Meditation Apps: Are They Really Effective Against Stress?

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Some phone applications help reduce stress and blood pressure. And it is science that says so. At home, in the office, in the transport, connect to your smartphone and let yourself be guided to practice meditation anywhere and at any time.

Meditation, which lasts about 45 minutes a day, helps control stress and anxiety. According to recent studies, short sessions on smartphones are as effective as a face-to-face course. After a month, young nurses who freely used the Headspace app said they were less overreactive and felt less psychological fatigue at their jobs, compared to those who had only taken weekly meditation sessions with a professional.

Same results after 8 weeks, practicing at least 10 minutes a day, for very stressed students with the Calm app. Using a 20 minute application per day would improve measurable markers like cortisol levels. "To manage moderate stress, at work for example, these systems are a very good accompaniment", confirms Dr. François Bourgognon, a psychiatrist specializing in mindfulness meditation.

"But if you have strong anxieties, a tendency to depression or severe sleep problems, you should first consult a specialist. Meditating alone can be upsetting and trigger, for example, anxiety attacks."

Proven effects on blood pressure

American researchers followed 64 prehypertensive patients who used a meditation app for 5, 10, or 15 minutes twice a day. The drop in systolic pressure (first data) was clear after one month (-7.86 to -10.91 mmHg depending on the duration), which allowed them, for example, to go from 130/90 to 120/90 . The effect was even more interesting after 6 months (down to -12.4 mmHg). The study also showed that patients assigned to the 15-minute sessions were less diligent over time than those who did 10 minutes.

"It is the regular practice that counts, especially to strengthen the nervous system activity that calms the tension. The thematic programs of the applications, with a new session each day and the possibility of programming a reminder on your smartphone, promote this assistance long-term, "confirms Dr. Bourgognon.

Four meditation apps to lower blood pressure

Appreciated by users and found interesting by Dr. Bourgognon, these applications offer short sessions and thematic programs. The first sessions are all free.

Head Space: the most studied

Developed by a former American sports science student who gave up everything to become a Buddhist monk, it has been the subject of several scientific studies. Colorful illustrations and short videos explain the concepts. It has numerous programs such as support for sadness and pain, and thematic meditations to manage the problem of the moment.

Insight Timer: the most free sessions

More than 24,000 sessions guided by different teachers, which can be ordered by duration or by topic. The paid version gives access to courses of 5 to 10 days, in particular with the philosopher Fabrice Midal.

Calm: the easiest to use

Some basic thematic programs for 7 days (stress management, sleep, self-esteem, gratitude, etc.) and a new meditation of ten minutes each day, on a different topic.

Namatata: the lightest

Numerous programs throughout 7 days (letting go, confidence, weight control), with the possibility to choose between a duration of 10 or 20 min, and meditations at times of the day (I get up, walk, take transport).

Three tips to use them well

Try several: apps offer free sessions. Convenient to compare and choose which voices and which programs we like the most, before hiring a subscription.

Don't look too hard at the stats - the current series' challenges can be motivating, but also guilty. It's okay if you miss a session, being kind to yourself is part of meditation.

Knowing how to break with it: "The goal is to become autonomous in time and to be able to meditate anywhere, without any equipment or voice to guide us," recalls Dr. Bourgognon. Once you're comfortable, try the free silent meditations in these apps, with a bell ringing at the end of the scheduled duration.

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