How often should I meditate? A randomized trial examining the role of meditation frequency when total amount of meditation is held constant

Author: Kevin M Riordan1, Otto Simonsson1, Corrina Frye1, Nathan J Vack1, Jane Sachs1, Dan Fitch1, Robin I Goldman1, Evelyn S Chiang2, Cortland J Dahl1, Richard J Davidson1, Simon B Goldberg1
1 Center for Healthy Minds, University of Wisconsin, Madison.
2 Department of Psychology, University of North Carolina, Asheville.
Conference/Journal: J Couns Psychol
Date published: 2024 Mar 1
Other: Volume ID: 71 , Issue ID: 2 , Pages: 104-114 , Special Notes: doi: 10.1037/cou0000725. , Word Count: 243

Meditation apps are the most commonly used mental health apps. However, the optimal dosing of app-delivered meditation practice has not been established. We examined whether the distribution of meditation practices across a day impacted outcomes in a distressed population. We investigated the effects of meditation practice frequency in a 2-week compassion-based meditation intervention delivered via the Healthy Minds Program app. Undergraduates with clinically elevated depression and/or anxiety (N = 351) were randomized to a massed (one 20-min meditation per day) or distributed condition (two 10-min meditations per day). Psychological distress (primary outcome; composite of depression and anxiety), experiential avoidance, fear of missing out, loneliness, and self-compassion were assessed pre- and post-intervention. Psychological distress, loneliness, and informal meditation practice were also assessed daily. Practice time and frequency were assessed using app data. Results support feasibility of the study design, success of the manipulation, and acceptability of the intervention. Pooled across conditions, participants exhibited pre-post improvements on all outcomes (absolute value of ds = 0.12-0.63, p ≤ .010) and trajectories of improvement on daily distress and loneliness (p ≤ .010). No between-group differences were observed on changes in pre-post or daily measures (ps = .158-.729). When total amount of meditation practice per day is held constant, the distribution of practice may not influence outcomes for distressed beginners. Although only a first test of dose frequency effects, findings support flexibility in the distribution of meditation throughout the day, which may increase accessibility. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2024 APA, all rights reserved).

PMID: 38376930 DOI: 10.1037/cou0000725