One month ago I challenged myself to meditating every single day. These are my honest impression of having a meditation practice amd what I have learned over the course of this forst month!Read More
I am currently in week 3 of my 100 Days of Mindfulness challenge (already!), so thought it would be a good time to share a couple of my impression and favorite apps that are helping me along in this journey.
I am using Headspace to learn how to meditate daily. I first downloaded it sometime last year and quickly ran through the first 10 (free) guided meditations. I was hesitant to subscribe ($12/month or $100 annually) because I wanted to try out other apps first that may have better features or be more economical (some of them I will talk about below). Yet, after trying many other guided meditation tools I found myself coming back to Headspace over and over again, replaying the 10 free sessions! At the end of last year I took advantage of a $1/month for 3 months promotion shortly after gifting my sister an annual subscription for her birthday. This promotion worked on me because I got hooked on the full version of the app and haven't looked back since! My partner and I particularly love the sleep meditations and found that to be a reasonable way to get into almost-daily meditation. For me, $9 a month for a service that teaches me, adds lifelong value, and I frequently use (daily now!) is a steal. I also love the game-like features including the app employs like tracking usage, instructional videos, and the mindfulness reminders.
Tide is a simple and beautifully executed pomodoro style application that helps you focus. I have been exploring the concept of "single-tasking" lately and this app has been perfect for this. I turn the app on and it will play a soundscape for 25 minutes of focused effort and then allow a 5-minute break. I find the gentleness of this type of timer much friendlier to use as opposed to the timer that comes with the clock app on the iPhone. It allows me to really get into the grove of working without anticipating and fearing the buzzer.
Calm is a meditation app with a few added components meant to help improve your sleep and breathing. I particularly like the breathing exercise because I have noticed through my yoga and meditation practice that I am a shallow breather. If you become a paid subscriber of this app you can unlock many more "programs," which are multi-day series (the Headspace app calls these "packs"). And if you are really into relaxing soundscapes it is very likely you'll love this app.
This app is a collective of meditation instructors that you can follow and learn from. To access all features a paid upgrade is required (like most of the other apps I have mentioned), but there are lots of free guided meditations and lessons to try out first. This app also offers daily reminders and some tracking features much like Headspace. If you want more choice in who is teaching you (aka the voice that guides you) this may be the app for you. This app also has a great analytics dashboard to help track your progress and set goals in your practice.
I want to end with both a tool and a tip. I highly suggest turning off non-essential notifications on your phone and even opt to remove counter that appears on the app icon. This is a great way to reduce the number of distractions that pull us out of focus and away from the moment. This strategy is allowing me to control when I check my phone and email and limit how much digital content "consume" each day.
If you really want to dive deep into meditation and mindfulness apps check out this scientific study that evaluates and ranks mindfulness apps. A couple to note at the top of their list includes Stop Breathe Think and Smiling Mind that appear to have a lot of the features I like in the apps above.
What apps have you come across that you either like or didn't like so much? I would love to know, as my never-ending quest for good tools continues!
A little over a year ago it was early morning and I was walking the damp, dark streets of lower Manhattan to my office. Imagine cold winter winds, and the noise of construction added to the rushed feeling of every workday. It isn't surprising that I came to dread that walk each day. I would turn on autopilot for each of the 15 minutes each way and managed to just barely tolerate it. Given that I have a limited number of these half hour periods each day (about 32 intact, I did the math), I began to realize spending even one of them feeling miserable or checked out is a waste of my life. 130 hours a year of just "getting by," NOPE. I decided I didn't want to just give away that time anymore so I started what I though would be a simple challenge.
My challenge: to be present (or "mindful") during that walk. Despite the fact that I couldn't control the weather or the noise or the all of the city grime, I wanted to pay attention and find at least one thing amongst the chaos I could witness and appreciate. Some of these things I began to document on Instagram, or I would share with friends directly. Some of them I would keep for myself. Sometimes it would be an object, other times an interaction between people. At times I would just savor a feeling I had. This little practice on my walk evolved to observing myself, how I felt, how I walk, how I breathe and very quickly my walk became something enjoyable (even in the cold weather!).
The reason this was difficult is because it required me to quiet my thoughts and acknowledge my environment. I was so used to letting my mind run, usually trying to anticipate what the day would hold, that I didn't notice my surroudings or even myself. This was my perfect intro to mindfulness and meditation. It was a short, consistent activity to get my feet wet in this world.
At the time I had no idea of how vast these practices were. My only goal was to stop taking these 30 minutes a day for granted and try to experience something new before I reached the office and spent 8 hours working away. Now, a year later, I have been done more research and expanded my practice I am experiencing new benefits benefits.
So far I have noticed that mindfulness has helped me limit the anxious rumination and overthinking in my head. It is also improving how I interact with other people, allowing me to be more engaged and a much more compassionate listener. Along those same lines my memory is improving (because I am actually making memories and not getting lost in my head!). And I also feel more appreciation. This one is hard to explain, but I think that when your are present and truly taking in what you are doing, where you are, who you are with, etc. you recognize the miracle and beauty of life. It's kind of amazing. These are just a few things I've noted from my blossoming mindfulness practice so far.
For more on the psychology of why being present is so hard check out this article. That's all for now!