Anchors Improve App-Guided Meditation

Although previous mental health research has shown numerous benefits to persistent app-guided meditation practices, few users consistently engage at a level necessary to attain the benefits.

A recent study published in JMIR investigated whether anchors help to establish a persistent app-guided meditation routine, allowing more users to realize the complete benefits.

Anchoring is the pairing of app-guided meditation with an existing daily routine to help develop the practice as an unconscious habit and improve consistency. Example anchors used in the study include “after I finish breakfast in the morning” or “after I finish my coffee in the afternoon.”

Methods – Researchers randomly assigned participants to one of three study groups, which each received reminders to meditate for at least 10 min/day using the Calm app and one of the following anchoring strategies:

  • personalized anchor group (PA, n=56) – could select from a list of possible anchors
  • fixed anchor group (FA, n=49) – was assigned a specific anchor
  • control group (n=62) – did not use any anchoring strategy

Results – During the 8-week intervention, the FA group had significantly higher odds of daily meditation than any other group (1.14 OR), and all participants experienced a linear decline in daily meditation (0.96 OR). Interestingly, the FA group also showed the smallest decline in daily meditation odds during an 8-week follow-up, suggesting that assigned anchors may improve meditation consistency more than self-selected ones. This chart highlights the results nicely.

Impact – Meditation apps are among the most scalable treatments for a variety of disorders, and could have the potential to help level the supply-demand imbalance between mental health providers and patients. Despite their promise, high attrition among app users is a large barrier, but positive results such as these continue to help address the issue.

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-- The Digital Health Wire team