News at Mason
Mason Student Creates App to Promote Well-Being
December 17, 2013
By Catherine Probst
It’s no secret that meditation can improve a person’s overall well-being and is a great way to relax and combat stress. With this in mind, George Mason University public policy student Beatriz Cuartas came up with the idea to create a mobile application to provide a simple and accessible way to bring mindfulness to the masses.
The WellBee 1.0 app is being created with support from George Mason’s Center for the Advancement of Well-Being (CWB), housed in New Century College, and the Computer Game Design Program. The app, which will be available for download in summer 2014, focuses on providing training in mindfulness practices like breathing, sitting, walking, eating, deep relaxation and more. The app delivers Cuartas’ training through a game, biofeedback and social connections.
“We live in such a fast-paced society that the need for stress reduction and pathways to well-being are even more important,” says Cuartas. “With the creation of this app, my intention is to spread the availability of well-being practices and instruction to everyone — both individuals and organizations — through a fun and easy-to-use game.”
To help bring her idea and training to fruition, Cuartas enlisted students from the Computer Game Design Program’s Serious Game Institute (SGI) to intern for WellBee in 2013. Cuartas and the other students toiled to produce and deliver the app for both iOS and Android platforms. The app’s development was also supported by grant from CWB, the Office of Sustainability and ILSD investment.
According to Cuartas, the WellBee app is poised to support Mason’s well-being goal, which is part of the university’s newly approved 10-year strategic plan. A basic version of the app will be provided free of charge to everyone. New activities, more gameplay and enhancements are available via in-app purchases. The free version of WellBee will include some game play, two main mindfulness trainings, and a “check-in” function to track the user’s well-being before and after using the app, plus a customizable mantra mandala activity.
In addition to experiencing the app through the game-play mode, users can access the well-being practices directly if they choose. If users would like to expand on their mindfulness training, several additional activities can be added through in-app purchases. Relaxing instrumentals and sounds, specially engineered with theta waves to improve brain relaxation, also enhance the game.
Additional activities planned include expanded game play, mindful eating, mindful movement, deep relaxation, mindful/sustainable consumption and a customizable journaling activity. The journaling will include a data collection component that allows for progress tracking; nudges the user to help them stick with a routine practice; adds a social connection, rewards, encouragement to “do and be” the well-being they want to see in the world; and more.
“The game-play component of the WellBee app is a novel way to make well-being practices simple and accessible to as many people as possible,” says Cuartas. “It moves WellBee from the realm of a purely instructional app to a fun and engaging game.”
For more information about the WellBee app or to sign up to be one of the first 100 beta testers, visit the Wellbee mobile app website.