Meditate to Change Your State: MI Professor Publishes RelaxU App

Just in time for finals week, the holidays, and helping you keep your New Year’s resolutions, Michigan State University Media and Information Professor Carrie Heeter has published a new meditation app.

RelaxU includes five 10-minute seated meditations: Calming, Favorite Place in Nature, Comfort, Releasing, and Stability. Each has been carefully designed, applying the tools of yoga (mental focus, breathing, gentle movement, and meditation objects) to help you change the state of your system in a desired direction.

Three of these meditations were used in a research study by Heeter and colleagues on benefits of meditation for hospice and palliative health care providers. Significant, substantial changes were observed when these meditations were practiced regularly over a 6-week period. For example, health care providers reported increased ability to manage stress, improved focus, heightened emotional awareness, and more listening to and trusting bodily sensations.

Heeter teaches user experience and serious game design. Since 2013, she has been studying and working with meditation expert/mind-body therapist Dr. Marcel Allbritton to design RelaxU and other cybermeditation experiences.

She values the humbling and sometimes hilarious privilege of working with a content expert who is also her meditation teacher. Collaboration involves a certain amount of creative tension, exacerbated by the stress of deadlines. But in this case, it was essential to approach every aspect of creating the apps from an appropriate mental state. The state of mind of the creators colors the creation. So Heeter and Allbritton engage in “mindful wrestling,” rather than heated discussions. If she becomes agitated while programming or editing audio she stops (perhaps to do a mediation), resuming when her state is calm.

These meditations are simple tools for novice meditators that help you quickly change the state of your system (mind and body). Though simple, the meditations are highly refined, each on about the tenth iteration. The designs draw from the science of yoga and meditation, Allbritton’s meditation expertise, Heeter’s user experience, game, and technology design background, extensive user testing, and scientific research.

RelaxU meditations allow the individual to have their own experience. You move and breathe at your own pace, moving only as far as is comfortable. Subtle meditation design approaches such as synchronizing gentle movements with inhale and exhale can quickly change the state of the system. Meditation objects are also specific to the person. For example, in the Place in Nature meditation, you are guided to think about a favorite place in nature. The place each person thinks of will be unique to them.

The meditations on the RelaxU app are tools for changing the state of your system. The first time you do one, quite a bit of your attention will be on figuring out what to do. Returning to that same meditation the next day, your experience can be more focused and deeper. Doing a meditation repeatedly over a period of time exercises and builds mental attention skills.

RelaxU is published by Heeter’s company, Mindtoon Lab. It is available for free on the Apple app store and on Google Play. To find it, search for “Mindtoon Lab” and then scroll down to RelaxU.

Mindtoon™ meditations are not medical interventions. They are potentially helpful tools designed based on Mind-Body Therapy principles, that may or may not be helpful to any particular individual.