Beyond its original spiritual purpose, the practice of mediation has been adopted in today’s society as a way to combat a busy and stressful lifestyle. Thousands of studies link meditation and simple, daily mindfulness exercises to many physical and mental benefits, including reducing stress, improving sleep, increasing focus and positively impacting relationships.
My introduction to meditation started a couple of years ago. I’ve always been the kind of person that can’t sit still for very long, so I turned to meditation to help improve my focus and concentration. Along the way, I discovered many other benefits in keeping my anxiety in check, lifting my mood and improving my relationships by becoming a better listener.
In the beginning, I set myself a personal challenge to meditate for five minutes every day for a week. The following week I tried 10 minutes, and so on. I didn’t quite make it to 20 minutes – by 17 my feet were asleep and I had to move, but that was a big achievement for me!
I’ve come to love my meditation practice. I sit in stillness three times a week, for 15-20 minutes each time, first thing in the morning, or when I get home from work.
Keen to give it a try? Here are my top tips for getting started:
- Make a “Meditation Happening” sign for your bedroom door or meditation space. This will minimise interruptions!
- Sit on a pillow or a yoga block, and against something to support your back. My comfortable space was on the floor, up against the end of my bed.
- Use a guided meditation in the beginning. There are so many fantastic apps, I’ve listed some of my favourites below. Once you’ve got the hang of it, you can give it a try on your own – no music, just you and your thoughts.
- Set a timer. When you’re new to meditation, you will be surprised how quick the time goes and learn to resist the temptation to check how long you’ve got left. After plenty of practice, remove the timer and see where your thoughts take you.
- Remember, it’s a practice, not a perfect! Be kind to yourself, it’s ok not to be great at it. Like everything, you will improve with practice.
Check out this list of some of my favourite meditation and mindfulness apps. If you’re new to meditation, it’s a great place to start.
This app teaches the basics of mindfulness and meditation through cute animations. The free version gives you 10 days worth of guided meditations, each of which can be tailored to suit how much time you can spare, plus some mini meditations and breathing exercises. A monthly subscription will unlock hours of extra content with topics covering everything from productivity to pain management.
Calm features a range of voice-led meditation exercises and soothing sounds from ocean waves to crackling firewood. A seven-day beginner’s program will get you started, covering basic mindful breathing exercises in short sessions. A subscription features a library of calming music and lulling sleep stories, plus masterclasses for more advanced practitioners.
Aura features short meditations, no longer than 15 minutes. The sessions change daily and are delivered by mindfulness teachers and therapists, with the ability to save your favourite ones. The paid version will unlock more than 1000 meditations and additional features such as the “daily reflection” field where you can log your feelings and the things you’re grateful for.
This app fuses meditation and social networking. In addition to an extensive library of guided meditations, a world map shows you how many people are meditating and where they are. You can also add friends and discuss mindfulness topics in the groups feature. The meditations range from beginner to advanced levels, as well as short courses focused on topics such as breathing and anxiety management. The best part? It’s all free.
Another free app, Smiling Mind makes mindfulness accessible to everyone. With a simple design and easy, it offers introductory sessions for beginners through to tailored programs for various ages (kids included).