SEATTLE: After years of consulting with sociologists, psychologists, behavioral health specialists, medical doctors and technologists, artist Catherine Mayer has released the newest version of her art-based mindfulness app – The L.A.U.G.H.® App.
Building on successful studies of the app by the University of Washington, the new app provides benefits to users by engaging multiple senses simultaneously, including vision, listening and breathing. Researchers found that this powerful combination creates an optimal opportunity for learning, belonging, and improving a student’s mood at school.
“It’s currently a very challenging time, yet there’s a serendipitous aspect to the work we’ve been doing with The L.A.U.G.H.® App,” said Mayer. “I realized several years ago that screen time was beginning to have a dire effect on our youth. Realizing digital devices were not going away, I asked the question: How can we use them to bring calm, reduce anxiety, and simultaneously give youth a platform as a healthy outlet for their creativity?”
Through her foundation, Mayer recently completed a two-year pilot program in partnership with the University of Washington College of Education and Madrona Elementary School in Seattle. This partnership studied the impact of a preliminary version of The L.A.U.G.H.® App on the learning experiences and moods of chronically stressed children in their learning environment.
Researchers studied the relationships among a student’s joy of learning, school connectedness and their mood, and found that student’s ‘joy of learning’ score was 18.7% higher, and 19.2% higher on ‘school connectedness’ when they had a positive mood state at the end of L.A.U.G.H.® Time. Among L.A.U.G.H.® Time participants, as feelings of school belonging increased, joy of learning also increased by 56%.
“The past two years of our study was a fascinating process,” said Dr. Janine Jones from the University of Washington, who led the research project. “When we started, there was initial reluctance and skepticism by the school personnel. This evolved into their realization that the app was having a positive effect on the students and this led to students and teachers requesting L.A.U.G.H.® Time in the future. Anecdotally, during the school year we could see a shift in reduced stress and anxiety through the art the kids were creating. Now we have the results to prove it.”
Following the pilot program, the learnings from the early version of the app were incorporated to improve the newest version of The L.A.U.G.H. ® App in hopes of launching a more formal program in school districts, children’s hospitals, and other social emotional learning and play environments in 2020.
Mayer partnered with Very Good Ventures, the world’s foremost Flutter development team, to build the app so that it would be accessible on multiple platforms including iOS and Android.
“Many members of our team are parents, so it was easy for us to get behind Catherine’s mission. Our challenge was to create a high-quality app that would be accessible to kids everywhere while being mindful of resources,” said David DeRemer, founder of Very Good Ventures. “That’s where our experience building large scale Flutter apps came in. The L.A.U.G.H.® App is a unique drawing experience for iOS and Android, created from a single Flutter codebase.”
Mayer added that the App is being released now to the public because of the relevance and timeliness due to the COVID-19 crisis.
“We know there is a considerable appetite in our world for calm, less anxiety and a creative outlet for kids and families,” said Mayer.
The L.A.U.G.H.® App has also been tested with Seattle Children’s Research Institute, conducting evidence-based formative research measuring effects on physiological markers of relaxation and concentration.
“The L.A.U.G.H.® App is distinguished from virtually all existing health apps,” said Dimitri A. Christakis, MD, MPH, Director, Center for Child Health, Behavior, & Development. “Our preliminary data demonstrate that children using The L.A.U.G.H.® App exhibited much greater concentration than when using comparable entertainment apps.”