- Mindfulness practice has been shown in research to help people control anxiety and stress.
- A new research looks at using online mindfulness courses to help people deal with the emotional impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The majority of participants said the researchers’ online mindfulness session was beneficial.
- Between May and August 2020, there was a rise in mindfulness interest.
Mindfulness is a mental activity in which an individual focuses their attention on the present moment, observing their immediate surroundings, thoughts, and feelings without judgment.
Researchers at Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, investigated the therapeutic benefit of online mindfulness sessions for people who have experienced emotional distress as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
After participating in an experimental online mindfulness session, 89 percent of participants said the experience was beneficial.
Dr. Rebecca Erwin Wells, M.P.H., of Wake Forest School of Medicine, is the study’s principal investigator, who says:
“We are all born with the capacity for mindfulness. It can help reduce stress and anxiety, and mindfulness meditation practice can help enhance this ability.”
The research was inspired by a free daily mindfulness program called “Mindfulness for Milan,” which was proposed by Italian physician Dr. Licia Grazzi during the lockdown time. Dr. Grazzi is one of the co-authors of a recent review.
The findings were published in Global Advances in Health and Medicine.
Trying online mindfulness
The researchers invited healthcare professionals, migraine sufferers, and the general public to engage in their study from March 23 to August 4, 2020.
203 of the 233 participants came from 116 different zip codes around the country. In addition, there were 20 people from other countries and ten people from unknown locations who took part.
The participants were asked to fill out a pre-session survey, participate in a 15-minute online video mindfulness session, and then complete a post-session survey.
Sixty-three percent of those who took part had never attempted mindfulness before.
The session started with a female teacher in a white coat giving an overview of mindfulness. Individuals were then led through a guided exercise that instructed them to focus on the present moment, their breathing, and simply “being.”
Throughout the session, the practice facilitated the gentle release of thoughts, feelings, and sensations. A bell sound signaled the start and end of the session.
The effect of the class
76 percent of the 144 people who completed the post-session survey said the encounter decreased their anxiety, and 80 percent said they felt less stressed.
The class, according to slightly more than half of the participants (55 percent), allayed their fears about COVID-19.
Overall, 89 percent of participants thought the session was beneficial, and the same percentage thought the online format was successful. 74 percent of respondents said they would suggest online mindfulness sessions to their friends and family. More sessions were also desired, either weekly (48 percent), regular (36 percent), or monthly (36 percent) (17 percent ).
A little more than two-thirds of the participants (65 percent) wanted to hear more about mindfulness. A further 24% suggested that they would be involved.
The researchers point out that 21% of the participants were retirees, implying that the benefits of mindfulness practice are not limited by age.
The study’s limitations
The study’s authors point out some research limitations.
To begin with, the completion of the post-session survey may have been influenced by some participants continuing to meditate after the session, giving non-meditators’ views too much weight. After the session, participants may have been distracted or encountered technical difficulties.
Second, the majority of the sessions took place in the early months of the pandemic, probably exaggerating people’s feelings and the session’s effect.
Finally, the study’s participants were predominantly white (84 percent ). The authors note:
“More research is required to understand why there is a lack of diversity among participants: recruiting approaches vs. lack of interest or access. Although online programs increase accessibility, some communities can face inequalities due to a lack of internet access or low technical proficiency.”
Online mindfulness resources
The researchers also conducted an analysis of interest in mindfulness online. On May 19, 2020, at the start of the pandemic, and August 23, 2020, they gathered the results of Google searches for the Boolean term “mindfulness + COVID.”
On the first day, searches yielded 63.5 million results, while on the second date, searches yielded 96.4 million results. As the pandemic progressed, the number of sites on which the search term appeared increased by 52%, suggesting an increasing interest in mindfulness.
A list of recommended online mindfulness tools is also included in the report.
The authors discovered comprehensive online mindfulness resources, guided recordings, and external connections from members of the Academic Consortium for Integrative Medicine and Health after conducting a Google search for “mindfulness-based stress reduction” classes.