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Researchers at the Center for Healthy Minds study well-being in the lab, yet there’s also an interest in understanding what might be helpful outside the lab. Collaboration with the Center’s affiliated nonprofit Healthy Minds Innovations is opening the door to new research, made possible by its Healthy Minds @Work Program. Delivered primarily on smartphones, it focuses on evidence-based components of well-being such as awareness, connection, insight and purpose. Sasha Sommerfeldt is a graduate student in psychology who is leading a new study at the Center that makes use of the program.
What are you studying?
We’re following up on a previous study we conducted suggesting that when people’s perceptions of their stress match their physiological stress (heart rate, breathing patterns), they have higher levels of well-being and lower rates of symptoms related to depression and anxiety. Our hypothesis is that training people to be more aware and accepting of their stress responses can help to sync their perceptions and their physiology, and thereby improve their emotional well-being.
Why is a tool like the Healthy Minds @Work Program appealing for your research?
It’s helpful to have an intervention readily available that can be modified to match the aims of our study. We’re focusing on the “awareness” module of the program because we suspect that self-awareness will benefit mind-body coherence, which is how well people’s physical and mental states of stress match.
What potential does this program have in overcoming common psychology research barriers?
Increasing sample sizes is a big challenge, and technology like this allows us to conduct studies with more people. Using programs like this can also be beneficial because they include assessments that can be used as people are going about their daily lives rather than contrived experiences in the lab.
What excites you the most about doing research with the program and similar tools?
The ease of use for participants and how it enables us to disseminate the research more — the program does not just include mindfulness practices, but also includes learning modules on neuroscience and the research so people can get the benefit of learning the science and experiencing the well-being practices.