How Do Mindfulness Apps Work?

Research on mindfulness apps is limited, but here’s what we know so far.

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Want to feel more Calm, get some Headspace, and practice Mindfulness Daily? There are apps for that—hundreds of them, besides the three I just mentioned.

These apps make a promise: Rather than investing countless hours and dollars in mindfulness classes or mindfulness-based therapy, we can choose to meditate from the comfort of our smartphones. Users are flocking to mindfulness apps in hopes of cultivating kind attention to their own thoughts and feelings, and of reaping the mental and physical benefits that go along with mindfulness.

But do they work? What does science say about mindfulness apps?

Research began in earnest only about four years ago, and studies are indeed pointing to potential benefits for our stress, emotions, and relationships. The findings may not be as conclusive as app marketers would have you believe—but they do suggest you should at least consider trying one.

Digital stress reduction

Much of the research so far involves the popular mindfulness app Headspace, which has attracted 20 million users across 190 countries since its launch in 2012. The app’s meditations are voiced by Headspace founder and former Buddhist monk Andy Puddicombe, starting with simple breathing and…