By Paula Bostrom on Wed, 04/19/2017
Mindfulness has officially become mainstream. So much so that Apple’s latest iOS updates feature meditation and breathing exercises with the Breathe app for the Apple Watch and the Health app for the iPhone—both of which encourage mindfulness as a way to overcome stress. But what is mindfulness? Basically, it’s slowing down and paying attention to what is around you. It’s focusing your awareness on the present moment (e.g., the sounds you hear, the feel of the earth beneath your feet, the taste of your food, your breath.) This mental state sounds simple, but with our busy lives and minds so filled with chatter, it’s not always easy to achieve.
Although the practice of mindfulness may seem like a fad, it’s been around for thousands of years. I’ve been at it for over a decade and have found that it has helped control my panic attacks. Of course being the technology geek that I am, I’m always on the lookout for meditation apps to help in my pursuit of a quiet and peaceful mind. Although some people separate mindfulness and meditation into two distinct categories, I’ve found you can’t have one without the other. Here are the three best meditation apps I’ve found so far that help me live in a state of raised consciousness:
Simple Habit (Free)
This meditation app is great for people on the go. Everyone has at least five minutes a day to meditate and practice mindfulness and Simple Habit makes it easy. Whether you are commuting, dealing with a tough day, or trying to fall asleep, this app has a meditation for you. Choose between 5, 10, or 20-minute meditations and you can establish a healthy habit. I’ve been listening to the free guided meditations, but you can also purchase unlimited access for $11.99 a month. When I first downloaded the app, I spent several mornings listening to the commuting meditation. I’m not great at getting up early to meditate, but on the days I have a long drive, spending 20 minutes listening to a meditation is perfect (while keeping my eyes open and being mindful of fellow drivers of course). Doing so helps me slow down after a busy morning of getting kids out the door for school before heading to my appointments.
The Headspace app has a five-star rating in the App Store—and for good reason! The Headspace meditation app explains the basics of meditation and encourages you to practice regularly. Headspace does a great job of explaining different techniques and helping users discover which ones work best for them. I splurged and purchased unlimited access to the collection for $12.99 a month (other purchase options are: $94.99 for a year’s subscription or $399.99 for lifetime access). . Headspace founder Andy Puddicombe’s voice in the guided meditations is a pleasure to listen to. Although I’m not a newcomer to meditation, I enjoyed listening to the free entry-level meditations.
With the Headspace subscription, I am able to access standalone meditations for specific activities, such as sleeping or sports. I’ve also used the SOS meditations several times when I’ve felt overwhelmed and my day was spinning out of control. These three-minute exercises slow me down and help me refocus. I find myself able to unravel my thoughts and feelings. Headspace also has some workout meditations, and as an avid cyclist, I was I was pleased to find a cycling exercise. It helps me be more aware during my ride.
I also set a Headspace reminder on my Apple Watch. Earlier, I looked down at my watch to find the following message: “Mindfulness has nothing to do with speed. It’s simply being present, one moment after the next, as fast or as slow as the situation requires.”
Once you get the basics down and learn how to incorporate meditation into your daily life, you’ll want to practice every day.
Meditation Studio ($3.99)
This meditation app offers a wonderful collection of meditations, which aim to increase mindful awareness throughout your day. There are meditations for alleviating stress and anxiety, improving sleep, and even helping ease chronic pain. As someone who suffers from panic attacks, I use the 13 anxiety meditations quite often. Most of us who deal with anxiety fear the unknown, and Meditation Studio has a specific mindful activity to address that fear. It’s a great reminder for me that I need to trust life will take me where I need to go. There’s even a section for kids, which I really appreciate. As the Dalai Lama once said, “If every 8-year-old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation.” I like that idea.
Whether you’re a mom, veteran, or a first responder, you’ll find that these meditation apps offer practices that work for you. There are a great deal of benefits to practicing mindfulness, but perhaps the biggest benefit of all is preventing our own minds from going down a self-destructive path. When it’s all said and done, we all deserve a little peace, and that can make all the difference in our happiness.