Mental Health

Meditation apps to help restore calm and lower stress

Mindfulness apps that help restore your calm. Studies have shown that these practices help build our resilience to stress.

Meditation apps to help restore calm and lower stress
Scripps News
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Meditation and Mindfulness apps are everywhere, and they’ve proven themselves to help our bodies and minds. 

From anxiety to sleeplessness and even pain management, these apps are designed to be an everyday practice to get chronic illnesses and your well-being in check. According to the CDC, in 2019 20.4% of U.S. adults suffered from chronic pain — that’s one in five — and 5.7% of adults in the U.S. use one or more prescription opioids. One mindfulness app aims to help decrease that dependency.  

"Flowly is now being studied as an opioid sparing device. Which means that not only can Flowly help substitute somebodies' opioid usage, but maybe even ween them off using opioids after a procedure or during their chronic pain experience. We always say that medication is certainly necessary for a lot of people, but it is not the whole answer," said Celine Tien, founder and CEO of Flowly.

Flowly is also delving into virtual reality to provide an immersive experience helping you regain control of your mind and body.  

"What we do is actually teach you how to control your heart rate through virtual reality. It allows you to train your body to shift from your fight or flight mode which is where all that pain and anxiety lives—to your parasympathetic rest and digest mode which is where recovery and healing lives," Tien said.  

So why VR? What are the additional benefits compared to traditional meditation?  

"VR really allows you to be completely immersed in the environment and really focus on the external stimuli. So you actually learn the breath work and the training faster, but you’re also distracted from whatever pain or panic that you might be experiencing. You’re learning how to control your inner workings of your body by focusing on something that’s outside of your body," she said. 

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But, virtual reality isn’t a new concept when it comes to pain management. It’s been studied since the 80s. Back then it was called distraction therapy.  

"It’s based off of the Gate Control Theory which is basically sending all of your focus to another stimuli not where your pain is, so that you can not feel that pain and really focus on something else," she said. 

But for Flowly, it’s not just about pain management. That’s only part of the equation. 

Dr. Landrew Sevel, assistant professor of Clinical/Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Vanderbilt University, says practicing mindfulness can help build resilience.  

"We want our nervous system to amount a response when we experience something difficult, a challenge, a stress, the experience of pain for example too — but we don’t want it to stay stuck there. What we see from mindfulness meditation is that we bounce back quicker," Sevel said. "What we can say with some confidence is that these sourced of interventions can be really helpful for stress, anxiety, stress and in some cases improving wellbeing."

And with the influx of meditation and mindfulness apps on the market, it may take a little trial and error to figure out what’s right for you.  

Dr. Sevel’s advice — don't give up. 

"If you find something and you don’t immediately have a positive experience. You don’t have an immediate experience of relief, it doesn’t mean that it’s not going to be helpful for you. It could be that it’s just a matter of time. For mindfulness to have profound impact of influences in our lives it needs time, it needs practice and some dedication. It doesn’t mean that it’s not possible to experience ease, to experience calm, some sense of centering just from being still and paying attention to your experience in the moment," he continued.

For most apps, all you need is a smartphone. For Flowly, you’ll also need the VR headset, it’s included with your subscription.