Weekend Wellness: Why You Should Try Meditation Apps
The Benefits of Meditation
I feel like the benefits of meditation are becoming more and more well-known and discussed. However, if the idea of meditating is new to you, or even daunting, it will help to know just how beneficial it can be for you. Here is a short, science-based list of the benefits of mindfulness and meditation for all age groups:
- Reduced stress levels (hello, yes please)
- Improved concentration, focus, and attention span
- Increased self-awareness
- Reduction of anxiety
- Increased happiness levels — this is actually especially interesting because scientific research has shown that meditation activates the part of the brain responsible for positive emotions.
- A longer life expectancy
- Potential reduction of age-related memory loss
- Improved cardiovascular and immune health
- Improved quality of sleep and reduction of insomnia
- Can help control pain
- Overall improvement of mental health
With so many benefits, it’s hard not to begin meditating and focusing on your mental health, deep breathing, and mindfulness!
How to Meditate
When I first considered meditation, I was worried I would never be able to ‘turn off’ my brain. At first, it felt like I was somehow doing it wrong. After working with Tiffany, I realized that mindfulness isn’t about that — rather, it’s about training your brain to observe your thoughts without judgement. That eventually leads to increased awareness and understanding of your thoughts.
In terms of how to meditate, I suggest finding a spot to sit or lie comfortably that is quiet and a comfortable temperature. Then begin the app program you’d like, close your eyes, and just breathe naturally. I’ve found that a lot of the apps do the work for me in terms of where to focus and what to think about.
Where Do You Meditate?
The key to finding a great place to meditate is ensuring that there are no interruptions. I have a studio space all to myself, so I like to meditate there. It is quiet, private, and the dogs are usually not around to bark or interrupt me. A lot of people also like to go to gardens to meditate, while a lot of people just do it at home. Our house is pretty chaotic right now with the renovation, but maybe I can move my mindfulness practice back to the house once things settle down.
I also suggest that you choose a location that is comfortable, so a good chair or a supportive floor pillow. Also, consider the impact that sound can have on your meditation. I really enjoy playing nature sounds while I focus on my deep breathing. A lot of apps also include ambient background sounds or gentle music tracks, plus spoken word recordings telling you what to do.
No matter where you decide to practice, meditation apps are a great way to meditate anywhere.
Best Meditation Apps
When I first started my deep dive research into meditation programs and mindfulness apps, I was slightly overwhelmed by the number! I began my search by looking for apps that offered free content, a free trial or apps offers so I could dip my toe in. A lot of the apps offer a monthly subscription, which is great once you’ve gotten into the habit. Here a few meditation apps that I have really come to enjoy:
Nearly every single friend I asked for an app recommendation mentioned Headspace. This well-designed and, quite frankly, beautiful app offers a free trial of 10 exercises that are geared toward beginners. When you first sign up, you’re led through a quick survey that helps tailor your meditation program to you. For example, you can say how much experience you’ve had with meditation and it will suggest how long your initial sessions should be. I enjoy Headspace because each program is guided and it feels really approachable and not overwhelming at all. My first session with the app lasted only 3 minutes, but they get longer as you practice, some up to 25 minutes or more.
Calm is another meditation and sleep app that is worth looking into. I especially like this option for the Sleep Stories feature. I have struggled with poor sleep and insomnia for most of my adult life. A lot of my issues with a solid sleep schedule are based on anxiety, but also difficulty staying asleep. Sleep Stories are sort of like the adult version of bedtime stories that are read to you in an effort to help you unwind and fall into a deep sleep. I often wake up between the hours of 2 and 5 am, but this feature has helped me to get back to sleep a lot faster than anything else I’ve tried.
Stop Breathe & Think
We all know I’m sort of obsessed with my Amazon Alexa (more on that here) and Stop Breathe & Think works with her! I love that the app asks how you are doing and encourages you to truly check in with yourself. After answering a short survey, this app curates a guided meditation just for you based on how you’re feeling in that moment. It is the perfect start to building your mindfulness practice and comes equipped with a breathing timer as well.
Another great app to consider is Insight Timer. I haven’t used this one yet because I’ve been really happy with the others I’ve described here, but it’s quite popular and deserves mentioning. The app boasts over 5 million (!!!) users, which is truly astounding. You can find all sorts of guided meditations for free in a wide range of topics and lengths. Also the app has a timer that is fully adjustable to help you keep track of the duration and sounds you hear. This one is next on my list to try.
If you’ve got kids, Smiling Mind is a great app to help them on their meditation journey. It can be tailored to different age groups, plus you can make an account for each family member.
Lastly, if you are in the Portland area, I urge you to check out Breath & Expand and take one of her Kundalini yoga sessions!