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Get ready, mindful patients: Prescribed meditation is coming soon to a doctor near you


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Since the Headspace app launched in 2012, novice and veteran meditators alike have flocked to the virtual haven for walking meditations, approachable mindfulness instruction, and (duh) genius tips from co-founder Andy Puddicombe‘s dreamy voice (he narrates the guided meditations). And this week, the buzzy, brain-boosting brand—which promises “bite-sized meditations for busy schedules”—announced its plans to move into the clinical sector by creating Headspace Health, the first-ever prescription meditation app, due in 2020.

Headspace plans for the new platform to include clinically validated meditation programs designed to treat a range of chronic diseases. The company reports that since 2015, it’s been researching how meditation services positively impact the health of those suffering from conditions including asthma and cancer, and it also plans to explore how Zen sessions impact sleep and pain management. Regarding the treatment aspect, the goal is for doctors to prescribe the app to patients—and hopefully, insurance plans would cover it.

“This [app] could now not only be given the credit and validation of science and medicine but also be made available to people who otherwise wouldn’t know about it. And hopefully, in the future, will also be able to have it paid for.” —Andy Puddicombe, co-founder and voice of Headspace

But, before the service can land on prescription pads, the FDA must declare it safe and effective for patients, says Megan Jones Bell, PsyD, the chief science officer at Headspace. “Headspace Health is developing a portfolio of new clinically validated meditation apps designed to prevent, treat, or help manage chronic illnesses,” she tells Well+Good. “FDA approval is necessary to ensure that these apps are safe and effective.”

Dr. Jones Bell adds that getting the FDA’s go-ahead would also be a major step for the meditation community at large. “It will add enormous legitimacy, in the eyes of modern medicine, to the already documented mental and physical health benefits of a practice that has been helping people for thousands of years.”

Scientific studies have already demonstrated the power of meditation, including its ability to slow aging, alleviate stress, and sharpen your mind. And even though getting FDA approval is a tedious process, this year alone the federal agency sanctioned a CBD medication that not so long ago would have earned a label of “alternative” (if not straight-up illegal), so here’s hoping the trend continues.

“As monks, we used to sit down every day and take a vow to reduce suffering in the world,” Puddicombe, who spent his twenties studying meditation in far-flung spiritual hot spots like the Himalayas, tells Well+Good. “So, it’s really exciting to think how this [app] could now not only be given the credit and validation of science and medicine but also be made available to people who otherwise wouldn’t know about it. And hopefully, in the future, will also be able to have it paid for.”

Having your insurance foot the bill for your meditation habit? Sounds like a total wellness win to me.

Here are five common myths common to meditation beginners. Plus, the best style of meditation for you, based on your wellness needs

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