Our phones are generally something most of us can’t live without, and tend to use each and every day. While there are a number of pros to having technology so easily accessible in our own hands, like being able to contact people within seconds, research content in just a few taps, or take photos and videos of significant moments that will last a lifetime, a number of studies have also proven that your phone can have a number of negative effects too – like anxiety, depression and heightened loneliness among its users.
According to a brand new study that was recently published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, new discoveries were made when research was conducted on a small group of 153 adults. The participants were randomly assigned to various smartphone-based intervention programs made up of 14 lessons in total. These programs were two-week long mindfulness interventions that focused on developing an individual’s ability to “monitor” moments happening in the present time, which essentially teaches them to be aware of and “live in the moment,” so to speak. Additionally, the intervention also emphasises viewing present-moment experiences with “an orientation of acceptance” to help alter how individuals understand and engage with other people. These are the two key components of mindfulness interventions, according to J. David Creswell, who is the study co-author and associate professor of psychology at Carnegie Mellon.
“The first component is learning to use your attention to monitor your present-moment experiences, whether that’s noting body sensations, thoughts or images,” Creswell said in a statement. “The second is about learning to adopt an attitude of acceptance toward those experiences — one of openness, curiosity and non-judgment, they continued.
How did it all work? One of the study’s mindfulness training groups taught both monitoring and acceptance, while the other primarily focused on only monitoring itself. The third group, which was acting as a control, didn’t get mindfulness training at all, and instead learned about coping techniques and mechanisms. Over the duration of two weeks, each group engaged in training for 20 minutes a day. Additionally, all of the subjects’ levels of daily loneliness and social contact was measured before, throughout, and after the study.
“We predicted that developing openness and acceptance toward present experiences is critical for reducing loneliness and increasing social contact,” the researchers wrote in the study.
Just as predicted by the studies’ researchers, the group that received training in both monitoring and acceptance had reported a reduction of loneliness in their daily lives by 22 percent. This particular group also showed an incredible decrease in social isolation in their daily lives – on average, they had social contact with one additional person for each day, as well as two more social interactions per day compared with both the control and monitoring only groups. Based on those results alone, the mindfulness program was seemingly only effective for social benefits when it included training for monitoring and accepting skills.
According to Creswell, “Learning to be more accepting of your experience, even when it’s difficult, can have carryover effects on your social relationships. When you are more accepting toward yourself, it opens you up to be more available to others.”
Of course, more studies will be required to get more detailed information on the topic to research further in the future. However, the results highlight the potential future uses of mindfulness therapies to promote healthy socialisation in people. No doubt, we’ll see a lot of more information being accessed by scientists who are now interested in assessing how the problem may also serve as part of the solution via interventions like smartphone-based mindfulness training.