Photo courtesy David Nevala
The Center for Healthy Minds has created a new scientific framework for understanding how human flourishing can be nurtured consisting of four pillars of well-being: awareness, connection, insight and purpose. Research shows that each of these four pillars are related to specific networks in the brain and can be strengthened through meditation and other forms of mental training.
Until recently, most meditation-based therapy for mental health disorders or stress-reduction has been done in-person and in group settings over the course of several weeks. Yet with widespread access to smartphones, experts are hoping to provide more accessible options that are well-studied and effective to stave off symptoms of depression and anxiety, which are on the rise and a growing public health crisis.
In a 2020 paper in the journal The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), Center researchers explored and laid out the “how” of emotional well-being, introducing evidence of the Healthy Minds Framework.
This framework is also at the foundation of the Healthy Minds Program app and fully mobile well-being intervention developed in partnership with Healthy Minds Innovations, the external nonprofit affiliated with the Center for Healthy Minds. Learn more about the science and measures developed by Healthy Minds Innovations.
Overview of the Healthy Minds Framework
A heightened, flexible attentiveness to one’s environment and internal cues such as bodily sensations, thoughts and feelings.
Skills: Mindfulness, attention, self-awareness
A feeling of care and kinship toward other people, promoting supportive relationships and supportive interactions.
Skills: Appreciation, kindness, compassion
Self-knowledge concerning how one’s emotions, thoughts and beliefs shape experiences and sense of self.
Skills: Self-inquiry, self-knowledge, self-transcendence
Being clear about one’s core values and deeper motivation and being able to apply them in one’s daily life.
Skills: Clarifying and embodying purpose, values, and meaning
One of the first peer-reviewed studies on the Healthy Minds Program as a well-being intervention featured in the journal JMIR Mental Health, a publication focused on digital innovations for mental health and behavior, suggests that a fully remote program administered on smartphones can also produce some of the benefits of in-person mindfulness interventions, including a reduction in symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress and an increase in feelings of social connection. See also: “Mobile Mental Health Program Goes Beyond Mindfulness, Shows Promise in Reducing Negative Mental Health Symptoms.”
In this randomized controlled trial, Wisconsin educators receive four weeks of the Healthy Minds Program app or are assigned to a control condition where access to the program is provided after data collection.
This study expands on a previous randomized controlled trial using the Healthy Minds Program as an intervention to improve well-being.
Working in partnership with other academic institutions, the Center for Healthy Minds is creating and studying the impact of a well-being curriculum for college freshmen, which includes use of the Healthy Minds Program app.
Expanding on research findings, the study will explore whether a mindfulness practice can cultivate stronger stress-physiology coherence, and in turn lead to higher psychological and physical well-being.
The research will track symptoms, thinking styles, and the emotional well-being of people living with depression who take part in a 4-week randomized controlled trial.
For those interested in using the Healthy Minds Program in a study or intervention, please fill out this form to be put in touch with Healthy Minds Innovations, who created the Healthy Minds Program.