apple Health. To do this, the respective application must be downloaded to a mobile device or tablet of the respective provider (IOS, Android). Under the Settings option of the respective device, it is now possible to establish a connection with the respective meditation app.
What are the good meditation apps or mindfulness apps?
‘Be kind to your mind’ is the slogan of the meditation app Headspace. The app has millions of users worldwide and is one of the best-known digital applications for supporting mental health. For a proven effect of the offered mindfulness meditation, studies are conducted in collaboration with scientific research institutes, such as Stanford and University of Southern California (USC), to investigate the influence of Headspace on health aspects such as stress, concentration and compassion (15).
Balloon is a meditation app from Gruner + Jahr and is a digital supplement to the mindfulness magazines Flow and Hygge. Here, too, the courses and exercises included are based on findings from meditation research. This scientific know-how is provided primarily by psychologist and neuroscientist Boris Bornemann, who also accompanies the guided meditations with his voice. The meditation app stands for more ease through simple but effective methods (16).
According to 7Mind, seven minutes of meditation per day is enough to achieve more peace and well-being and to strengthen the psyche and nerves. The app’s library includes courses on topics such as health, happiness, and potential, and is suitable for both beginners and advanced users. Students at certain universities and colleges even receive free access for 12 months, and those insured by the BARMER health insurance company can also use the meditation app free of charge (17).
Advantages of offering meditation apps to health insurance companies
As mentioned above, there are already health insurance companies that reimburse the costs of meditation apps for insured persons. If these have a demonstrably positive effect on mental health and also on physical health, this is a great advantage for insurance companies. Through prevention with the help of meditation apps, health insurers may be able to save costs for therapies that can arise as a result of a mental illness. In addition, health insurance companies can make themselves more attractive to potential policyholders by offering a wider range of services through meditation apps.
How YAS.life incorporates meditation into the apps
We at YAS.life also think that meditation is part of an all-round healthy lifestyle. Therefore, users can add it as a manual activity and thus also earn points for meditative exercises while strengthening their psyche and nerves. In addition, mental well-being is a component of the health goals, which consists of the categories sleep, wellness, mindfulness and mini-breaks. Users can specify, for example, how often they want to take time for each category and for how long. To actively give the mind a little time out, there is a wide range of products and offers in the rewards section that make this possible. First and foremost is Balloon, the meditation app for more relaxation in everyday life, or Kenkou – an app that has been proven to reduce stress.
Meditation apps in times of Corona
A study shows that mental health suffers during the Corona pandemic in about 60% of the population. Symptoms such as anxiety, stress and excessive demands are therefore not uncommon. Social distance from friends and family, financial insecurity, and the constant fear of infection can be extremely damaging to mental health in the long run (18). The consequence: an increase in sick days, as a result of psychological stress (19). Meditation apps are a possible solution to support the improvement of mental well-being, and indeed an increase in usage numbers of Headspace and co. is recorded during Covid-19 (20). However, it must also be noted at this point that meditation apps are not Digital Health Apps (DiGA) and do not function as a therapeutic alternative for serious mental illness. In such cases, it is essential to consult a medical professional.
Positive effects on physical and physical health scientifically confirmed?
The fact is that mental and physical health are interdependent. If we are physically unwell, this can have an impact on our mental health. If our mental health suffers, this may have an effect on our physical condition. Therefore, for a holistic healthy state, the harmony of both areas is necessary. Studies show that spiritual meditation reduces the frequency of migraines and physiological reactivity to stress (13). With the help of meditation apps, the psyche and nerves can be strengthened to also achieve a positive effect on the physical condition.
Meditation as prevention for mental health
Preventive measures in the form of exercise and a healthy diet are important for physical health. But does the same apply to mediation and its effect on mental health? In fact, regular meditation can have a positive effect on mental well-being. Studies show that recurrent meditation causes structural changes in the brain, which ultimately leads to the reduction of stress levels (14). Researchers therefore recommend meditative practices as a complementary measure (14). Meditation apps can contribute to regularity of practice, as a reminder can be sent via smartphone at selected times.
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