As I was planning my new year’s resolutions, I found myself writing a sentence from previous years: “try more meditation to help ease stress and anxiety”. This gets carried over year after year, with the afterthought, “yeah, I should probably give that another try” as I write it again and forget about it.
This year, I decided to give it an honest effort. I had heard about an app for your phone called “Headspace”, so I decided to download it. To give you a little bit of background on the app, it was founded by Rich Pierson and Andy Puddicombe. Puddicombe is a former Buddhist monk and he is your instructor in the videos.
It’s free for the basic package, which has a group of 10 trial sessions and they are only 3 minutes long (they can be adjusted if you’d like them to be a little bit longer). After that time, you can decide if you would like to subscribe. There are different price options and packages you can choose from there, but it can be as low as $8 per month if you sign up for a year. Anyway, I have done several meditation videos in the past, and I have always enjoyed them, but I never stuck with them long-term.
The fact that these videos are only 3 minutes has made all the difference. You can adjust the length as you go if you’d like more time, but if you’re just starting out, I suggest staying at three.
The first thing I really like about it is how non-threatening it is. The video isn’t constantly telling you to focus or shut out your thoughts like some videos I had listened to in the past. They encourage you to acknowledge wandering thoughts and then to slowly bring your focus back when able.
My favorite thing so far has to be a concept that Puddicombe illustrates in one of the animated videos. He compares our mind to a highway, describing that sometimes there is more traffic and sometimes less. Each passing car is a different thought, and we can either sit by and be aware of the cars driving by or we can try to get carried away in one of them or try and fail to stop the cars from passing by in the first place. I thought this was such a perfect way to describe our minds.
Personally, I spend a large portion of my day trying to stop and redirect my thoughts. Then, I get extremely frustrated when I feel like I lose control. I like that Puddicombe never tells you that you need to avoid having certain thoughts, just that you need to try not to let them carry you away. I have found this making an immense difference in my day-to-day because I am learning to allow myself to go with the flow of “traffic” as Puddicombe would say.
I don’t let myself feel ashamed of my thoughts or distractions when they come up, I just slowly let them pass on through and then guide my attention back to my day. This strategy has helped tremendously with my stress levels and with my concentration, as I’m not spending as much time grappling with trying to change the way that I am feeling.
I am almost done with my trial period, and I must say that I am very pleasantly surprised with the differences I am noticing with my awareness. It is an app that helps teach you basic concepts to accept the ebbs and flows of our thoughts and our days. And, just like the name suggests, the more you practice these techniques, the more “headspace” it leaves you to focus on other things and be more mindful of your present moment.
So, if you’re curious, I definitely recommend that you try it out for yourself. Just three minutes a day and a free trial period could be the perfect place to start. I know it was for me.
Editor’s note: Liz Newman was not compensated by “Headspace” for this post. All opinions are her own.