With COVID-19, plans and rules are out the window! It’s an unprecedented time that kids are out of school for over three months (that isn’t summer break). Catherine Mayer, an internationally acclaimed artist, and founder of The Catherine Mayer Foundation and The L.A.U.G.H.® App (Let Art Unleash Great Happiness) had been preparing to formally launch in schools this fall. After two years of intensive research in partnership with the University of Washington College of Education and Seattle Children’s Research Institute – The L.A.U.G.H.® App is now being offered to parents fore free via the Apple App Store and in Google Play.
We talked with Mayer to hear more about her, the app, and the research behind it. One of the reasons she originally founded The Catherine Mayer Foundation was to reach more people. While she “loves working 1:1 with people”, she wanted to make a more powerful impact by integrating visual art, music, and movement (dance, yoga).
Mayer says, “I realized several years ago that technology, specifically 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?”
Mayer consulted with sociologists, psychologists, behavioral health specialists, medical doctors and technologists, before releasing the newest version of her art-based mindfulness app in May. The new app provides benefits to users (kids 4+) by engaging multiple senses simultaneously, including: vision, tactile, listening, and focused breathing. Researchers found that this powerful combination creates an optimal opportunity for learning, belonging, and improving a student’s mood at school.
The app offers digital painting, calm sounds and positive self-talk listening modules, and physical regulation through focused breathing exercises. It can be another resource to help with focus, to bring calm, and relaxation in this stressful time and beyond.
In addition, something that sets apart this app is the empirical research behind it. “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 – as well as confidence-building through the art the kids were creating. Now we have the results to prove it.”
Jones added that research has already shown that mindfulness practices decrease stress and increase empathy, self-control, self-satisfaction, attention, emotional regulation, and healthier friendships. TheL.A.U.G.H.® App includes elements that facilitate these positive outcomes.
So – take some deep breaths, relax, de-stress, and dive into your personal art studio – and ‘Let Art Unleash Great Happiness!’