Tech-Tuesday – Meditation and Mindfulness Apps

Shining a spotlight on different technology services and applications that may be helpful for students, faculty, and staff here in the Penn Community!

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It appears that mindfulness has become the hot new buzzword on campuses and on various blog sites across the country. This is with good reason! Practicing mindfulness has been shown to improve general health, reduce stress, improve immunity, and boost recovery. For college students, practicing mindfulness has been shown to reduce overall stress, reduce depressive symptoms, enhance focus, and improve overall grades (Ackerman, 2017).

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While many of us may want to incorporate mindfulness practices into our daily lives, it can be difficult to make time in our schedule to read a book on mindfulness or to attend a meditation class. Luckily, there are a few apps that make it simpler to incorporate mindfulness into our daily routines! This blog will highlight two different applications that have helped me incorporate meditation and mindfulness into my weekly routine.

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  1. Headspace (www.headspace.com)

The first is app is called Headspace (www.headspace.com), and it has become quite popular. Headspace is great because it takes you through the meditation process if you are unfamiliar or new to the practice. The app has a beginner 10-day meditation guide that can be a great place to start! Each day leads you through a 10-minute meditation practice. It even incorporates tracking into the app to motivate you to stick with keeping mindfulness as a part of your daily routine.  The app is initially free to download, and then will take you through its app to purchase different meditation exercises.

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   2.  Stop, Breathe, & Think (www.stopbreathethink.com)

Stop, Breathe, & Think (www.stopbreathethink.com) is another great app to help you practice meditation and mindfulness (Full disclosure – this is the app I love and use most often). The app has short guided meditations, starting at just two minutes, that help you make time to breathe and check in with yourself throughout your hectic day. The app helps you learn how to meditate. You can then choose from a variety of sessions depending on what you need each day. The sessions include titles such as: Breathe, Gain Resilience, Connect with Your Body, Be Kind, Sleep, and Chill. (I highly recommend the Falling Asleep meditation in the Sleep session. It really helps me unwind at the end of the day, and has even helped me conquer some of my insomnia). While some parts of the app are free, other sessions require you to pay; however, 10% of the revenue go towards the nonprofit Tools for Peace, which helps at-risk youth experience the benefits of mindfulness and meditation. Knowing this, you can feel good about taking care of yourself while knowing you are helping to pay the gift of mindfulness forward!

These are just two of the many apps out there to help us practice self-care. What apps do you use? Do you have any you recommend?

This blog was based on information from the following sites:

https://www.stopbreathethink.com

https://www.headspace.com

http://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/top-meditation-iphone-android-apps#1

https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/benefits-of-mindfulness/

By Staff Writer: Kelcey Grogan, WLRC Learning Instructor

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Sleep and Success, Part 1: Productive Sleep

One of the more pertinent results of productive sleep is consolidation of memories. Let’s unpack, shall we?

Without delving too deeply into the specialized vocabulary and evolving hypotheses in sleep research, we can, for the sake of simplicity, concern ourselves with a few basic concepts: Non-rapid eye movement (NREM) rapid eye movement (REM) and sleep cycles. To go any deeper would lead us into a clash of competing scholarship, where researchers have it out with each other Hunger Games style in a battle for academic and intellectual supremacy. (Okay, I’m exaggerating, but only a little.) For now we’ll just focus on what the experts agree upon, but by all means hit Google Scholar and look up the work of your favorite sleep researcher.

Productive sleep, in order to be productive, has to include the right amounts of both NREM and REM state sleep, and in the right order. We commonly associate REM with dreaming, the last stage in a sleep cycle. A full sleep cycle takes roughly about 90 minutes, with REM taking up about 20 to 30 minutes.

NREM and REM seem to have different functions in the memory consolidation process during sleep. Learning that involves motor skills or procedures – think of practicing a piece of music or learning some type of protocol that involves steps – seems to be strongly linked to NREM, even though test subjects do better in procedural tasks if they’ve been allowed REM sleep. In other words, memories don’t really get consolidated until we finally sink into REM state. Oh, and by the way, going through the whole cycle five or six or seven times is necessary for sleep to be productive.

So think of it this way, we do not actually fully learn a procedure or fully analyze anything until we’ve had the opportunity to sleep on it.

Sleep deprivation has become a grotesque badge of honor. How many people have you met who brag about how they need only three or four hours of sleep a night in order to be truly awesome, tacitly implying you should be deeply ashamed of yourself if you sleep more? This is based on a fallacy not supported by research, and that fallacy states that sleep time is time wasted. Decades of sleep research refute this notion. From a purely physical point of view, sleep time is certainly down time. From the standpoint of learning and sharpening mental processes, for long term problem solving as well as critical and creative thinking, sleep time is production time, if you allow it to be.

For more sleep tips and wellness consulting, visit Student Health Services:

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Pete Kimchuk
Senior Learning Instructor