We all know that our physical health needs attention and we try as best we can to eat well and exercise regularly. But what about our mental health? It is often forgotten that our minds also need care. We are so busy with work, family, friends, household chores and other responsibilities that we are lucky when we can get that green smoothie and a few hours of physical exercise in each week; so mental health tends to fall way down low on our list of priorities.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. In only a few minutes of meditation per day we can free our minds of the clutter and help us relax and ease stress, among many other scientifically-proven health benefits. And now, through the beauty of technology, it has become even easier with free downloadable apps that can teach us to find calm despite the distraction of our daily to-do list running through our heads. And practice made easy, here is a brief review of four of the most popular apps that are available for both Android and iOS.
If calm is what you need, Calm is the app for you. Calm offers a free element as seven-day course of guided-meditation exercises. Once you sign up for a monthly subscription, the available sessions include a 21-day program for general well-being, and a week-long series focusing on helping you get better sleep. There are also individual sessions lasting between two and 20 minutes, and “unguided” sessions using music and nature sounds. A yearly subscription costs just $4.99 per month.
Headspace is a simple and helpful meditation assistant which is great for beginners because it teaches you the basics of meditation in its free Take10 series that includes ten 10-minute guided meditations to start you off. Once you have mastered level one, you can purchase a subscription for $7.99 per month that allows you to access even more features and options so you can expand your practice.
This is an app that is perfect for those who are ready to incorporate meditation and mindfulness into their entire day, with meditations that target every aspect of your life, from sleeping, to traveling, to being online. Its meditation sessions are organised by theme according to what you’re up to: from waking up, taking a work break or waiting around… or if you are feeling stressed, dealing with difficult emotions and struggling to get to sleep. There are 80 different guided meditation tracks, ranging from five to 30 minutes. A yearly subscription costs £4.99 per month.
The Mindfulness App
The Mindfulness App is one of the most accessible apps, offering a good selection of meditation tracks with and without narrators, ranging from three to 30 minutes in length. As with Headspace and Calm there’s an introductory series to get you up and running, with a number of other meditations included in the download price. There’s also a premium library for which you’ll have to pay extra. The app lets you set the length of each session, and choose whether you want silent or guided mindfulness sessions. There are two subscription options, either 1 month for $9.99 or
12 months for $59.99 (one month free trial included).
To sum it up, there are essentially two basic types of meditation: (1) Focused Attention, which concentrates on a single object, e.g. the breath, a mantra, part of the body or an external object, during the whole meditation session; and (2) Open Monitoring, which instead of focusing the attention on any one object, it is kept open, monitoring all aspects of our experience, without judgement or attachment. Examples of forms of these two types include Transcendental, Kundalini (what I use), Qi Gong, Zazen, Mindfullness Mediation and Vipassana, so if you try one form or one of these apps, but it doesn’t have the effect you were hoping for, then don’t give up, simply try another, and you will soon be glad you did.
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