Internet Mindfulness Meditation Intervention for the General Public: Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial

Helané Wahbeh, Barry S Oken
JMIR Mental Health 2016 August 8, 3 (3): e37

BACKGROUND: Mindfulness meditation interventions improve a variety of health conditions and quality of life, are inexpensive, easy to implement, have minimal if any side effects, and engage patients to take an active role in their treatment. However, the group format can be an obstacle for many to take structured meditation programs. Internet Mindfulness Meditation Intervention (IMMI) is a program that could make mindfulness meditation accessible to all people who want and need to receive it. However, the feasibility, acceptability, and ability of IMMI to increase meditation practice have yet to be evaluated.

OBJECTIVES: The primary objectives of this pilot randomized controlled study were to (1) evaluate the feasibility and acceptability of IMMIs in the general population and (2) to evaluate IMMI's ability to change meditation practice behavior. The secondary objective was to collect preliminary data on health outcomes.

METHODS: Potential participants were recruited from online and offline sources. In a randomized controlled trial, participants were allocated to IMMI or Access to Guided Meditation arm. IMMI included a 1-hour Web-based training session weekly for 6 weeks along with daily home practice guided meditations between sessions. The Access to Guided Meditation arm included a handout on mindfulness meditation and access to the same guided meditation practices that the IMMI participants received, but not the 1-hour Web-based training sessions. The study activities occurred through the participants' own computer and Internet connection and with research-assistant telephone and email contact. Feasibility and acceptability were measured with enrollment and completion rates and participant satisfaction. The ability of IMMI to modify behavior and increase meditation practice was measured by objective adherence of daily meditation practice via Web-based forms. Self-report questionnaires of quality of life, self-efficacy, depression symptoms, sleep disturbance, perceived stress, and mindfulness were completed before and after the intervention period via Web-based surveys.

RESULTS: We enrolled 44 adults were enrolled and 31 adults completed all study activities. There were no group differences on demographics or important variables at baseline. Participants rated the IMMI arm higher than the Access to Guided Meditation arm on Client Satisfaction Questionnaire. IMMI was able to increase home practice behavior significantly compared to the Access to Guided Meditation arm: days practiced (P=.05), total minutes (P=.01), and average minutes (P=.05). As expected, there were no significant differences on health outcomes.

CONCLUSIONS: In conclusion, IMMI was found to be feasible and acceptable. The IMMI arm had increased daily meditation practice compared with the Access to Guided Meditation control group. More interaction through staff and/or through built-in email or text reminders may increase daily practice even more. Future studies will examine IMMI's efficacy at improving health outcomes in the general population and also compare it directly to the well-studied mindfulness-based group interventions to evaluate relative efficacy.

TRIAL REGISTRATION: NCT02655835; (Archived by WebCite at http://www.webcitation/ 6jUDuQsG2).


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