Communication is my downfall. I have always prided myself on being able to multi-task and stay connected with friends while maintaining a productive workday. But, one day, I found myself working at my desk and notification on my phone popped up, so I stopped what I was doing. After a few minutes, I restarted my work but then remembered I forgot to message my friend about meeting up later. When I returned to work, I saw an interesting article so I started reading it and so it goes. One hour later, I’ve burrowed so far into the internet rabbit hole, I don’t even know how I got there. If you’re like me, being so connected can be detrimental to your productivity. I’ve tried many time management strategies but the thing that really helps me focus – the activity I turn to when I need to feel grounded – has become meditation.
Meditation has been proven to help reduce anxiety and depression, increase the brain’s ability to process information, and reduce reliance on pain medication. Though it’s certainly not a cure-all, it’s clear mediation can do a lot to center your mind and body.
When I was younger, I attended a private school that included Indian philosophy in their curriculum. In seventh grade, we began practicing meditation but it didn’t stick with me and when I moved onto high school, I forgot all about it. As an adult with an incredibly short attention span, I thought I would give it another try. Being the millennial I am, I decided to test out several different apps to see which worked best for me. But, as I was exploring, I began to get a bit cynical. It seemed like this was becoming a trend that people co-opted. In its original roots, Buddhist monks used meditation as a way to reach enlightenment. While I’m certainly not anywhere close to reaching enlightenment, the philosophy behind meditation seems to be about improving yourself and increasing your loving kindness towards others.
In recent years, psychologists have studied it, health magazines have written about the benefits, and, in 2016, the practice of meditation became a 1.1 billion dollar industry. As with every trend that becomes this popular, it’s only fair to be a bit wary. I think with self-care practices like meditation, it can shift from helping ourselves so we can work on our relationships with others to an idea that our own happiness is most important. While trying to find inner happiness is of course, of great value to everyone, I think there’s a point where you have to stop and look inward. If you’re putting your own happiness above all others, so much so that you are treating others with disrespect and a lack of compassion, it’s time to reevaluate your life. I’m not saying that people who practice meditation are this way, but I see it happening more often, such as in the yoga world, which has become a billion dollar industry. Despite my reservations, I decided to continue on.
First, I tried Headspace, which was the one I had been recommended most often whenever I mentioned meditation to friends. Though I enjoyed the friendly guided voice and the cartoon graphics, it didn’t really feel quite right. The guide talked too much and it almost felt like the app was pandering to me. Though in the past, as a child, I had never really taken meditation seriously, on some level, I had understood what meditation was supposed to feel like and this wasn’t it. For complete beginners, it’s an app that could work well.
Next, I tried Stop, Breath & Think, an app that offers meditation but other calming activities. What I liked most about this app was the company mission – that by helping people find peace of mind, they hoped to make the world better. Stop, Breath & Think also donates 10% of its profits to Tools For Peace, a non-profit dedicated to helping at-risk youth experience the benefits of mindfulness and meditation. They feature special content directed at kids, which is something I didn’t come across as much in the other apps I tried. It also offers meditations for groups so if your company team uses Slack, you can add it to the platform and try meditation during work. I really enjoyed using this one.
The last app I tried was Calm. This has daily guided meditations, as well as themed tracks like seven days of calm for beginners, a relationship with self series, and a mindful eating series. I loved this one because it offers a good balance of guided talking and silence. I liked that there was a daily idea discussed at the end of each practice. I also enjoyed the ability to customize the scenes and background noise while you meditate.
Since then, I have been using Calm to work on my meditation practice. I have had good days where I stick with it and bad days where I don’t meditate for a week. But I keep hopping back on and every time I do, I feel better inside and out. I have tried to center my practice on helping myself become more patient and mindful. Not only does this help me move through my day better, it helps me be a better partner and a better, more well-rounded person. That’s all I can ask for. It’s a learning process.