A Solution for Students: Mindfulness Meditation Apps
November 22, 2022
By: Frank Liu
In the age of short-form content, it’s become increasingly difficult to focus and maintain a consistent level of concentration. A study from Microsoft Corporation shows that since the year 2000, the average human attention span has decreased from 12 to 8 seconds, which is about as long as a goldfish (a goldfish!). The general decrease in focus is predominantly found among teenagers and young adults, and can be attributed to the popularity of social media; TikTok, Instagram Reels, and YouTube Shorts all feed into the trend. For students, this poses a problem - it’s hard to sit in Bobst for more than an hour without checking your phone, or sit through your afternoon class without spending a third of it wondering what you’ll eat tonight.
Ultimately, we’re starting to lose control of our minds. This isn’t an issue gone unnoticed, as concentration and productivity solutions are receiving increased attention in recent years. Within this space, mindfulness and meditation applications are gaining immense traction, and for a good reason - alongside increased focus and memory, benefits include anxiety management, stress and mood regulation, and even a stronger immune system.
An Overview of Meditation and the Market
The history of meditation stretches back to ancient times in the East, as some archaeologists date it to as early as 5,000 BCE. The practice itself has religious ties to Judaism, Hinduism, and Buddhism, predominantly in Egypt, India, and China. Within the last decade, growing interest has been found among Western celebrities, athletes, and other public figures, driving global attention. In the 2018 NBA season, the Los Angeles Lakers reached the bottom of the league in free throw percentage. Luke Walton, the coach at the time, implemented meditation into training to improve percentages. During free throws, the players’ elevated heart rate alongside considerable stress can result in tense muscles, affecting their shot. Biologically, meditation shrinks the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for stress response. Giving these players the ability to reduce the physical effects of stress can calm them down and return their bodies to a controlled state.
Though highly beneficial in concept, learning how to efficiently meditate is a tough task in and of itself; I, for one, had trouble simply sitting still for more than 5 minutes in the beginning. For this reason, mindfulness and meditation applications exist - the market size value for these was 533.2 Million in 2021, and is estimated to be valued at over 2.6 Billion in 2028, resulting in a CAGR of over 30% from 2022 to 2028. A specific industry leader within the market is Headspace, which provides a wide range of content meant to ease audiences into the practice of meditation, one session at a time. Following a merger with Ginger, an online mental health support system, the combined entity of Headspace Health was valued at 3 Billion in 2021.
Headspace’s logo and brand.
Mindfulness apps have the COVID-19 era’s increased focus on personal well-being to thank for their growth; Headspace has reported that the number of new subscribers had doubled from 2020 to 2021 to 70 million users alone. Alongside other trends, like digitalization and supply chain simplification, meditation is becoming more and more accessible to the average American. A sizable portion of the consumer base exists between the ages of 25 to 40, despite younger audiences being the most susceptible to social media addiction. All in all, meditation is still a rare practice for the Gen Z and millennial population, though the future looks to change that.
Overarching Benefits and How to Begin
Mindfulness through meditation provides deep biological benefits, contributing to the overall welfare of an individual in both physical and mental realms. Stress reduction is a primary reason why people choose to engage in the practice, as meditation reduces the release of cytokines, and stress-related inflammatory chemicals, and lowers the levels of the stress hormone cortisol. This may divulge into various sub-benefits, including (but not limited to) anxiety control decreased blood pressure, and a lower likelihood of addiction. Furthermore, the attention span of those who meditate is increased dramatically - even meditating for a short period a day may result in enhanced attention and memory after just 8 weeks. Again, this coincides with additional advantages, like bolstered emotional health, memory, and self-awareness.
Meditation may seem daunting to newcomers - after all, the health classes we took in high school gave many a poor introduction to mindfulness, framing it as a flimsy, pseudo-science concept. Meditation is something anyone can do, anytime, and it’s important to remember that mastery of the practice ultimately comes with persistence. Reducing traffic in the mind by focusing on your breathing, freeing yourself from passing thoughts, and feeling your physical presence in relation to the air and ground beneath you are easy examples of meditation, and they don’t need to be performed for extended periods of time. Accessibility is further increased by the aforementioned mobile applications, like Headspace, which offers a free service alongside trials to its premium subscription.
An example of Headspace’s in-app user experience
In the age of scrolling videos, mobile notifications, and constant stimulation, it is easy to get overwhelmed. Meditation provides a medium to take a step back from the digitalized world and give yourself a chance to restart your mind. With a reformed mental state, a meditated mind can once again tackle the world around it.
Frank Liu is part of the Fall 2022 Content Committee. He is a Freshman at NYU Stern looking to pursue Finance and Data Science.