Stop, Breathe & Think is marketed as an “emotional wellness platform” for teens and young adults (“the ‘under 25’ generation”). The app offers basic information on mindfulness, meditation, thoughts, stress and the effects of stress on the body. It offers daily reminders to “check-in” by use of. Each “check in” involves recording the user’s current overall physical and mental state based on a 5 point scale, and selecting up to 5 of 114 options of emotions to record the user’s emotional state. On completion of the “check in”, the user is directed to a selection of meditation exercises which are tailored based on the information provided by the user at “check in”. When using the premium account, there is the additional option to complete a journal. The app generates questions such as “what’s the best part of my day?” and “what do I need to forgive myself for?” to aid the user in completing journal entries.
There is also the option to practice exercises without completing “check in” on the “explore” section of the app. The app features 34 free meditations and many more on subscription to a premium account. There are many categories for different exercises such as breathing, sleep, connecting to your body, stress, finding focus and strengthening resilience. Most meditations are between 1 and 15 minutes in length. There is also the option to set timers for breathing, sitting in silence and listening to longer audio clips (up to 60 minutes) of relaxing sounds (such as thunderstorms and riverboats). In the kids section of the premium app there is also the option of video meditations.
The app contains a “progress” tab which tracks number of check ins, daily streaks, number of meditation exercises completed and time spent meditating. The most frequent emotions selected and meditation completed are also presented. Finally, users receive “stickers” as rewards for engagement with the app.
The app is intended for both young adults, teens and children, while the premium version of the app also offers meditation exercises specifically for children, teenagers, college students and pregnant women. Stop, Breathe & Think also have an app specifically for younger children (aged 5-10) called Stop, Breathe & Think Kids. On the web version of the app, there is a feature for educators to promote mindfulness in schools. Educators are offered a lifetime free subscription for this purpose.
The app was initially developed in conjunction with “Tools for Peace”, a non-profit organisation developed to teach mindfulness and meditation to inner city teenagers. The app continues to donate 10% of profit to this organisation.
Recommendations for Use
Stop, Breathe & Think is intended for use by children, teenagers and young adults. Although intended for younger adults, the app would also be appropriate for adults over 25. The target audience for the app appears to be the general population and those who may struggle with stress and mild anxiety or low mood.
Stop, Breathe & Think may be useful to those who are seeking professional help, as an add-on or follow-up to a more targeted professionally led intervention. It is not a substitute for psychological therapy. There no specific features of the app which address or reference professional help seeking, although the journaling aspect, feed of check ins and exercises used may be useful for clinicians to review in sessions. This data may allow the clinician to gain an insight into client’s mental state in between sessions and to their use adaptive coping skills. Clinicians may recommend mindfulness based apps such as Stop, Breathe & Think on completion of therapeutic interventions as a resource to allow clients to practice mindfulness, build resilience and uphold progress gained in therapeutic interventions.
The app is appropriate for those without a background in mindfulness and contains short clips which may be a good introduction to mindfulness for those who are not regular mediators. Those with more of a background in mindfulness may enjoying the mindful eating and walking meditations. The majority of the exercises are very short (up to 10 minutes), and those experienced in mindfulness may prefer longer meditation exercises.
Stop, Breathe & Think also have additional resources on their website for educators. There are toolkits available for free download which provide psychoeducation related to the basics of mindfulness and the benefits of practicing it. Age appropriate posters, worksheets and exercises are provided for elementary, middle school and high school teachers.
As many children, adolescents and young adults use technology, in particular smartphones, apps which facilitate the practice of mindfulness are a convenient medium to learn and practice mindfulness. Although there is a significant research base for the use of mindfulness as an effective intervention for children and adolescents, the purity of the mindfulness in the Stop, Breathe & Think app is unclear. The words meditation and mindfulness appear to be used interchangeably at time. Meditation is an exercise that is used to develop and practice mindfulness (Olendzki, 2009). Mindfulness apps should clearly explain the philosophy and basics of mindfulness, common misconceptions before jumping into the practice of mindfulness, which unfortunately, Stop, Breathe & Think does not do.
The app also has videos which teach acupressure for stress, anxiety, depression, self-compassion and sleep. The evidence base for such interventions is lacking (Robinson, Lorenc & Liao, 2011), particularly in the short format presented in the app (i.e. less than 10-30 minutes).
Ease of Use
The app is fairly easy to navigate. The check in is presented on the home screen. By selecting “start”, users are brought through five steps of the check in; 1) app prompts the user the breathe, 2) user selects physical state and then 3) mental state, 4) user selects 5 emotions and 5) users select a meditation. This process is straight forward and can be navigated without difficulty. The only criticism of this aspect of the app could be the number of options given when prompted to select emotions the user is experiencing. Selecting and differentiating between 114 emotions may require a certain level of emotional literacy.
Information provided on the concept of meditation and mindfulness was not easily accessible. This information can be found in the “learn more” section of the “more” tab, which the user would not likely come across without specifically searching for. There is also an audio clip of “what to expect” which explains the concepts, although this may not be obvious to a novice meditator. Given the importance of learning the basics of mindfulness and meditation, this information should be more easily accessible.
I used the app on an iPhone 6 and iPad. The app worked well on both devices with no obvious difference on either.
Visual Design and User Interface
The app is very aesthetically pleasing. The visuals of the check in are bright and engaging. The user is rewarded with “stickers” for checking in and for completion of practices which are also visually attractive. This is important as interactive and playful apps have been found to be more effective in engaging the user in an app which in turn may encourage regular mindfulness practice.
Although it is not straightforward to find the information related to the rationale for practicing mindfulness/the basic principles of mindfulness, the information is laid out well and separated by visuals. However, it is overly text heavy in parts and may have been more accessible in video format.
Overall, I enjoyed using this app and could identify it’s benefit in teaching basic mindfulness principles to children, teens and young adults. It serves as an accessible resource to aid young people in practicing mindfulness on a regular basis. This app would be useful in building resilience and improving psychological wellbeing for the general population. The promotion of the app in the school setting is an area of interest and may assist in the development of emotional literacy and maturity of children from a young age. For those who struggle with mental health difficulties, this app may be helpful if used in conjunction with formalised psychological intervention.
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