It may look like a bunch of meditation sessions built into a health care app, and it is. But UCHealth’s high-profile placement of guided meditation in its flagship mobile app is much more. It’s a clear statement of how important a major health care institution considers the mind-body connection to be in its patients’ overall health and wellbeing.
The initial fruits of UCHealth’s collaboration with Muse went live on Feb. 15. Livi, the app’s virtual assistant, is the vehicle. (The mediation feature is also available through a web browser in My Health Connection – just click on Livi in the lower right-hand corner and type in “Let’s meditate” where it says “Type a message…”).
Livi offers up Meditations by Muse and presents four categories for meditative exploration: stress, self-care, active life, and healthy aging, each with five audio meditations between five and 15 minutes in length. The categories were not chosen randomly, but rather are based on the ages and sorts patients that tend to engage on the UCHealth app and website, says Nicole Caputo, UCHealth’s senior director of Experience and Innovation.
“We asked ourselves, ‘What categories can we start with that can help the greatest number of people?’” Caputo said. “Active life was a no-brainer. Aging is something we all do or will do – how do we do it gracefully? Self-care is a universal need. Since the pandemic, stress is huge.”
Benefits abound with free meditation app
The bigger question, perhaps, is why UCHealth would invest in establishing a partnership to offer meditation. The app designers anticipated this question and have Livi address it through a tappable link that asks, “Why should I meditate?”
“Studies show that meditation can improve sleep, stress, and overall wellness. There’s a reason this practice has been around for thousands of years – it can really help you manage day-to-day life!” Livi explains in a text response.
Vocalizing, Caputo elaborated: “It’s honestly phase one of a larger vision of what our app can provide, and that’s overall wellness. It’s our duty to the community to offer these resources – to keep people focused, to keep people well,” she said. “When life is a little bit out of control, how do we reset ourselves? Meditation is a great way to do that.”
A staggering volume of academic research backs up Livi and Caputo. Patricia Karpas, head of content for Muse and cofounder of the Meditation Studio (a highly regarded meditation app among the hordes of them), estimates there have been more than 10,000 studies on meditation’s impact on health – “in all different areas, from stress and anxiety to depression, chronic illness, and pain. There’s been research now into almost any area that you can imagine,” she said. “Meditation has been proven to help calm the nervous system to help us feel more grounded, more at peace.”
As a sort of cheat sheet, the UCHealth app’s meditations – all of which fall under the category of mindfulness (as opposed to transcendental) – are as follows:
- Basic breath practice
- Releasing knots
- Let things be
- Soften and relax
- Grounding the senses
- Dealing with difficult moments
- Finding strength of mind
- Connect with deep wisdom
- Radical self-care
- Pain as a visitor
- Deep rest for athletes
- Recovery for athletes
- Trust your body intelligence
- Optimal flow states
- Life transitions
- Big-picture focus
- Mountain strength
- Attitude of acceptance
- Compassion for the body
Using UCHealth’s meditation app
The meditations on Livi are guided by experts with voices as soothing as a gentle rain. Karpas herself leads many of the meditations on the Muse app. No need to sit in a cross-legged position on a mountaintop, she reminds us. Sometimes simply finding a comfortable posture, taking a pause and focusing on your breath can be a great way to take care of yourself in the midst of a stressful day.
The UCHealth app’s meditations are guided by men and women with voices as soothing as gentle rain. Common among the sessions, Karpas says, is establishing a comfortable position – no need to sit in a cross-legged position on a mountaintop. Sometimes simply finding a comfortable posture, taking a pause, and focusing on your breathing can be a great way to take care of yourself in the midst of a stressful day, she adds. The content itself is diverse. From the “Pain as a visitor” meditation:
Although pain is uncomfortable and difficult to experience, try for the next few moments to regard your pain with ease. Imagine the pain is a visitor to your home, like a wind. Open the front door in the back door of your house. Allow the visitor to come through and just don’t invite it in for tea. Allow the pain to just flow through allow the way you’re feeling right now physically and emotionally. Allow your body and mind to just be ever-changing.
Pregnant pauses space out the sentences. Same as with “Let things be,” which instructs:
Take a moment to notice how your body feels right now. If you’re feeling anxious or stressed, simply observe. How does that anxiety register in your body? You feel the shoulders tight, belly gripping, the jaw tight. Maybe notice tension around the eyes. Start by unwinding the body. Let the shoulders relax down the back of the spine. Lengthen at the belly. Be soft at the jaw. Relax, and the eyes soften. And take three long slow deep breaths to begin.
Karpas and Caputo say they’re planning on adding additional guided sessions. Karpas says she’s hoping that sleep-aiding meditations come next, but there are many options. More broadly, she sees meditation and stress-relief-focused practices as playing an increasing role in traditional health care settings.
“I’m thrilled that UCHealth has taken this important step,” Karpas said. “Meditation, along with attention to the entire mind-connection, is an important piece of any wellness program.”
That certainly applies to the UCHealth app, where appointments, test results, medications, messaging, health care news, and so much more reside. But meditation and such additions as augmented reality [link to AR Dogs story] are also important parts of an ongoing story with a simple theme.
“We’re trying to build it as a one-stop daily app to help you get healthier,” Caputo said.