In today’s world, many of us need the helping hand of meditation to get through. Long proven to help manage stress and anxiety, meditation has undergone a shift into the mainstream in recent years — the world is finally waking up to its obvious benefits, both to mental and physical health.
Entrepreneurs have been among those who’ve cottoned onto the wonders of mindfulness, triggering an explosion of meditation apps on our app stores. These apps are exceptionally useful tools to supplement the mindfulness of new starters and seasoned meditators alike. But there are so many apps out there; how do we differentiate the good from the bad? We’re going to start from the beginning, delving into the very basics of meditation and mindfulness apps before running through specific meditation apps that are most popular.
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What is meditation?
Simply put, meditation is a practice that involves centring your mind and body and focusing your attention to relieve stress and anxiety. Despite the image, it conjures of crossed legs and a hand on each knee, meditation can take many different forms and can be done in various contexts and physical positions. It goes beyond battling stress and anxiety; this ancient practice, dating as far back as around 3000 BCE, is also thought to help with physical health.
The goal of meditation
People meditate for various reasons, be it to reduce aggression and stress, deal with grief, or even judge people less. Whatever the goal, meditation can help you manage a range of feelings and emotions. However, the results don’t come overnight; mindfulness takes practice, and it needs to be worked on every day in order to really help.
What is a meditation app?
A meditation app is, quite simply, a smartphone app that facilitates your meditative practice. Nowadays, app stores are teeming with apps of this nature, competing to be the favourite in a huge market for guided meditation. Some examples of the top meditation apps include Calm, Headspace, Pzizz and Meditation Studio, to name a few. More on those later.
Often, a mindfulness app will feature various guided meditation sessions, usually lasting around 10-30 minutes and sometimes longer. There will typically be a soothing voice taking you gently through the motions of meditation, advising you on how to adjust your body and what to notice in your surroundings. They may not talk for the whole session, however. Largely, the guide will stop talking after a number of minutes and enable you to meditate independently for some time. Apps may even cater to different settings, such as if you are in bed or sitting on the train on your morning commute.
Benefits of meditation
There are many science-backed benefits to meditation, corroborated by research over a number of years. Such benefits are believed to go beyond combating stress and anxiety to helping with physical health. Some studies have found it useful for regulating blood pressure and easing symptoms of gastrointestinal disorders.
Benefits of a meditation app
There are several useful benefits of using meditation apps:
- If you struggle to keep motivated to complete daily practice, apps can keep you on track. Often, the best mindfulness apps will ping you a reminder when it is time to get some meditation done, which is a great way to form a habit.
- Having a voice to guide you through the process can make your meditation more structured and feel less daunting.
- Mindfulness apps can teach you new techniques you weren’t aware of before.
- Mindfulness apps are highly accessible and can be used wherever you are. So, if you need to step out of work for 10 minutes and listen to the dulcet tones of a guided meditation app, you can.
How to meditate
While there is no set of instructions for meditating, you might want to ensure that there are certain conditions in place before attempting to meditate. Firstly, you’ll want to find a quiet environment free of distractions so you can properly focus your mind. You’ll also need to be sitting comfortably.
You’ll need the timing to be right; is this a time you can do every day? It’s recommended to set a specific time to do it each day. Have you just eaten? It has been said that meditation is best done on an empty stomach.
Meditation is best when you have a straight back and raised chest. Most apps and meditation guides advise against reclining when you meditate.
Now you have your setting and physical position secured, it’s time to begin meditating. Again, there is no instruction manual, but meditation typically involves clearing your mind and then counting numbers in your head or repeatedly saying a mantra. Meditating also involves controlling and regulating your breathing, focusing on inhaling and exhaling slowly.
A widespread myth about meditation is that any intrusive thought that comes along and threatens to ruin the meditative peace should be squashed. Thoughts are bound to come, and meditators should acknowledge and observe them and let them go.
Which apps are the most popular?
As we mentioned earlier, meditation and mindfulness apps have taken the app stores by storm. Different apps work for different people and their preferred meditation styles, so it’s worth having a look around to see which works best for you. Most of the following top meditation and sleep aid apps for iPhone offer free trials, where you can establish what works best for you.
- The Mindfulness App;
- Meditation Studio;
- Ten Percent Happier.
Starting a meditation journey can be a daunting thing; after all, it’s just you alone with your head in a silent room. But there is plenty of research to support that daily meditation is a very good habit. However big or small your meditation goals, you can find all the guidance you need in meditation apps. Or, if you’ve reached the end of this article and you don’t feel like being told how to meditate, try flying solo!