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article imageBecoming more connected: Startups create apps for 'mindfulness'

By Karen Graham     Sep 4, 2017 in Health
In our digital world, we're constantly bombarded with data, so much so that we have forgotten how to connect with the real world and give our minds a few minutes rest. Startup companies are now coming to the rescue, developing apps that promote wellness.
Most of us have experienced times when we have felt overwhelmed by events or information being thrown our way, reaching a point where we would just like to find a quiet corner to wind down, let our mind's clear and get a hold on our emotions.
We can make ourselves sick with worrying. Studies have also shown that constant thinking about something, called rumination, and worry contribute to depression and anxiety. Many psychologists recommend that we practice some form of mindfulness because, by doing so, it will lead to an overall feeling of wellness.
The search for mindfulness and a feeling of overall wellness is not a new idea, as many people may think. It has been a significant element of Buddhist traditions for centuries. Mindfulness is a psychological process of letting go of our thought processes and bringing our attention to experiences occurring in the present moment.
Andrew Mason (London, UK)
Psychologist Fiona Markham says, “With the Internet and smartphones we are so distracted all the time, we are constantly being taken out of the moment by this addiction to the digital world. Now we are conscious of this more and more, people will do anything to escape from it."
Fixing the problem with an app
In just the past year, investors have backed over 20 start-ups developing apps and tools aimed at promoting mindfulness, happiness, and other desirable mental states. According to CrunchBase, the companies have raised over $150 million with some of the largest rounds occurring in the past few months.
There are many companies in the mindfulness and wellness sector that are doing quite well. One, Santa Monica-based Headspace, raised almost $37 million in the June round, and to date, has raised $75 million. They have a simple business model: users start with a few free lessons and if they like it, they can subscribe.
Nat Sakunworarat
Headspace has over 18 million downloads and is looking to expand. “Meditation is just the first act,” says Ross Hoffman, Headspace’s chief business officer. The seven-year-old startup wants to eventually build “the most comprehensive guide to health and happiness from when you’re born to when you die and everything in between.”
New York City-based Happify Health is a developer of digital tools and programs that address a wide variety of topics, including resilience, thriving, mindfulness, mood disorders, and chronic conditions “designed to motivate individuals to address the full range of their emotional needs."
Happify Health has raised $25 million, and Grokker, a provider of online yoga, meditation and fitness lessons, bought in with $22 million. There are many interesting companies that have received seed money to get up and running, like Shine, a company that sends motivational text messages
NuCalm is a new relaxation package combining audio and physical stimulation.
NuCalm is a new relaxation package combining audio and physical stimulation.
What's happening to us?
While it may seem a bit ironic to use a digital device to get some freedom from the digital world, the mindfulness and wellness apps do appear to fill a niche in our busy lives.
"Technology has been the bridge that makes us more aware of everything on the planet. But it also causes us to be the multitaskers we are and to have thousands of friends but to be lonely,” says Stuart Rudick, founding partner at Mindful Investors.
Rudick sees the interest in mindfulness and wellness tools as an extension of the broader healthy living sector. And this includes meditation, which seems to be gaining in popularity, just like Yoga did a decade ago. And it helps that many celebrities are backing many of these start-ups, too. Headspace includes Ryan Seacrest, Jessica Alba, and Jared Leto as part of their backers.
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