Meditation for Mental Health

“According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, meditation can help reduce stress, chronic pain (such as headaches), and blood pressure, as well as help you quit smoking and better navigate a variety of mental health conditions” (CANNING, 2020).

The new direction of my thesis topic brought with it some things that I had to thought about. As I decide on meditation for helping people improve their mental health by preventing anxiety, stress, and depression. The first thing that I decided to do was user research for preventing that there is no interest in users from using something like this. As a second step, I look for what is available in the market, and what people liked about the existing app. As the last step for this semester, I thought about the app structure. With all these steps after a hard semester, I can say that I am on a good way to continuing with the main part of the project that is developing.

            After choosing the new topic for the project the first thing I decide to do was user research to find out if it was or not a good idea. For these, I decided to interview different people that are into the meditation practice, most of them gave me positive feedback on an app. The first thing that I was interested to ask about was if they think that is helpful to use an app for meditation, circa 85% of the interviewers told that yes and that some of them already use an app for it. The user explained to me that they do not want an app that teaches but more an app that has different content for different purposes. The main reason for this is that most of the user doesn’t have much time spend it on the learning process. User expectancies of the app are guided to information capsules for different purposes like sleep, focus, anxiety, stress, depression, mindfulness, and more all these capsules must be thought to improve mental health or to keep it at good levels. The research also shows that having time, difficulties level, and guides meditations can be useful for the app. Another result of the research was that most of the users find the app they use confused and not friendly for using, this means that here I can have an advantage in developing the app. This gave me the impulse to look for what is available on the actual market.

            As soon as you look for the meditations app in your smartphone store, this one will give you a recommendation about which one can be the best for you. These recommendations are based on the number of downloads and reviews, so most users expect that the app they choose is good. In the meditation and mental health market, there are a few apps that show app first when you look for meditation. It is hard to give each app a specific position so I will just mention the app and its main purpose. Calm app lets you choose between your meditation practice. After all, the app provides guided sessions ranging in time from 3 to 25 minutes. And with topics from calming anxiety to gratitude to mindfulness at work—as well as sleep sounds, nature sounds, and breathing exercises—you can choose your focus. Experts across the board agree that Insight Timer is primo when it comes to choosing a meditation app.

“This app has many of the most experienced mindfulness teachers on it, and allows you the freedom to pick and choose depending on how long you have to practice, what style you’d like (e.g. body scan, loving-kindness, anxiety/stress-reducing, etc.), or just set a timer and sit without guidance,” Tandon says.  On the other side, the Headspace app offers the widest variety of meditations, with the best-guided sessions for beginners, as well as less-structured programming for pros. Its easy-to-use interface was also the most streamlined.

            Many different sites recommended different structures and base things that this kind of app should have. Now I am still investigating which structure combination can be the best for a rough prototype for trying out with users. In many sites they recommend different structures and organizations but, I look through it and I find things that can be improved to something better. Even due for the moment I can not says clearly what will be or how it will be organized.

Source:

https://www.mindful.org/how-to-meditate

https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/meditation/in-depth/meditation/art-20045858

https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/top-meditation-iphone-android-apps

A new approach for Mental Health

By the disappointing results from the user research in VR therapy, I got into a crisis point in my research. Where I should decide which direction will be the best for my topic and what I want to have as a result of it. During this rethinking process, I got different approaches to get into a good path for developing the project. The first decision I took was to stay or not into the topic of mental health. The second point I thought was to decide how I want to help, and which way is the best to do it. The last point is to decide on a new starting point to start developing the project. All these processes took weeks to pass through and the result is something that I am happy about.

            As I describe in the last topic of my thesis research I got not the best results during my first user research, this impulses me to think about reapproaching the topic. During the process, I realize that I do not want to get out of the field of mental health. But it was difficult to find something where I can help people without being involved directly in medicine. To be a part of medicine is tactics that prevent me to get into certified permissions, medical regulations, and for that moment the users that will manage the app. This decision put me in the position of prevention of mental illness in a state of treatment. At the same time, it opens the ways to alternative methods.

            As I just mentioned before alternatives methods to prevent anxiety, stress and depression are often used by people to keep their mental state positive. There are various methods in the world that people use some like sports, hobbies, religion, and more. Each method has a different perspective of helping through the process and each of them has different efficiency and effect on our mental health. After a small research, I decided to focus on meditation because it shows the best results on preventing and improving the mental health of people. As it says in the article Effect of Transcendental Meditation on Employee Stress, Depression, and Burnout: A Randomized Controlled Study “Studies indicate that practice of TM reduces the psychological and physiologic response to stress factors, including decreased sympathetic nervous system and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, and reductions in elevated cortisol (stress hormone) levels” (Perm, 2014).

            Meditation is a kind of practice that has hundreds of years of existence and has a different cultural background. Each kind of meditation has a different purpose on our minds and bodies, which is important to be considered. A meditation process is simple to be taught and to learn what is hard about it is to keep yourself constant on the practice. The meditation practice brings multiple benefits for your health but, it is important to organize the way to do it to get the right things you are looking for. In the next part, I will focus to explain how I will look to achieve this through the use of an app.

Summary of the first semester and ideas changed comes and goes.

At the beginning of the Des&Res class the last semester, I decided to start research in mental health. The main topic of the research was VR for Mental Health, that is a methodology that has gained prestige in the last years, due to the advance in technology. During my research on this topic, I was centre on investigated how it works and what is their main field of application, for this, I read through different articles of medicine relate to these topics. In a second step I follow to get related to the history of VR and how long has it been in the medical field and for whom it was used. Finally, I focus on the design of a VR interface and prototype, with also a user research focus where I found something that changed my topic orientation.

            For starting this research, I thought that VR therapy for mental health can be a key aspect during COVID-19. With this idea in my mind, I start research in VR for Psychotherapy focus on mental health, the focus was to get a better environment for treating special kinds of mental issues. During my research, I found out that VR in mental health can be useful for treating anxiety, stress, and depression. As Nigel Whittle said “VR offers the opportunity to develop more personalized therapeutics, especially in mental healthcare. It is already being used to treat PTSD, phobias, and psychiatric conditions such as conversion disorder and showing excellent results.” (WHITTLE, 2020). VR therapy had shown the last year more results during the pandemic, but even due some users do not trust this kind of technology. Also, VR therapy has been in the market for around 20 years.

            VR therapy started around 1950 for treating different kinds of phobias around people. This treatment used multiple sensors to help the user experience the same sensation that provokes the phobia. But, it was not till the beginning of the 2000s that VR therapy was considered to be useful, in the article The use of virtual reality technology in the treatment of anxiety and other psychiatric disorders the authors mentioned that “The first study to formally investigate the efficacy of VR-based exposure therapy (VRE) focused on the treatment of acrophobia and results suggested that VRE was effective” (Rothbaum, Bunnell, Sae-Jin, & Maples-Keller, 2017) this study was made in the early empowered the technology to continue into a development area in medicine. After this series of studies at this time, VR therapy was used in the military area to treat PTSD to help soldiers recover due to missions. In actuality, VR therapy is managed mainly by three big companies that are: Limbix, Psious, and OxfordVR. All these companies have a focus on VR therapy but, their UI/UX is in my opinion a little bit too old and hard to use. This brings us to the next step that is VR design and user research.

            In the last part of the last semester when I finally got the focus on which kind of path I was getting in, I decided to research design for VR and make user research too. Design for VR is something that I thought will be hard. Surprisingly it was not, VR interfaces and design are still based on the same idea of a normal application for a smartphone or the computer. Not to miss, VR design has one important thing to be careful about and it is sound. VR sickness is one of the major issues due to the therapy and it is provoking usually for a misinterpretation of the sound and the environment, to prevent that to happen, sound designers use 8D sounds. This kind of sound helps the user to identifies themselves in the environment preventing the sickness to happen.

            Into the user research, I have begun it was a disaster and it turns to be disappointing. I researched with 8 psychotherapeutics and most of them found this topic to be negative instead to be something useful. The main reason for them to think this was that they thought it will be more learning and work for them. Even, I told them about the studies and the results, the doctors did not change their minds. Also, they expect that these therapies will be really expensive. This put me into a crisis point for my research where I decided to changed my path to something else that is not out of mental health.

Meditation App in the Market

In this blog entry, I am going to analyse a few apps that I considered the best examples for my project, with the purpose to see why they are successful in their market. Looking through these apps will also help to be critical with a possible app design and to think what could be the best fit for my project.

1. Headspace

Headspace isone of the most well-known meditation apps out there.

“There are hundreds of guided meditations, mini-meditations, sleep sounds, SOS meditations for emergencies, meditations for kids and animations to help you better understand meditation,” says Lindsey Elmore, PharmD, a pharmacist turned wellness expert (she’s known as “The Farmicist”).

2. Calm

Calm app lets you choose between your meditation practice. After all, the app provides guided sessions ranging in time from 3 to 25 minutes. And with topics from calming anxiety to gratitude to mindfulness at work—as well as sleep sounds, nature sounds, and breathing exercises—you can really choose your focus. “There are new meditations every day, progress trackers, and seven-day and 21-day programs for beginners,” Elmore says.

3. Insight Timer

Experts across the board agree that Insight Timer is primo when it comes to choosing a meditation app.

“This app has many of the most experienced mindfulness teachers on it, and allows you the freedom to pick and choose depending on how long you have to practice, what style you’d like (e.g. body scan, loving-kindness, anxiety/stress-reducing, etc.), or just set a timer and sit without guidance,” Tandon says.

the app is a go-to because, in addition to the variety of guided meditations, the app has a tracker that allows you to chart your progress and earn badges that keep you coming back for more.

4.Aura

Fans of Aura like it for its daily meditations, life coaching, nature sounds, stories, and music, which are all personalized based on the mood you select when you open the app. There’s also an option to track your moods and review patterns in how you feel, and set reminders to breathe and take breaks for mindfulness throughout the day.

5.Sattva

Sattva is a mindfulness app that draws its mediations from ancient Vedic principles. In addition to 6-minute-plus guided meditations, the app features “sacred sounds, chants, mantras and music by Sanskrit scholars.”

Sattva is perfect for anyone looking to get more in touch with the history and origin of meditation in addition to starting their own practice.

Sources:

https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/reviews/best-meditation-apps/

https://www.verywellmind.com/best-meditation-apps-4767322

https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/top-meditation-iphone-android-apps

https://www.womenshealthmag.com/health/g25178771/best-meditation-apps/

User Research, Levels or Kinds

One of biggest concerns around my app is the possibilities to have levels or kinds of meditation. In my intern investigation I look that most of the apps in the market have a focus on different kind of meditations instead of levels. So, I started wondering what a user will like more an app with levels or an app with different kind of meditations guide.

Levels

Only a few users told me that they prefer levels over types of meditation. The main reason for this is the time. Most of the people I interviewed told me that they need something that focuses on a specific topic so it is easier for them to follow.

Kind

My interviewers told me that they prefer different kinds of meditation with a guide, sounds and timer. The reason for this is that is easier for them to be a focus on only one topic. This means that they prefer for example only a simple guide for sleeping and maybe a second step if they find it useful.

Also they try to used meditation for one thing in specific for example work, love, partnership, mindfulness and more. With a focus is easy for the user to keep tracking into the app, because they can get what they are looking for in no long time.

Even though I still think that having a mix of level and kinds can be good for the app. The mix of it can result in a good balance in development and focus in your life.

User Research, the propper kind of meditation

Vipassana Meditation

Vipassana was taught in India more than 2500 years ago as a universal remedy for universal ills, i.e., an Art of Living.

In Pali, an ancient language of Buddhism, the word “Vipassana” means “seeing things as they really are.” The literal translation is “special seeing.”

Often, the term “Vipassana meditation” is used interchangeably with “mindfulness meditation,” but Vipassana is more specific. It involves observing your thoughts and emotions as they are, without judging or dwelling on them.

Vipassana, you simply observe your inner self instead of consciously controlling the experience. The goal is to help you:

  • Quiet your mind
  • Focus on the present
  • Accept thoughts, emotions, and sensations for what they really are
  • Reduce regrets by dwelling less on the past
  • Worry less about the future
  • Respond to situations based on reality, instead of worries or preconceived notions

Why it is better for a beginner?

Vipassana is a kind of meditation that doesn’t need much preparation to be done and it is a good starting point for a beginner because it is really easy to follow and to achieve.

That means that the guide for this kind of meditation can be optional. An app will be useful for the timer, sounds and in case of guide a guide. You can follow these steps to try to do it on your own.

  1. Set aside 10 to 15 minutes to practice. It’s recommended that you do Vipassana when you first wake up in the morning.
  2. Choose a quiet area with little to no distractions.
  3. Sit in a comfortable position. Engage your core, straighten your back, and relax your body.
  4. Close your eyes and breathe normally. Focus on your natural breath and what you feel.
  5. Be mindful of each inhale and exhale. Observe your thoughts, feelings, and sensations without reacting or judging.
  6. If you become distracted, simply observe the distraction and return to your breath.
  7. Aim to do this for at least 5 to 10 minutes when you first start. As you get used to this practice, work up to 15 minutes or longer of Vipassana meditation.

Zen Meditation (Zazen)

Origin & Meaning

Zazen (坐禅) means “seated Zen”, or “seated meditation”, in Japanese. It has its roots in the Chinese Zen Buddhism (Ch’an) tradition, tracing back to the Indian monk Bodhidharma (6th century CE). In the West, its most popular form comes from Dogen Zenji (1200~1253), the founder of the Soto Zen movement in Japan. Similar modalities are practised in the Rinzai school of Zen, in Japan and Korea.

How to do it

It is generally practised seated on the floor over a mat and cushion, with crossed legs. Traditionally it was done in the so-called lotus or half-lotus position, but this is hardly necessary. Nowadays most practitioners sit like this:

Vipassana Meditation

Origin & Meaning

“Vipassana” is a Pali word tha

Types of meditation - Vipassana

t means “insight” or “clear seeing”. It is a traditional Buddhist practice, dating back to 6th century BC. Vipassana-meditation, as taught in the last few decades, comes from the Theravada Buddhist tradition, and was popularized by  S. N. Goenka and the Vipassana movement.

Due to the popularity of Vipassanā-meditation, the “mindfulness of breathing” has gained further popularity in the West as “mindfulness”.

How to do it

[There is some conflicting information on how to practice Vipassana. In general, however, most teachers emphasize  starting with mindfulness of breath in the first stages, to stabilize the mind and achieve “access concentration.” This is more like focused attention meditation. Then the practice moves on to developing “clear insight” on the bodily sensations and mental phenomena, observing them moment by moment and not clinging to any. Here goes an introduction, aimed at beginners. To know more I’d suggest following up the links provided or learning from a teacher (perhaps in a Vipassana retreat).]

Ideally, one is to sit on a cushion on the floor, cross-legged, with your spine erect; alternatively, a chair may be used, but the back should not be supported.

The first aspect is to develop concentration, through samatha practice. This is typically done through breathing awareness.

Focus all your attention, from moment to moment, on the movement of your breath. Notice the subtle sensations of the movement of the abdomen rising and falling. Alternatively, one can focus on the sensation of the air passing through the nostrils and touching the upper lips skin – though this requires a bit more practice, and is more advanced.

As you focus on the breath, you will notice that other perceptions and sensations continue to appear: sounds, feelings in the body, emotions, etc. Simply notice these phenomena as they emerge in the field of awareness, and then return to the sensation of breathing. The attention is kept in the object of concentration (the breathing), while these other thoughts or sensations are there simply as “background noise”.

The object that is the focus of the practice (for instance, the movement of the abdomen) is called the “primary object”. And a “secondary object” is anything else that arises in your field of perception – either through your five senses (sound, smell, itchiness in the body, etc.) or through the mind (thought, memory, feeling, etc.). If a secondary object hooks your attention and pulls it away, or if it causes the desire or aversion to appearing, you should focus on the secondary object for a moment or two, labelling it with a mental note, like “thinking”,  “memory”, “hearing”, “desiring”. This practice is often called “noting”.

A mental note identifies an object in general but not in detail. When you’re aware of a sound, for example, label it “hearing” instead of “motorcycle,” “voices” or “barking dog.” If an unpleasant sensation arises, note “pain” or “feeling” instead of “knee pain” or “my back pain.” Then return your attention to the primary meditation object. When aware of a fragrance, say the mental note “smelling” for a moment or two. You don’t have to identify the scent.

When one has thus gained “access concentration”, the attention is then turned to the object of practice, which is normally thought or bodily sensations. One observes the objects of awareness without attachment, letting thoughts and sensations arise and pass away of their own accord. Mental labelling (explained above) is often used as a way to prevent you from being carried away by thoughts, and keep you in more objectively noticing them.

As a result one develops the clear seeing that the observed phenomena are pervaded by the three “marks of existence”: impermanence (annica), unsatisfactoriness (dukkha) and emptiness of self (annata). As a result, equanimity, peace and inner freedom are developed in relation to these inputs.

Loving Kindness Meditation (Metta Meditation)

Origin & Meaning

loving kindness meditation

Metta is a Pali word that means kindness, benevolence, and goodwill. This practise comes from the Buddhist traditions, especially the Theravada and Tibetan lineages. “Compassion meditation” is a contemporary scientific field that demonstrates the efficacy of metta and related meditative practices.

Demonstrated benefits include: boosting one’s ability to empathize with others; development of positive emotions through compassion, including a more loving attitude towards oneself; increased self-acceptance; greater feeling of competence about one’s life; and an increased feeling of purpose in life (read more in our other post).

How to do it

One sits down in a meditation position, with closed eyes, and generates in his mind and heart feelings of kindness and benevolence. Start by developing loving-kindness towards yourself, then progressively towards others and all beings. Usually this progression is advised:

  1. oneself
  2. a good friend
  3. a “neutral” person
  4. a difficult person
  5. all four of the above equally
  6. and then gradually the entire universe

The feeling to be developed is that of wishing happiness and well-being for all. This practice may be aided by reciting specific words or sentences that evoke the “boundless warm-hearted feeling”, visualizing the suffering of others and sending love; or by imagining the state of another being, and wishing him happiness and peace.

Mantra Meditation (OM Meditation)

Origin & Meaning

types of meditation - mantra meditation beads

mantra is a syllable or word, usually without any particular meaning, that is repeated for the purpose of focusing your mind. It is not an affirmation used to convince yourself of something.

Some meditation teachers insist that both the choice of word, and its correct pronunciation, is very important, due to the “vibration” associated with the sound and meaning, and that for this reason, an initiation into it is essential. Others say that the mantra itself is only a tool to focus the mind, and the chosen word is completely irrelevant.

Mantras are used in Hindu traditions, Buddhist traditions (especially Tibetan and “Pure Land” Buddhism), as well as in Jainism, Sikhism and Daoism (Taoism). Some people call mantra meditation “om meditation”, but that is just one of the mantras that can be used. A more devotion oriented practice of mantras is called japa, and consists of repeating sacred sounds (name of God) with love.

How to do it

Like with most types of meditations, it is usually practised sitting with spine erect, and eyes closed. The practitioner then repeats the mantra in his mind, silently, over and over again during the whole session.

Sometimes this practice is coupled with being aware of the breathing or coordinating with it. In other exercises, the mantra is actually whispered very lightly and softly, as an aid to concentration.

As you repeat the mantra, it creates a mental vibration that allows the mind to experience deeper levels of awareness. As you meditate, the mantra becomes increasingly abstract and indistinct, until you’re finally led into the field of pure consciousness from which the vibration arose.
Repetition of the mantra helps you disconnect from the thoughts filling your mind so that perhaps you may slip into the gap between thoughts. The mantra is a tool to support your meditation practice. Mantras can be viewed as ancient power words with subtle intentions that help us connect to spirit, the source of everything in the universe. (Deepak Chopra)

OM is a well-known example of a mantra. But there are thousands of others. Here are some of the most well-known mantras from the Hindu & Buddhist traditions:

  • om
  • so-ham
  • om namah shivaya
  • om mani padme hum
  • rama
  • yam
  • ham

You may practice for a certain period of time, or for a set number of “repetitions” – traditionally 108 or 1008. In the latter case, beads are typically used for keeping count.

As the practice deepens, you may find that the mantra continues “by itself” like the humming of the mind. Or the mantra may even disappear, and you are left in a state of deep inner peace.

There are many methods of mantra meditation. I explain them in detail, together with why mantras are powerful, in my article on mantra meditation.

Yogic Meditations

Origin & Meaning

OM yogic meditations

There is no one type of meditation which is “Yogic Meditation”, so here it is meant the several meditation types taught in the yoga tradition. Yoga means “union”. The tradition goes as far as 1700 B.C, and has as its highest goal spiritual purification and Self-Knowledge. Classical Yoga divides the practice into rules of conduct (yamas and niyamas), physical postures (asanas), breathing exercises (pranayama), and contemplative practices of meditation (pratyaharadharanadhyanasamadhi).

The Yoga tradition is the oldest meditation tradition on earth, and also the one with the widest variety of practices.

How to do it

Here are some types of meditation practised in Yoga. The most common and universal Yoga meditation one is the “third eye meditation”. Other popular ones involve concentrating on a chakra, repeating a mantra, visualization of light, or gazing meditations.

  • Third Eye Meditation — focusing the attention on the “spot between the eyebrows” (called by some “the third eye” or “ajna chakra”). The attention is constantly redirected to this point, as a means to silence the mind. By time the “silent gaps” between thoughts get wider and deeper. Sometimes this is accompanied by physically “looking”, with eyes closed, towards that spot.
  • Chakra Meditation — the practitioner focuses on one of the seven chakras of the body (“centers of energy”), typically doing some visualizations and chanting a specific mantra for each chakra (lamvamramyamhamom). Most commonly it is done on the heart chackra, third eye, and crown chackra.
  • Gazing Meditation (Trataka) — fixing the gaze on an external object, typically a candle, image or a symbol (yantras). It is done with eyes open, and then with eyes closed, to train both the concentration and visualization powers of the mind. After closing the eyes, you should still keep the image of the object in your “mind’s eye”.
  • Kundalini Meditation — this is a very complex system of practice. The goal is the awakening of the “kundalini energy” which lies dormant on the base of the spine, the development of several psychic centers in the body, and, finally, enlightenment. There are several dangers associated with this practice, and it should not be attempted without the guidance of a qualified yogi.
  • Kriya Yoga — is a set of energization, breathing, and meditation exercises taught by Paramahamsa Yogananda. This is more suited for those who have a devotional temperament, and are seeking the spiritual aspects of meditation.
  • Sound Meditation (Nada Yoga) — focusing on sound. Starts with meditation on “external sounds”, such as calming ambient music (like Native American flute music), whereby the student focuses all his attention on just hearing, as a help to quieten and collect the mind. By time the practice evolves to hearing the “internal sounds” of the body and mind. The ultimate goal is to hear the “Ultimate Sound” (para nada), which is a sound without vibration, and that manifests as “OM”.
  • Tantra — unlike the popular view in the West, most Tantra practices have nothing to do with ritualized sex (this was practiced by a minority of lineages. Tantra is a very rich tradition, with dozens of different contemplative practices. The text Vijnanabhairava Tantra, for instance, lists 108 “meditations”, most of them more advanced (already requiring a certain degree of stillness and mind control). Here are some examples from that text:
    • Merge the mind and the senses in the interior space in the spiritual heart.
    • When one object is perceived, all other objects become empty. Concentrate on that emptiness.
    • Concentrate on the space which occurs between two thoughts.
    • Fix attention on the inside of the skull. Close eyes.
    • Meditate on the occasion of any great delight.
    • Meditate on the feeling of pain.
    • Dwell on the reality which exists between pain and pleasure.
    • Meditate on the void in one’s body extending in all directions simultaneously.
    • Concentrate on a bottomless well or as standing in a very high place.
    • Listen to the Anahata [heart chakra] sound.
    • Listen to the sound of a musical instrument as it dies away.
    • Contemplate on the universe or one’s own body as being filled with bliss.
    • Concentrate intensely on the idea that the universe is completely void.
    • Contemplate that the same consciousness exists in all bodies.
  • Pranayama — breathing regulation. It is not exactly meditation, but an excellent practice to calm the mind and prepare it for meditation. There are several different types of Pranayama, but the simplest and most commonly taught one is the 4-4-4-4. This means breathing in counting up to 4, holding for 4 seconds, breathing out for 4 seconds, and holding empty for 4 seconds. Breathe through your nose, and let the abdomen (and not the chest) be the one that moves. Go through a few cycles like this. This regulation of breathing balances the moods and pacifies the body, and can be done anywhere.

Yoga is a very rich tradition, with different lineages, so there are many other techniques. But the ones above are the most well-known; the others are more specific or complex.

Sources:

https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/types-of-meditation

https://liveanddare.com/types-of-meditation/

User Research, Meditation Guide App

I have to make quick interviews with possible users for the Meditation Guide App. The main point of this interviews is to understand what the different kind of users waits from an app like this one.

For this post, I will describe the different needs that I have identified from the users. These needs will be divided into three different post parts to make them easier to understand.

Expectancies

When I ask my possible user about what they expect from an app like this, I got multiple answers with different necessities and recommendations. But, there were three things that they find extremely important.

Levels

For the users seems extremely important to have different levels of meditation guide. It should start with a beginner lever, where someone guides you through the whole process. A medium-level that is a mix between music and guides. An expert level that will be only music or mantra and a timer for finishing the exercise.

Timer

Another element to seem important is a timer that helps the user measure their time progress through the use. Also to programme the time and the duration of the meditation progress so it is easy to get through the process and out.

Music

The final part of the expectancies is the music, most of the users said that they will expect that the timer alarm is through Buddhism, calm music that helps the people awake softer. Also, they want to have soft music in the meditation process to keep them calm.

Calming Anxiety

The meditation applications are useful to calm down an anxious mind by offering guided & unstructured video of around 20 minutes (the time differs from app-to-app).

Stress Management

These meditation apps help in determining stress levels and reduce them through meditation tools that consist of images & music.

Deep Sleep

Meditation mobile apps create a nice aura through relaxing music of nature and melody. This helps users in experiencing calm that promotes sleep.

Focus & Concentration

These applications allow their users to block distractions from other apps, texts, calls, and this allows them to focus and concentrate better during work.

Relationship

Few of the apps offering advanced features allow their users in connecting and maintaining healthy and sound relationships that increase their energy.

Habit & Goal Tracker

The apps allow its users to break habits through its tool that is useful in tracking habits & realizing their goals. It may consist of notifications, reminders (can be customized), and a lot more.

Attain Happiness

The apps offer several features that help their users to experience true happiness. It may consist of guided meditation sessions, nature sounds, and several step-by-step processes to stay in a peaceful and happy space.

Self-Esteem

Most of these meditation apps offer this functionality that is helpful in boosting the self-esteem of the users by bringing their attention to positive aspects of life.

Sources:

https://www.emizentech.com/blog/meditation-app-development.html

https://www.spaceotechnologies.com/build-meditation-app-top-features-startups/

https://savvycomsoftware.com/meditation-app-development/

Using meditation for reducing stress, anxiety and depression

Virtual Reality Should Be Considered As a Helpful Tool for Mental Health – Virtual  Reality and Mental Health

In the last months, I have research VR in medicine, in specific into the psychotherapy field. I wanted to design environments to treat stress, anxiety and depression using VR as a method. Despite the VR technologies demonstrate it is effective for these kinds of treatments is barely use. Making me think about what is wrong with it.

What I use to reduce stress levels

Trying to get away from the medicine to get a clear view of another way to help people using VR, I decided to ask my self “What I do to reduce my stress and anxiety?”.

7 Tips To Get Started With Meditation - Key Person of Influence

The answer is simple I use meditation. I have practised meditation for more than 5 years and it helps me to keep my stress levels down and it gives me time to cure myself in a different way.

The main problem of these is that people don’t know how to meditate. What I want now is to make a guide VR app for meditation for people that have the intention to learn and to calm down.

Benefits of meditation

There are a number of benefits that come from practising meditation. These can include:

  • Reducing stress. One of the most popular reasons that people meditate is to lower stress levels, and according to science, meditation does just that. According to a 2014 study,Trusted Source practicing meditation can lower levels of psychological stress and is helpful for overall well-being.
  • Improving sleep. If you have insomnia, one study shows that people who meditate are able to improve on their sleep schedules.
  • Helping with addictions. Since meditation typically requires a fair amount of self-awareness and discipline, researchTrusted Source shows that the practice can help acknowledge and avoid triggers.
  • Decreasing blood pressure. Meditation is very relaxing, and that relaxation may helpTrusted Source to lower blood pressure since your body is not responding to stress as often as it usually would.

Types of meditation

Meditation is an umbrella term for the many ways to a relaxed state of being. There are many types of meditation and relaxation techniques that have meditation components. All share the same goal of achieving inner peace.

Ways to meditate can include:

  • Guided meditation. Sometimes called guided imagery or visualization, with this method of meditation you form mental images of places or situations you find relaxing.You try to use as many senses as possible, such as smells, sights, sounds and textures. You may be led through this process by a guide or teacher.
  • Mantra meditation. In this type of meditation, you silently repeat a calming word, thought or phrase to prevent distracting thoughts.
  • Mindfulness meditation. This type of meditation is based on being mindful, or having an increased awareness and acceptance of living in the present moment.In mindfulness meditation, you broaden your conscious awareness. You focus on what you experience during meditation, such as the flow of your breath. You can observe your thoughts and emotions, but let them pass without judgment.
  • Qi gong. This practice generally combines meditation, relaxation, physical movement and breathing exercises to restore and maintain balance. Qi gong (CHEE-gung) is part of traditional Chinese medicine.
  • Tai chi. This is a form of gentle Chinese martial arts. In tai chi (TIE-CHEE), you perform a self-paced series of postures or movements in a slow, graceful manner while practicing deep breathing.
  • Transcendental Meditation®. Transcendental Meditation is a simple, natural technique. In Transcendental Meditation, you silently repeat a personally assigned mantra, such as a word, sound or phrase, in a specific way.This form of meditation may allow your body to settle into a state of profound rest and relaxation and your mind to achieve a state of inner peace, without needing to use concentration or effort.
  • Yoga. You perform a series of postures and controlled breathing exercises to promote a more flexible body and a calm mind. As you move through poses that require balance and concentration, you’re encouraged to focus less on your busy day and more on the moment.

Sources:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/meditation/in-depth/meditation/art-20045858

https://www.insider.com/benefits-of-meditation

https://www.mindful.org/how-to-meditate/

Setting up the environment for VR designing

Canvas size

To apply mobile app workflow to VR UIs, you first have to figure out a canvas size that makes sense.
Below is what a 360-degree environment looks like when flattened. This representation is called an equirectangular projection. In a 3D virtual environment, these projections are wrapped around a sphere to mimic the real world.

The full width of the projection represents 360 degrees horizontally and 180 degrees vertically. We can use this to define the pixel size of the canvas: 3600 × 1800. Working with such a big size can be a challenge. But because we’re primarily interested in the interface aspect of VR apps, we can concentrate on a segment of this canvas.

The area of interest represents the one-ninth of the 360-degree environment. It’s positioned right at the center of the equirectangular image and is 1200 × 600 pixels in size.

Let’s sum up:


“360 View“: 3600 × 1800 pixels
“UI View“: 1200 × 600 pixels

Pencil & Paper

Before getting into any software, it’s crucial to get your ideas out on paper. It’s fast, cheap, and helps you express ideas that may take hours in software. This is especially important because moving from sketches to hi-fidelity can cost much more in 3D than in 2D.

Software

Some designers start with tools they already know like Sketch, others use it as an opportunity to learn new tools. It really depends on what engine you are going to use to build your app. If you are building a 3D game, you’ll want to use Unity or Unreal Engine. Cinema 4D and Maya are also widely used, but mostly for complex animations and renderings.

Process for VR UI design

While most designers have figured out their workflow for designing mobile apps, processes for designing VR interfaces are yet to be defined. When the first VR app design project came through our door, the logical first step was for us to devise a process.

Traditional workflows, new territory

Interface-based VR apps work according to the same basic dynamic as traditional apps: Users interact with an interface that helps them navigate pages. We’re simplifying here, but just keep this in mind for now.

Given the similarity to traditional apps, the tried-and-tested mobile app workflows that designers have spent years refining won’t go to waste and can be used to craft VR UIs.

1. Wireframes

Go through rapid iterations, defining the interactions and general layout.

2. Visual design

At this stage, the features and interactions have been approved. Brand guidelines are now applied to the wireframes, and a beautiful interface is crafted.

3. Blueprint

Here, we’ll organize screens into flows, drawing links between screens and describing the interactions for each screen. We call this the app’s blueprint, and it will be used as the main reference for developers working on the project.

Tools

Before we get started with the walkthrough, here are the tools we’ll need:

  • Sketch. We’ll use Sketch to design our interfaces and user flows. If you don’t have it, you can download a trial version. The sketch is our preferred interface design software.
  • GoPro VR Player. GoPro VR Player is a 360-degree content viewer. It’s provided by GoPro and is free. We’ll use it to preview our designs and test them in context.
  • Oculus Rift. Hooking Oculus Rift into the GoPro VR Player will enable us to test the design in context.