It’s no secret that meditation has gained notoriety these days, as we live in a more stressful environment and the pressure of everyday life increases.
It was to be expected that developers would find potential in creating meditation apps, as the public answered so well to this type of content.
And no wonder people are intrigued, as the benefits of meditation are discussed everywhere in the media and include increased focus, reduced stress, and better sleep. At least, that’s what the headspace app promised.
But did you know meditation is an ancient practice? The first documented images of meditation have origins in India and date back to 5000 to 3500 BCE. The name of the practice comes from meditatum, which means ‘to ponder’ in Latin.
I guess we can also define meditation as a balance exercise for our mind, as we seek to find awareness and altogether a better connection with our body, every day and on the long term.
If you are new to the concept, you may find my experience with meditation interesting, as I will unveil the way I approached it day by day.
The concept of meditation wasn’t entirely new to me, as I read about it several times, and even incorporated in my yoga practice. But I never tried it standalone and more importantly, I have never tried a meditation app before I downloaded Headspace.
When I decided to explore meditation through Headspace I had two solid reasons in mind. First of all, I began testing a meditation app to better understand how meditation can bring value in my daily life, and secondly, to see if it could help me in the context of the COVID-19 global pandemic.
I was in self-isolation for 10 days already, and my anxiety was getting harder to manage. Negative thoughts appeared at various points in my day, despite my efforts to keep my mind occupied with all types of activities. Then it hit me, maybe I actually needed some space and peace of mind instead of turning off my feelings with various activities.
I downloaded the app in the free trial mode so that I could get some perspective on whether or not I wanted it in my life for good. If only all things would come with a free trial version! Let’s dig in!
First, you should know that Headspace is implementing the highest standards and best practices of the scientific method, as they detailed on the company’s website:
‘At Headspace, we see meditation as both a practice rooted in ancient history and a topic of modern science. This is why we are as equally committed to providing authentic expertise in meditation and also studying the science of meditation. Science has been an integral part of the Headspace business since day one. We recognize that the only way to know if we are achieving our goal of improving the health and happiness of the world is to measure it. That’s where the research comes in.’
My first impression was that Headspace is a very professional and well documented meditation app which made me trust the process fully.
The app’s structure is also easy to follow, as it offers a Home interface, two modules Sleep and Move, and Explore – which is the Headspace Library, so to speak.
In the Sleep mode, you’ll find meditation sessions destined to prepare your mind for sleep. This one is particularly useful if you are having trouble sleeping, as it offers Sleep Radio feature, Sleepcasts, Wind downs, Sleepmusic, Soundscapes, all destined to make you sleep like a baby.
If you are a more of an active type of person – not my case – you can go and play in the Move section, where you find guided exercise sessions, like Mindful Cardio or you can learn to let your body recover with Rest Day Meditation.
In the Explore section, you’ll find meditation sessions structured on specific needs like Stress Management, Personal Growth, Performance mindset, Falling asleep and waking up, Kids & parenting, Life challenges, Physical health, etc.
Being a novice, I started with the basics sessions, and then I added the Stress Management sessions as my anxiety grew.
I started with a 10 minute session and I loved the fact that the app guided me all the way through it. The flow was easy and enjoyable, though I had trouble concentrating on letting go during the first minutes.
By the end of the session, the app displayed the mantra practiced during the exercise. 🙂
During the second session, I was more familiar with the process and found it easier to let go of my thoughts and no longer had the aspiration to ‘be good at it’.
By day 3 I started to be more aware of the pandemic situation and how serious it is, which led me to think I would stay in insolation for a very long time. That turned into thoughts of anxiety, and even panic, I was not able to focus on anything during the day, I was losing my concentration very quickly.
I decided to try the Switching off mode, which was a longer session of 15-20 minutes of unwinding. This one was particularly interesting because it was focused on visualization. I played with my imagination, trying to visualize a so-called ‘liquid sunlight’ that was entering my body from head to toes, filling me up and melting away the stress.
By then, I wasn’t sure if the ‘liquid sunlight’ was doing the job or the distraction I’ve created by trying hard to focus and visualize. The fact is that, by the end of the session, I felt lighter and even rested.
Back to Basics! During day 4, the exercise was focused on letting my thoughts flow and acknowledge them as they come, and then invite them out. The session helped me realize that worries are only natural (especially these days), but they are not allowed to own my day. I digested them, gave them just the amount of time deserved, and then I let my mind go someplace else.
I started exploring the Letting go of Stress session, which seemed the best idea at the time. As the name suggests, this is the kind of meditation focused on letting go of stress from your mind and body. This time, the whole exercise was centered on that visualization of the ‘liquid sunlight’ traveling through the body and melting away tension.
Today I doubled my session, in the morning I went for a Basic session while at night I continued the Letting go of Stress session, which became my favorite practice. This time, I got better at visualizing that sunbeam traveling through my body and the thought of it became so soothing. I would compare it with the sensation of a warm embrace when you see a loved one, a feeling of inner peace and warmth.
As I enjoyed the last session of Letting go of Stress, I decided to practice in the morning and before going to sleep.
I noticed that taking 5-10 minutes to meditate in the morning really sets the mood for my day, as I started to integrate more healthy habits or things I enjoy during the day. The night session felt like a cleansing session, right before I brushed my teeth and cleaned my face. Practicing the visualization of the warm energy traveling my body while melting away the tension worked as a hot cup of chamomille tea for my sleep.
Do You Need An App To Meditate?
While I consider you don’t necessarily need a meditation app to meditate, having one at hand turned out to be helpful for me in terms of guidance.
So many times I wanted to start practicing meditation but I just couldn’t make myself start it. Having the Headspace app on my phone made it easier and I really enjoyed its friendly design and efficient structure.
I knew exactly what to go for, as the sessions have very suggestive names, based on one’s need.
A very big advantage for me was the guidelines during the exercise, provided by a very, very soothing voice, which made the difference for me. I’m the type of person that needs a structured pathway because I tend to lose focus and skip steps. That wasn’t the case, as the moderator helped me stay on track.
If you are a person who needs to let go, even for a couple of minutes during the day, the app will help you achieve that guided piece of mind and a sense of much-needed self-care. If you ask me, the price you pay for the enormous amount of content on the app (see the Explore section) is quite small – $12 per month.
As I started my journey with Headspace with little expectation, because I don’t like to put too much pressure on me, I consider the experience a success, at least in terms of trying something new and building a routine.