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Review by expert Bethanne L. Moore MD

Pros:

  • Introduces “urban meditation” by offering more than 80 guided meditations for mindfulness and well-being in everyday circumstances
  • The app creator is an expert in urban meditation
  • Available for Android and IOS mobile platforms
  • Content is user-friendly
  • Low in cost

Cons

  • Clinical studies measuring efficacy and outcome are unavailable
  • User statistics and rating scales are unavailable on the Android platform
  • Most of the app contents do not rotate if mobile devices are rotated

Description

buddhify is an interactive app designed to introduce users to techniques of urban meditation, thereby fostering a state of mindfulness, and well-being in everyday life situations. The app defines mindfulness as focused awareness of the user’s current experience.  The app requires active listening, and is also designed to enhance concentration through meditations without distraction, and promote emotional balance through uncomfortable thoughts and emotions.

buddhify offers 80 guided meditations ranging in length from approximately 4 to 30 minutes.  The meditations are composed for many different user experience levels, including beginners. The app contains 11 total hours of meditations. These meditations were composed and directed by 5 different, experienced meditation guides.  The guides are male and female, and speak in soothing and comforting voices.

The guided meditations offer some well-known meditation techniques such as deep-breathing, focusing on breath, and body scanning exercises.  The guided meditations keenly focus the listener on their momentary experience, thereby drowning out noise and other external distractions.   By diminishing distractions and enhancing momentary focus, the user experiences a sense of calmness, well-being and balance.

Ease of Use and User Experience

buddhify is a mobile app that may be viewed on an IOS or Android device.  The app gently introduces the user to urban meditation.  After the app is downloaded, a colorful chromatic wheel appears.  The wheel displays 16 different life situations as a pie-shaped segment of the wheel. Each segment expands in a collapsible fan shape when tapped.  The expanded segment displays 3-6 meditations for the chosen life situation. The guided meditations offered range in length from approximately 4 to 30 minutes.

The meditations offered by buddhify require active listening participation.  Some of these meditations were designed for active movement, like walking and eating.   While other meditations, were designed for passive movement, like going to sleep.   Some of the other life situations noted on the wheel include: traveling, feeling stressed, pain and illness, difficult emotions, and can’t sleep.

The app is designed to engage the listener through guided meditations which promote a sense of well-being at a time when the user may feel frazzled, anxious or worried; or when the user experiences physical pain or discomfort.  Meditations may be repeated without further cost to the user.

The IOS user may record their statistics and outcome, however the statistics section is unavailable on the Android App.

buddhify encourages users to meditate independently without a guided voice.  A timer is provided on the app to measure the length of independent meditations.  The user may also log independent meditation on the IOS app.

The app offers flexibility by offering meditations during various activities, in multiple situations, and in many locations.  Also, there is no required sequential listening order of meditations and the app does not have hierarchical levels.  Thus, the listener may proceed to the next meditation, without obtaining a prescribed level of meditation experience.

Users may share their experience on social media sites.  IOS users may participate in social media by posting comments about meditation tracks on Twitter.  Android users my post comments on the buddhify Facebook page and on Twitter.

User Interface

buddhify was developed for mobile devices containing IOS 7 and greater, and Android 4.1 and greater.  The app is available for a small fee on the Apple App store or the Google Play store.  The optimal app listening experience occurs with earphones, especially when in busy and crowded locations.

The app is professionally designed and the meditation content is categorized, and centrally located on a wheel in the initial visual display.  The colorful, chromatic, wheel-shaped display is inviting to the user.  Meditations are easily accessed by tapping the Play tab.  The user may easily navigate to different app features by tapping on different captions.  These features include: timing and recording independent meditations, recording ratings and statistics, giving and receiving app feedback, and obtaining other app information.

When users navigate through the app, they can tap on four other captions.  One other caption includes a timer for Solo meditation.  The IOS app contains a second caption titled Stats.  The Stats area includes a rating scale where the user can rate outcomes of mindfulness, concentration and balance.  The scale rates improvement in these outcomes from least to most, on a numbered scale from 1-5 respectively.  The ratings may be submitted to the developers as app feedback.  The user may also log in extra meditation time in the Stats section.  In addition to the rating scale, rotations of the Stats caption displays a graph recording of outcome measures over time.  The time intervals include 7 days, months, or years.  In the current IOS version, there is a technical glitch where the months are displayed under the year tab, while the years are displayed under the months tab.  One current drawback of buddhify is that the Stats caption is unavailable on the Android platform. The Android app includes a caption titled “Tell a Friend”, where the user may post remarks on Facebook, Twitter or in an email.   A fourth caption titled “Together”, allows the user to submit questions to the developers.  The answered questions are displayed with requested user feedback.   A fifth caption titled “Guide”, offers suggestions for using the app and ideas for furthering interest in meditation and mindfulness.

Appropriateness of Content

The content is appropriate for users of many different ages, backgrounds and meditation levels, including beginners.  In addition, there are over 80 guided meditations offered for a variety of activities, locations and situations.

Appropriateness of Feedback

Personalized feedback is provided to users who submit questions under the “Together” caption.  The answers are subsequently displayed for every user, along with a profile picture, of the user who posed the question.  In addition, the app users may submit feedback to the developer if the answers were helpful.  This tab also displays the activity of other app users.  The activities described under the “Together” section include: the weeks most popular meditations, along with the number of minutes other users meditated, and the number of users who mediated this week with this app.

Cognitive Challenge

buddhify requires no previous meditation experience by users.  Listening to meditations may be pleasing to any user, and accessing the guided meditations is fairly easy.  However, the app’s definition of mindfulness is not readily apparent and difficult to locate.   The IOS app’s definition of mindfulness is located by navigating through the Stats section.  This Stat section explains the app’s goal of developing meditation techniques to support mindfulness, calmness and emotional balance.  Alternatively, the Android app’s goals are explained in the Guide section under “The Secret of Meditation”.

Ease of Account Management

buddhify requests little information from users.  Upon opening the app, the user is invited to join a mailing list by providing their email address however no registration is required.  Creating a user profile is optional.  Problems with the account may be reported under the Support and Contact section in the Guide section.

Scientific Basis

There are hundreds of Apps available which promote mindfulness through guided meditation.  buddhify is different from other mindfulness apps in that it is designed to introduce users to urban meditation, and induce mindfulness in multiple situations, during different activities. Mindfulness has been described as a state of nonjudgmental awareness to the present moment. Although this app offers numerous helpful meditations, it offers minimal education about the history and benefits of face-to face guided meditation, and the relationship of meditation to inducing mindfulness.  In addition, this app is void of theories explaining the correlation between guided meditation on the go through a mobile device, and guided face-to–face meditation benefits.

Although studies exist that demonstrate the psychological and physiological health benefits of mindfulness [i] there is little evidence to support the effectiveness of available mobile apps on mindfulness [ii].  In addition, there are no clinical trials or studies that demonstrate the efficacy of the Buddhify 2 app on increasing mindfulness and subsequent emotional balance.

The effect of the buddhify app, could be tested by incorporating wearable devices measuring physiologic parameters along with app use.  The wearable devices could record changes in: vital signs, cardiac rhythms, and brain activity.   In order to determine efficacy of the app, recorded results could be compared to physiologic changes documented in face-to face guided mediations and mindfulness.  [iii]

Qualitative Review of Program Efficacy

The buddhify IOS app offers a “Stats” section where the user may rate the efficacy of the app on obtaining mindfulness, calmness and emotional balance.  However, the results are not available to the greater app audience for comparison.  In addition, the Android version does not contain a “Stats” caption for rating the statistics and effectiveness of the app.

Estimate of Efficacy Relative to Similar Products

buddhify differs from other mindfulness apps by promoting urban meditation while the user is on the go.  However, buddhify contains several common features and elements of other mindfulness apps.  These features include meditations which focus on breathing awareness and body scanning  [iv].  Like other mindfulness apps, buddhify  meditations also include positional meditations (including sitting, walking and lying down), compassion meditations, meditations for stress, emotional upset and pain and discomfort [v] . The other common mindfulness app features included are a timer, and “Stats” in the IOS version.

Other mindfulness apps differ by including additional features such as reminders, social media, mindfulness education through text or videos, and in app purchases for advanced levels of meditation [vi].

Cost

Users pay a small fee to download buddhify for IOS or Android devices.  The Apple store offers the app for $4.99 and the Google play Store offers the App for $2.99.  Subsequent access is unlimited and there is no monthly subscription fee required.


Notes

[i] Shian-Ling Kang, Moria J Smoski, Clive J.Robins, Effects of Mindfulness on Psychological Health: A review of Empirical Studies   Clin Psychol Rev.  2011 Aug; 31(6):  1041-1056.

 

[ii] Madhavan Mani,BTech, MSc, David J Kavanagh PhD, Leanne Hides PhD, Stoyan R Stoyanov, MRes, Review of Mindfulness-Based iPhone Apps JMIR MHealth UHealth.  2015, Jul-Sep;3(3):  e82

 

[iii] Immaculada Plaza PhDEng, Marcelo Marcos Piva Demarzo MD PhD, Paola Herrera-Mercadal, BAppPsych, MS, Javier Garcia-Campayo, MD, PhD, Mindfulness-Based Mobile Applications:  Literature Review and Analysis of Current Features    JMIR MHealth UHealth.  2013 Jul-Dec; 1(2): e24

 

[iv] Madhavan Mani,BTech, MSc, David J Kavanagh PhD, Leanne Hides PhD, Stoyan R Stoyanov, MRes, Review of Mindfulness-Based iPhone Apps JMIR MHealth UHealth.  2015, Jul-Sep;3(3):  e82

 

[v] Immaculada Plaza PhDEng, Marcelo Marcos Piva Demarzo MD PhD, Paola Herrera-Mercadal, BAppPsych, MS, Javier Garcia-Campayo, MD, PhD, Mindfulness-Based Mobile Applications:  Literature Review and Analysis of Current Features    JMIR MHealth UHealth.  2013 Jul-Dec; 1(2): e24

[vi] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marlynn-wei-md-jd/what-mindfulness-app-is-right-for-you_b_8026010.html

 

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