I started meditating 2 years ago using an app called Headspace and was surprised when it totally transformed my life.
So before meditation I was quite an anxious person. I was claustrophobic in large crowds, slightly awkward in social situations, I had a temper, I would cry at loud noises (yes really) and I just could not stop thinking thinking thinking. We live in a lifestyle where constant multitasking is applauded and we are made to feel guilty for stopping to simply sit with a cup of tea and connect with ourselves. It’s a high stress world out there and we really need a break.
So what is Headspace?
Headspace is a beautifully designed app which teaches meditation without any spirituality or ‘hippy talk’ making it accessible to everyone. Headspace founder Andy (a Buddhist monk) starts off with teaching you a free 10 day pack and gradually you unlock levels of meditation until you can access a library of topics ranging from appreciation, self esteem, motivation to depression. It has fun animations and cartoons (like the ones in this post) to explain concepts clearly and you can keep track of how many times you have meditated in a row and any awards you receive!
So how did it change my life?
I sat for 10-20 minutes every morning in silence breathing and somehow magic happened. I was able to act rationally instead of emotionally lashing out. I started to notice how I was feeling. I could walk down the road and see my surroundings instead of being lost in thought. I was able to focus on my work. I was experiencing life in a totally new way – I was becoming more aware of myself, others and my environment.
I don’t claim to mediate every single day, I go through phases, but every time I do I learn something about myself. Before learning about meditation I thought you were supposed to think of nothing. Every time a thought popped into my head I would get tense and push it away. Andy taught me that meditation isn’t about stopping thoughts, it is about observing them. You suddenly notice you are distracted (well done for noticing!), you observe the thought for what it is (just a thought) and you let it go. It’s a beautiful and gentle approach and it makes all the difference.
What Does the Science Say?
Anxiety currently affects about 7.3% of the total world population. A systematic review of meditation training found that 69% of the studies analysed showed meditation practice alleviated symptoms of anxiety.
Scientists investigated the effects of meditation on cognition and their findings suggest that meditating for just four days is enough to improve novice meditators’ working memory, executive functions and their ability to process visual information. Another paper found that meditation leads to activation in brain regions involved in self-regulation, problem-solving and adaptive behaviour.
Meditation has also been shown to improve sleep and the quality of relationships.
Are you Ready?
Are you ready to get onto the meditation bandwagon? I obviously recommend headspace because it had a huge affect on me. If you don’t enjoy the free trial or if you then don’t want to pay for it set yourself a 10 minute timer and do it yourself. It is easier to get distracted but it will get easier with time. My number one tip is a soft and forgiving approach. Don’t beat yourself up about a distracted mind EVER. Each day you meditate your mind is different, try approach meditation with no expectations and just see what happens. It is all about awareness. Good luck and if you have any questions just get in touch!