You might be noticing that more people around you have started meditating or at least talking about it. It seems that all of a sudden, meditation has become mainstream and you’re seeing more about it on social media. People are adding meditation to their New Year resolutions, daily routines or talking about how their life has changed after starting to practice regularly.
According to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics, the number of U.S. adults and children practicing the mindfulness exercise has increased significantly over the past five years. Although the study did not pinpoint reasons driving the trend, we know people are searching for ways to de-stress, and brands such as meditation apps Headspace and Calm are helping to bring meditation mainstream. (Source: CBNC)
An Easy Way to Start Meditation: Digital Apps
We wouldn’t be exaggerating if we said there is an app out there for everything these days. Clearly, mediation and mindfulness apps are no exception. In fact, most people start their mindfulness and meditation journeys through digital applications these days.
At Mindful Momentum, we love group practices and there’s a lot of reasons for it (we’ll get into this later in the post), but we don’t always have the opportunity to practice with a group. There are some mornings when we haven’t left our bed yet, but want to start our day with a guided meditation. Or a short meditation to calm our minds before sleeping. For these moments, we have some favorite meditation applications that we reach out to, and we’re happy to share some of these with you.
Mindful Momentum’s Top 5 Meditation Apps
This is our team’s favorite application, so it takes the first place in our list. It’s a smartphone application and also an online community of five million people. Insight Timer says it offers the largest free library of guided meditations at 15,000 and counting. These range from beginners’ flows, to sessions focused on self-love, better relationships and conquering addictions. The customisable timer feature is perfect for short meditations when on the go and you can even choose whether you want ambient background sounds or ending bells. The large number of meditation options can seem too much if you’re just beginning, but we’re sure you can find what you love and works best for you at different stages of your meditation journey.
What we love about it: Our favorite feature about Insight Timer is clearly the community aspect. We could even define it as a ‘social network for meditators’, where you can add friends, see when they’re meditating and discuss all things mindfulness and meditation in the community groups. It feels motivating to see how many people around the world are meditating at a point in time. Our favorite meditation exercises are by Tara Brach.
Headspace is one of the most popular meditation apps on the market and is also known to be one of the best app for beginners. The founder Andy Puddicombe is the voice behind everything Headspace, and his voice is found to be one of the best and most soothing meditation voices out there.
What we love about it: If you’re a beginner, you can start with the ‘basics’ course and move forward as you start feeling more comfortable. The whimsical animations for each part are lovely and really help to warm you up to the idea of meditation and mindfulness. There are also bite-sized shorter sessions, including a one-minute breathing exercise, and themed sessions available if you want to add a little more mindfulness to your day.
Calm is soothing from the moment you open it. There are nature images and calming nature sounds that can be customized. In the free version there are about 25 options for guided meditations ranging from three minutes to 30 minutes or longer. Most of these are lead by Tamara Levitt, who provides clear instruction and has a comforting voice tone. In the Masterclass video series, topics such as Peak Performance and Breaking Bad Habits are offered by world class teachers and researchers. As a bonus, Calm can also be used as more than just a meditation app: It includes many sleep visualizations and signature sleep stories narrated by well known actors. There is also a whole library of relaxing music and soundscapes that can be played as background during the busy workday to help keep stress levels manageable.
What we love about it: Our Mindful Momentum founder, Laurisa Dill, particularly appreciated the ‘purring cat’ soundscape. :)
10% Happier is another great smartphone application by the bestselling author Dan Harris. It markets itself as "meditation for fidgety skeptics," offering personal coaching from experts who typically reply to questions within a day.
What we love about it: Dan Harris, the developer and author of this program, has done his homework on the buddhist principles and origins of mindfulness and meditation practice. 10% happier has a broad range of choice, from beginner to more advanced. There are short practices of five minutes or less as well as longer guided meditations. There are a number of reputable teachers, such as Sharon Salzberg, Joseph Goldstein and Jeff Warren who guide the mediations. There are some excellent multi-session courses on popular topics such as compassion, focus, relationships and stress. Dan Harris also hosts a weekly podcast where he interviews guests and answers callers questions about meditation philosophy and practice. The podcast gets kudos from Mindful Momentum for building a sense of community and connection.
The Mindfulness App
The app launches with a five-day introduction to mindfulness, but there is also a range of guided and silent timed sessions to choose from, ranging between 3 to 30 minutes. It’s arguably one of the most user friendly meditation apps with a simple interface, therefore a great one if you’re new to your mindfulness journey. The simple interface makes it very easy to find what you want and save your favourites for next time. If you choose to go with a premium subscription, you’ll have access to an additional 200+ guided meditations and courses by some of the world’s most influential teachers.
What we love about it: The mindfulness reminders called ‘Mindful Notices’ are a great way re-center during your day, while the daily reminders and statistics help you stay focused on your practice and keep up-to-date with your progress. We also love that The Mindfulness App integrates with the Health App and syncs your meditation practice time.
Practicing Meditation with Apps or with a Group?
At Mindful Momentum we are a big fans of finding ways to support regular, ‘daily-ish’ meditation. Apps are one of the tools we have to help us out. Challenges or drawbacks with app usage are similar to other wellness tools, like fitbits and gym subscriptions: We can lull ourselves into a sense that we are taking meaningful action just because we signed up for a membership or bought a gadget. Research shows that the majority of app subscribers abandon or do not use the app at all within three months of signing up. Apps can be skillfully incorporated into our daily routine when there is also a commitment to get together with a like minded community one in a while. There is research showing the benefits of App use for mediation, but there is also research advocating the benefits of being in the same room, with other live human bodies having a sense of belonging and feeling a sense of social support.
More and more, daily life requires us to deal with an overwhelming amount of digital input. This can contribute to a greater sense of isolation and disconnection. In person contact, and healthy face-to-face conversation supports wellbeing and mental health as much as practicing meditation does. Meeting with others to practice meditation and share ideas about how it applies to life, can help to keep up the motivation. This is a lot like having gym or sports buddy. It is worthwhile to consider finding or creating a meditation practice group to support and keep up the momentum of your meditation app use. If you are interested in meeting online, live with real people who are part of our growing Mindful Momentum community, consider signing up for one of the live discussion groups.