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Review by expert Anne E. Quinlan MA, ATR

Pros

  • Accessible, interactive, and user friendly
  • Provides lifelong tools for stress management
  • Establishes realistic expectations and provides tangible feedback

Cons:

  • Requires a commitment to regular practice
  • Not for acute or severe stress/illness

 

Product Description

Be Mindful is a four week online mindfulness training course. The course is well-structured, easy to follow, and covers the core principals and practices of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR)(1, 2), and mindfulness based cognitive therapy (MBCT)(3). The goal of the course is to provide tools that enable one to respond to life events with greater skill, and reduce levels of stress, anxiety, and depression.

The course is co-led by two well-established mindfulness teachers, Ed Halliwell and Tessa Watt. It includes 10 interactive video sessions that must be completed online, and 5 guided meditations available as downloadable audio files that can be used at one’s convenience.

The four-week course incorporates both formal and informal mindfulness practices. The weekly exercises/assignments are guided by the instructors and are the primary tools of the mindfulness training. The informal practice uses these tools to bring awareness to the activities of daily life, such as walking, eating, and responding to stressful situations. With regular practice, these tools can be used to manage life’s challenges more effectively.

Target Audience

The simplicity of the Be Mindful training makes it accessible to all, but it’s geared to individuals who are new to the practice of mindfulness, meditation, and yoga. Mindfulness has the potential to improve anyone’s quality of life. However, Be Mindful is not ideal for those experiencing acute physical or emotional challenges. It’s most beneficial to individuals who aren’t particularly stressed and can commit to a regular daily practice.

What is Mindfulness

Mindfulness is an integrated mind-body practice used to bring non-judgmental awareness to the experience of the present moment. A mindfulness-based approach uses simple meditation, breathing, and yoga techniques to bring attention to both the external sensory experience, and the internal experience of thoughts and emotions. Mindfulness facilitates the integration of these practices into the activities and experiences of daily life. Studies indicate it’s an effective tool to help manage stress, anxiety, and depression.

Background

Although the practice of mindfulness as a way of life has its origins in ancient Eastern spiritual (contemplative) traditions, it has only recently been incorporated into Western medicine. In 1979, Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn adapted these ancient meditative practices into an 8-week standardized program known as mindfulness based stress reduction (1, 2). Initially MBSR was used as an intervention with chronic care patients in an effort to provide coping skills and tools to help improve their quality of life. The MBSR program produced measurable results, and was of particular interest to the field of behavioral medicine. In 1990, Teasdale, Williams, and Segal integrated cognitive therapy interventions into the MBSR program to create MBCT for the treatment of recurring depression (3). These two programs have been used as an adjunct treatment for a range of physical and emotional conditions, from heart disease, cancer, and chronic pain, to anxiety, depression and eating disorders.

Time Commitment

Be Mindful can be completed in four weeks, but there is no time limit for completion, and users can work thorough the course at their own pace. Participants are encouraged to set aside 30 minutes a day for mindfulness practice, but it’s up to each individual participant to decide how much time they dedicate to the course. The more time one dedicates to daily practice, the easier it is to integrate the practices into daily life. To simplify, more practice = better outcome.

Feedback

Participants complete a self-assessment of stress (Perceived Stress Scale), anxiety (Generalized Anxiety Disorder Assessment-7), and depression (Patient Health Questionnaire-9) at three different times: before the course begins, after completing the course, and one month after completion. The results are graphed at each interval, providing the user with an easily understood visual of any changes in their perceived level of stress, anxiety, and depression.

User Interface

Be mindful is well structured and easy to use. The instructors are pleasant, their voices are clear, and the information is simple and straightforward. The interactive video sessions mimic a group experience, creating a sense of community and accountability. Online sessions include pauses, allowing time to reflect one’s own experience. It also provides a full range of feedback from other users, reinforcing the program’s core teaching that there is no right way to respond to the practice of mindfulness. Emails are sent at regular intervals between online sessions offering support and providing a link to the next session in the course. This makes it very easy for the user to create and maintain a regular schedule for mindfulness training.

Be Mindful incorporates three self-report scales measuring perceived stress, anxiety, and depression. These are administered before and after the course, and changes are graphed for easy visual comparison by the user.

Cost

The cost of Be Mindful is $95.

In comparison, Palouse Mindfulness offers a free, self-guided 8-week online training taught by a certified MBSR instructor. UMass Medical School has an 8-week self-guided online course in MBSR for $199, and CEU’s are available for an additional $120. A traditional in-person 8-week MBSR training ranges from $300 – $750. MBSR and MBCT workbooks are also available that provide similar information and guided meditation audio tracks for $25 – $30.

At $95, Be Mindful includes all course materials, as well as unlimited access to an audio download library of the course’s guided practices. Given the interactive nature of the course and the research evidence of its effectiveness in reducing symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression, Be Mindful seems to be an excellent value.

Research

Mindfulness-based interventions (MBI) are being used for both the treatment and prevention of a number of mental and physical conditions including chronic pain, hypertension, heart disease, cancer, anxiety, depression, and eating disorders. However, the evidence for their use and appropriate applications remain under debate.

Depression

Evidence suggests MBCT reduces the risk of depression relapse compared to standard treatment for individuals who are currently well but have experienced 3 or more major depressive episodes in the past (4). Research also indicates MBCT can be effective in reducing symptom severity for individuals experiencing an acute depressive episode (5).

Anxiety

The impact of MBIs on symptom severity remains under debate. Although some analyses support the use of MBI’s in the treatment of anxiety (6), there’s limited data demonstrating its effectiveness as an intervention for acute anxiety (5).

Be Mindful: Initial Findings

A study conducted by Oxford University indicates that Be Mindful is an effective intervention for reducing perceived stress, anxiety, and depression. Frequency of mindfulness practice appears positively correlated with symptom reduction in participants who weren’t suffering severe/acute symptoms at baseline. The efficacy of Be Mindful is comparable to mindfulness courses delivered in person, and points to the potential of online courses to make MBI’s more accessible to a broader portion of the population (7). This study was conducted without a control group, however, so further research is necessary to determine its validity.

  1. Kabat-Zinn J. An outpatient program in behavioral medicine for chronic pain patients based on the practice of mindfulness meditation: theoretical considerations and preliminary results. Gen Hospital Psychiatry 1982; 4:33-47
  2. Kabat-Zinn J (1990) Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain and Illness. New York: Delacorte Press.
  3. Segal ZV, Williams JMG, Teasdale JD (2002) Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for depression. New York: Guildford Press.
  4. Williams JMG, Kuyken W (2012) Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy: a promising new approach to preventing depressive relapse. British Journal of Psychiatry200: 359–360
  5. Strauss C, Cavanagh K, Oliver A, Pettman D (2014) Mindfulness-based interventions for people diagnosed with a current episode of an anxiety or depressive disorder: a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. PLoS One9: e96110 doi: 1371/journal.pone.0096110
  6. Vollestad J, Nielsen MB, Nielsen GH (2011) Mindfulness- and acceptance-based interventions for anxiety disorders: A systematic review and meta-analysis. British Journal of Clinical Psychology51: 239–260
  7. Krusche A, Cyhlarova E, Williams JM. Mindfulness online: an evaluation of the feasibility of a web-based mindfulness course for stress, anxiety and depression. BMJ Open. 2013;3(11):e003498. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2013-003498.

 


Review date: July 2015

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