How to Get the Most From Your Mindfulness App

Maybe you're on the fence about meditation as a whole, or maybe you're obsessed with Headspace and want to spread the word. A new study backs up claims about how mindfulness can decrease stress, with one key caveat: You'll get a lot farther if you accept acceptance first.

Psychologists at Carnegie Mellon University just published research on how effective smartphone-based mindfulness really is. For two weeks, 144 stressed-out adults used an app for 20-minute lessons each day. Some trained users to simply monitor the present moment, while others emphasized monitoring and accepting the present moment; a third group did neither. At the end of the study, researchers put the participants through a stressful situation, then measured their bodies' stress responses through blood pressure and cortisol levels.

The group that focused on accepting the present moment showed a measurable drop in stress — 20 percent lower blood pressure and half as much of the stress hormone cortisol. "We all experience stress in our lives, but this study shows that it's possible to learn skills that improve the way our bodies respond to stress with as little as two weeks of dedicated practice," said study lead Emily Lindsay in a press release. "Rather than fighting to get rid of unpleasant feelings, welcoming and accepting these feelings during stressful moments is key."

The app used in this study, the Evidence-Based Mindfulness App for Stress Reduction, is available for companies and institutions to distribute free for their employees. Its creators say it's the only clinically proven app of its kind, if you're looking for a course to start. But if you're already convinced that mindfulness apps can improve your life, look for programs that emphasize acceptance of the present moment. You might feel better, not least because numbers back it up.