Numerous studies point toward practicing mindfulness as a great way to improve mental health and relieve stress. One great way to get into the practice of mindfulness is through meditation.
There are a variety of mental and physical health benefits that can be gained from practicing mindfulness through meditation.
Meditation apps have been shown to be powerful tools to help users manage stress and anxiety, improve their mood, increase sleep quality, and more.
While app-based meditation and virtual reality aren’t the best courses of action for everyone, they’ve been shown to help many people improve their quality of life and productivity.
Meditation isn’t something that comes easy for everyone, but thanks to multisensory technology, some meditation apps on the market have been proven to help.
What is meditation?
While most people know what meditation is, many people have not experienced it or made it a daily part of their lives. Meditation is rooted in ancient Indian Hindu, Buddhist, and Chinese Taoist Buddhist practices that date back to 1500 BCE. The Latin word for meditation means “to ponder,” which is essentially what meditation is. However, the goal of meditation is to clear the mind from any intrusive thoughts, as people practicing meditation work to observe these thoughts as they come in and then release them.
The best position or posture for meditation for most people is to sit cross-legged, but sitting in any comfortable position will suffice. Some hold their hands in specific forms according to their spiritual practice, and may even hum or chant repetitively to aid in clearing their mind and bringing it to focus on the present moment. The original goal of meditation was to reach a spiritual state of enlightenment. However, numerous mental and physical health benefits have been found from regularly engaging in this practice — even if only for five minutes a day.
Immersive multisensory meditation
Multisensory meditation involves the stimulation of more than one of the five senses. This term typically refers to technology-aided meditations, such as guided audiovisual meditations using technology such as smartphone apps. Most of these incorporate both audio and visual stimuli. When referring to this type of technology being immersive, it means that it allows the person using it to fully immerse themselves neurologically into the environment that they are being transported into, typically using a virtual reality headset.
Multisensory vs. traditional meditation
Traditional meditation does not rely on technology to reach the same state and benefits as multisensory meditation. Multisensory meditation should not be the only way a person meditates, but a tool that helps them overcome some of the struggles that first-time traditional meditation presents, such as background noises, racing thoughts, etc.
Using multisensory meditation apps makes it easier for people to tune out more than they would on their own. It is also a bit like having a therapist guide you through the meditation process from the palm of one's hand or a virtual reality headset. While beneficial, this form of meditation should only be used when having a difficult time meditating traditionally. It should not become a crutch or the only way a person can meditate.
The goal should be to take what can be learned from these tools and apply them to traditional meditation practices once in the habit of meditating and relaxing the mind and focusing on the present on a regular, consistent basis. This is because smartphones and virtual reality tools are essentially forms of escapism that can have negative impacts on the body and mind if overused. Much of society is already relying more on technology than is healthy. At least, if you are able to use these tools to develop the healthy habit of meditation and apply the skills learned to traditional meditation, they can offset some of the damage that may be caused by relying so much on smartphones and apps.
Benefits of multisensory meditation
According to research, the practice of meditation, whether multisensory or traditional, is a powerful tool that has been shown to change the brains of depressed patients. Another study showed that an audiovisual guided meditation app could relieve work-related stress and increase the well-being of employees, while giving them feelings of social support. Meditation, both natural and technology-assisted, has also been shown to improve sleep quality while boosting overall feelings of happiness and mindfulness. Other proven benefits of traditional and multisensory meditation include increased concentration, lower blood pressure, insomnia, and anxiety, and it even helps with symptoms of irritable bowel disease.
Smartphone meditation aids
Studies show that repetitively engaging in guided meditation trains the brain to have more positive thoughts and even make healthier decisions. With that being said, several technological tools are on the market designed to help with meditation and overall well-being. Let’s explore some of the latest and greatest multisensory meditation apps available.
Headspace for work stress and well-being
Headspace is a meditation app that offers hundreds of audio-guided meditations, sleep sounds and music, focus music, workouts, and yoga classes to boost your overall mood and state of well-being. The benefits of Headspace are so impactful that various health insurance plans now cover it, and some employers also offer it as a benefit to their employees, especially those in the public health industry. However, if employers and health insurance companies are offering this app as a benefit, it must be working to create positive changes in the lives of those who use it.
Enhance your mind's well-being with daily mindfulness practices.
Zensory for focus and relaxation
The Zensory app provides users with a variety of multisensory combinations that have been created to help improve one’s mood and focus. They do this by combining neuroscience principles with traditional therapeutic interventions. Research on users of Zensory has been found to have four to five times more focus, calm, creativity, and positivity. The app offers a variety of features such as binaural beats, music, natures scapes, interactive touchpads, taste and scent guides, recipes, breath work exercises, a pressure point guide, and even exercises and stretches that can be done while sitting at a desk.
AtOne virtual reality meditation
AtOne is the first virtual reality multisensory meditation app in the world. According to studies, virtual reality-assisted meditation allows people to learn faster, focus better, and be more confident in applying their knowledge than those who learn in traditional classrooms or online. In addition, when used for pain relief compared to audio therapy, users experienced greater relief. This makes the AtOne app a powerful meditation tool.
AtOne works with an Oculus Quest virtual reality headset. It’s able to replicate the look of having one’s eyes closed, can show users a world of sacred geometry, and has a variety of real and virtually-created environments that users can transport to, such as beaches, forests, and outer space. This app features originally-composed music, which implemented technology in its creation to pick up the frequency of various plants and turn them into sound.
Calm for anxiety, insomnia, and stress
Calm is a multisensory, audiovisual meditation app designed to help users improve their sleep quality, manage stress or anxiety, improve their concentration, and overall mental and physical health. It’s been shown to help users increase their productivity while allowing them to achieve more consistent, quality sleep patterns, which have been shown to have numerous mental and physical health benefits. The app offers guided meditations and visual content designed to help soothe and calm the mind.
Solas combats stress and confusion
Solas is a multisensory virtual reality meditation app that helps users relax and meditate in peaceful, 360-degree virtual environments set in nature. Being in nature, or even a virtual nature setting, triggers the brain to release endorphins, which are feel-good hormones that naturally relieve pain and anxiety while boosting one’s mood. This app is especially helpful for those who live in urban settings where there are many loud noises, sirens, and a lack of nature.
Insight Timer for sleep and relaxation
The Insight Timer app is free, making it a popular option for managing sleep, stress, and anxiety. It offers over 30,000 custom-guided meditations. This app was awarded the best overall meditation app in 2021 by Healthline. The app features an extensive library of guided meditations and audio recordings from psychologists, mindfulness teachers, and spiritual leaders. In addition, it features a meditation timer, music, and even stories to help one fall asleep. In addition to guiding users through meditations, it also offers breath work courses, a breath work timer, and live yoga classes and mindfulness practices, such as Yoga Nidra. Once you’re done meditating or doing yoga, you can reflect by using the built-in journal, mood check-in, and library of inspirational quotes.
While these apps have been found to help assist users with meditation and relaxation, app-based technology and virtual reality are not always the best answer for everyone. The most important aspect of these apps is that you are getting your mind to the point of flow and Zen, and it’s possible to do this naturally without relying on an app. It is nice to know, however, that when you have a difficult time concentrating or doing the things you need to do to stay mentally and physically well, naturally and on your own, there are apps on the market that have been shown to help enhance these practices and have made impactful differences in the lives of many who use them.
- The Harvard Gazette. When science meets mindfulness. Researchers study how it seems to change the brain in depressed patients.
- Journal of Occupational Health Psychology. Mindfulness on-the-go: Effects of a mindfulness meditation app on work stress and well-being.
- Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. The effect of mindfulness meditation on sleep quality: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.