Online vs Offline Mindfulness: what are the differences?

Online vs Offline Mindfulness: what are the differences?

Today, many apps promise to give you the full benefits of mindfulness through digital-only training, with flexible timing and without a dedicated instructor: that seems great, but are the benefits of online mindfulness training really the same as “traditional” ones?

Many studies have compared the two types of intervention (Bartlett et al., 2019, Wolever et al., 2012, Querstret, Cropley & Fife-Schaw, 2018, Aikens et al., 2014) finding that they are often equivalent: participants report significantly lower levels of perceived stress, anxiety and depression and higher levels of vigor and resilience after both types of training (see table below for a comparison on some biological and psychological outcomes).
The greater flexibility in timing that online mindfulness presents can lead to interventions that last longer, but this seems to not affect the positive results of the intervention. (Querstret et al., 2018)
Furthermore, online interventions appear to have less attrition to participation, higher engagement rates, and lower dropout rates (Wolever et al., 2012). It also seems that positive results can be observed even with small programs, for example of only one hour per week offered during the lunch break for 12 weeks (Wolever et al., 2012): this element could also be crucial for a widespread adoption of these programs.
However, it should be noted that at the moment there are few studies and they often use slightly different mindfulness training. More studies are also needed to understand which components of mindfulness can be best translated into digital environments and which ones can be most useful depending on the different contexts.

Marco Barbato

Outcome measureOnline Mean (SE)Offline Mean (SE)F
Pittsburgh Sleep Quality IndexPre7.89 (.47)8.10 (.51)3.00
Post5.07 (.46)6.29 (.50)
Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression ScalePre19.59 (1.3)20.01 (1.4)2.11
Post11.14 (1.2)14.23 (1.3)
Diastolic Blood PressurePre76.53 (1.3)75.58 (1.4)2.84
Post76.49 (1.4)72.86 (1.5)
Heart rhythm coherence ratioPre-.39 (.07)-.24 (.07)3.91*
Post.03 (.05)-.003 (.05)
From Wolever et al., 2012

Do you want to try?
Here are some links for online mindfulness sites:
This was used in the research by Questret et al. (2018):
https://www.bemindfulonline.com/

This one is completely free and has some great contents:
https://palousemindfulness.com/

References

Aikens, K. A., Astin, J., Pelletier, K. R., Levanovich, K., Baase, C. M., Park, Y. Y., & Bodnar, C. M. (2014). Mindfulness goes to work: Impact of an online workplace intervention. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine56(7), 721-731.

Bartlett, L., Martin, A., Neil, A. L., Memish, K., Otahal, P., Kilpatrick, M., & Sanderson, K. (2019). A systematic review and meta-analysis of workplace mindfulness training randomized controlled trials. Journal of occupational health psychology24(1), 108.

Querstret, D., Cropley, M., & Fife-Schaw, C. (2018). The effects of an online mindfulness intervention on perceived stress, depression and anxiety in a non-clinical sample: a randomised Waitlist control trial. Mindfulness9(6), 1825-1836.

Wolever, R. Q., Bobinet, K. J., McCabe, K., Mackenzie, E. R., Fekete, E., Kusnick, C. A., & Baime, M. (2012). Effective and viable mind-body stress reduction in the workplace: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of occupational health psychology17(2), 246.

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