First evidence of increased state mindfulness from computer-based mindfulness practice

A 5-minute computer-based mindfulness task increases state mindfulness, according to a study published this April in PLOS ONE. Despite a number of mindfulness practices being readily available through smartphone apps and websites, the study is the first to provide evidence of an increase in state mindfulness as a result of short-term mindfulness practice on a computer.

Mindfulness is defined as enhanced attention, being in the present, and maintenance of an open and non-judgmental consciousness. Training programs in mindfulness have been shown to have a positive impact on outcomes for mental health over long periods of time; such as stress, anxiety, depression, and aggression.

It has been proposed that there are two aspects to mindfulness. Trait mindfulness is seen as a relatively stable aspect of personality. State mindfulness is seen as a skill that requires purposeful attention to be altered; for example, focusing attention on minute details of mental activity that would not be typically noticed.

Mindfulness programs often involve sessions that span over several weeks and require a number of hours of participation. Given the fast pace of modern life, it is important to look at whether shorter mindfulness tasks could still provide positive benefits, and for this reason, many courses are now accessible online.

The study, by Lynsey Mahmood, Tim Hopthrow and Georgina Randsley de Moura of the University of Kent, investigated whether a 5-minute computer-based mindfulness task could increase levels of state mindfulness. The training was measured on a non-clinical sample in 3 parts: firstly, on 54 high school students in a lab setting, and then using an entirely online method on two employee samples of 90 and 61 people. Participants were divided into either the mindfulness task condition or a control condition, with everyone having to complete a measure of state mindfulness both before and after.

The result revealed significant increases in state mindfulness following the mindfulness task, but not in the control condition. The study provides evidence that 5-minutes of mindfulness practice are enough to produce increases in state mindfulness. Furthermore, the task was effective even when completed online and without any specialist input.

Despite a number of mindfulness practices being readily available to the general population through smartphone apps and websites, the study is the first to find evidence that such practices have the potential to increase state mindfulness.