You probably don't think of your smartphone as a path to peace and tranquility. But mindfulness practitioners regard mobile apps as effective tools to help introduce users to meditation exercises.
"I find apps incredibly helpful for getting started," says Joe Flanders, a licensed psychologist and founder of MindSpace Clinic in Montreal. "The reason is that people are really careful to make it fun."
Meditation doesn't have to be the boring experience some people perceive it to be. "It should be fun and you should have a sense of accomplishment," says Maria Gonzalez, co-author of The Mindful Investor.
Gonzalez is in favour of the "cafeteria style" approach to learning meditation, in which you can pick and choose what works best for you, whether through a book or an app.
From boardrooms to classrooms, mindful meditation has leapt into mainstream consciousness as an enjoyable set of exercises to relieve stress and anxiety. Practitioners and instructors have responded to the demand with apps that provide tools such as serene sounds and guided meditations.
While there is no substitute for practicing with a live teacher — whether one on one or in a class setting — the following apps may provide a good introduction to meditation and keep you on the right track:
Whil assembles a diverse cast of teachers to assist in your introduction to meditation, Flanders says. The exercises are structured around themes, so you can tick off the ones that resonate with you most and you can proceed at your own pace.
There is no general rule regarding length of session or particular time of day that's best for meditation. But to "drive habit formation," Flanders suggests finding a time when you expect few distractions and interruptions.
Whil: iPhone, Android
> 10% Happier
10% Happier is the brainchild of Dan Harris, former ABC war correspondent who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Harris was a reluctant convert to mindful meditation, which he now credits with helping him overcome PTSD.
The app is billed as "meditation for fidgety skeptics," and boasts the production values of American network TV, says Flanders. Every lesson has an introductory conversation between Harris and field experts, to provide context for how mindfulness can be applied in your daily life — even while waiting in line.
10% Happier: iPhone, Android
Cost: US$9.99 per month (seven-day free trial available)
> Mindful Leadership
Mindful meditation isn't limited to moments of quiet solitude. Ideally, says Gonzalez, the practice can be extended to other aspects of your daily life, from brushing your teeth to sipping a cup of coffee.
The Mindful Leadership app, developed by Gonzalez, has a library of guided meditations to help ground your emotional state. They're designed to help you manage potentially stressful life events, whether you're about to retire or heading off to university.
Mindful Meditation: iPhone, Android
> Insight Timer
Because meditation is often a lonely, solitary experience, many lean on others to sustain the momentum. Flanders suggests Insight Timer, which allows you to explore meditation at your own pace and gives that semblance of a community; a real-time map of the world displays how many others are meditating along with you.
Insight Timer: iPhone, Android
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