31 July 2023

Is meditation bad for your (mental) health?

You may have read or heard recent concerns mindfulness apps may be bad for your mental health?

Is this so? And if so, is there a risk in using the Allevi8 mindfulness and meditation app I have helped develop specifically to help people with their mental health, and with managing significant illness?

Also, pardon the long gap between post; there has been a lot going on that maybe warrants another post at another time, but first

          Thought for the Day

If you ask me what sort of self-control you need 

To do the work of contemplation, 

My answer is, ‘None at all!’ 

In everything else you do, 

You should practise moderation. 

Avoid extremes when eating, drinking or sleeping. 

Also, protect your body from severe cold or heat, 

Do not pray or read too long 

And do not spend too much time 

Conversing with your friends. 

In all of these things, it is important 

That you do neither too much nor too little. 

But in contemplation, 

You may throw caution to the wind. 


I hope you will never stop doing this loving work 

As long as you live.

         The Cloud of Unknowing – wonderful 14th Century Christian mystical text 

Following the recent Choice investigation of mindfulness apps, Nicholas Van Dam, Director of the Contemplative Studies Centre, and Jeannie Paterson, Co-Director of the Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Digital Ethics, recently spoke with Life Matters on ABC Radio National about the potential for harm that apps may pose to users, particularly (but not limited to) those with existing trauma or mental health issues.`

Allevi8’s experience in this domain goes way back to the 1980’s when I was learning from and being mentored by Dr Ainslie Meares. 

Dr Meares was a world-renowned psychiatrist and the earliest driving force behind the use of meditation in a therapeutic context. 

I had recently recovered (unexpectedly by most) from a very difficult cancer using meditation as a mainstay. 

Following some press and many enquiries, I was just beginning to help others affected by cancer, stress, anxiety and other conditions.

I had the good fortune to meet regularly with Dr Meares. 

We spoke often about potential risks, potential adverse side-effects and how to avoid them. The was not much research back in those pioneering days, but Dr Meares drew on his extensive psychiatric background, and we were both working with many people dealing with a wide range of conditions.

Maybe Allevi8 can present a full webinar or conference on this subject one day, but for now, maybe it is enough to point out:

1. The techniques used on the Allevi8 app have been clinically tested on literally thousands of people by Dr Meares, myself and the large number of staff I had the privilege to work with over nearly 40 years. These people had a very wide range of physical and mental health conditions. 

Dr Meares said the only concerns he had were for people with bi-polar disorder. So in my own work, we did screen people. However, as the years moved on, a number of people reported they had not disclosed their bi-polar condition, had learnt and practices meditation and had either felt much better, actually improved or in a couple of cases, remained symptom free over long periods of time.

2. The techniques used on the Allevi8 app have been developed with safety in mind. 

A big part of what we could describe as inbuilt safety, is the initial focus on relaxing the body. 

In our experience, techniques that only include the mind can lead to dis-association, whereas an initial bodily focus is very grounding and stabilising.

3. While not formally researched, the techniques on Allevi8 have strong similarities to techniques that have been researched and have been found to have both good efficacy and low risk profiles. 

A summary of the evidence base is on the Allevi8.net website

4. In all the nearly 40 years using these techniques and with over 100,000 people having used them in residential and non-residential programs with a good deal of interaction with staff, there have been no reported major setbacks or side-effects reported by these people, and most problems have been simply around difficulty with application – learning the techniques and practicing regularly.

5. At Allevi8 we take the concerns for adverse effects very seriously. This is another reason why we developed our online mentoring system and engaged senior, well trained, and experienced teachers to fill these mentoring roles. We know that personal connection with a teacher/mentor provides a strong safeguard.

6. We do encourage anyone who may experience problems to do the obvious thing and tell us about it via the website Allevi8.net. 

So in conclusion, while aware of small potential for risk, based upon our extensive experience, we have confidence in the techniques on the Allevi8 app and commend it for your consideration and use.