Helping people develop better meditation habits with emotion-adaptive content

Emotion-adaptive features and content help people turn meditation into a regular habit more easily while also allowing them to feel more immersed and satisfied with their daily practice.

Helping people develop better meditation habits with emotion-adaptive content
Photo credit Fleur Kaan

We ran a study at Kouo to investigate how emotion-adaptive features could lead to content that better-supported people’s needs. Its primary focus was habit formation, forming positive habits which are difficult to maintain, while it also looked at changes in enjoyment and satisfaction.

Made up of four experiments* including a control, commercially available meditations have been augmented with Kouo’s live and static biofeedback. Why meditation? Meditation is a hard habit to keep, notoriously hard. Think of all the times you or a friend have said something like: I have downloaded Headspace but never used it again. The problem is not with Headspace (or any other meditation app) alone. Neither can we blame ourselves for not sticking with it. The issue is far more complex than that, and we wanted to find a solution. So, in short, we picked an area of everyday life that, if fixed, could help millions of people.

Developing better meditation habits allows us access to the right tools to preventively manage mental health and avoid reaching breaking points and burnout.

During the study, participants progressed through different experiences each week. At the end of sessions, they would self-report their satisfaction, immersion and perceived habit formation using an easy-to-understand scoring system†. But we didn’t stop there. The effectiveness of the experiences was also measured using neural feedback. We wanted to be sure that the reported metrics aligned with objective results.

Once we recorded enough sessions, we started the exciting process of analysing the data, seeing how biofeedback improved the meditation experience, if at all. Based on averages, we have compared cohorts to determine how biofeedback enhanced meditations against the baseline.

Photo credit Madison Lavern

Meditation sessions with feedback consistently outperformed the control. The most significant impact we recorded was on habit formation and experience effectiveness. Effectiveness improved across the board with greater levels of calm achieved using biofeedback meditations, while live feedback had the most meaningful impact on habit formation††.

Better content makes habits easier to maintain

The results show that the benefits are real, tangible and greatly important in developing better content and delivering more value to people learning to meditate.

Real-time emotion-adaptive content drastically improved meditation effectiveness, helping users achieve a calmer state than traditional audio-guided meditations. Further, as a direct consequence of increased effectivity, there were notable improvements in immersion, satisfaction and retention measured via perceived habit formation.

While the study focussed on meditation practice improvements, the impact of the findings goes far beyond meditation.

Emotion-adaptivity can support us in breaking addictive social media habits, avoiding overtraining or learning faster with more ease.

For the first time ever we can link our physiological data from all our wearables to our psychological signals, helping us rest better, perform with greater ease and achieve more while paying attention to how everything we do, affects our mental well-being.

And we can start improving content and habits right now. We can provide these better and more engaging experiences using existing technologies and Kouo’s emotion recognition data layer. During the study, participants wore the Kouo smart headphones with commercial biosensors embedded, available in products such as the Apple Watch, Fitbit etc., making sure the feedback is possible from products already on the market.

Better habits, content personalised to our needs and a better relationship between technology and people are possible now. To learn more and find out how you could integrate Kouo’s emotion-responsive technology, get in touch with us.

* The experiments were: [1] Standard Audio-Guided Meditation — Control, [2] Audio-Guided Meditation with Static Feedback (Summary Cards), [3] Audio-Guided Meditation with Live Biofeedback (Heart Rate) and Summary Cards, [4] Audio-Guided Meditation with Live Biofeedback (Neural Signals) and Summary Cards.

† Satisfaction, immersion and perceived habit formation were scored using an NPS (Net Promoter Score) style metric for ease of use.

†† Static feedback in the form of post-session summary cards would require longer periods to promote habit formation.