Paying a little programme that lives inside your phone so that you can feel less stressed about not owning a house, Twitter discourse, and Love Island’s photographer: how does that sound? Whether it’s convenient or Black Mirror-esque, many do it, and there’s tons of applications offering ways to meditate via LCD screen.
But if you’re wondering, like, really, other than laying down and doing the in-through-your-nose out-through-your-mouth thing, what even is meditation? And does it work, let alone when distributed via blue light? Well, this article might lend a hand.
So, what is meditation?
Meditation is when you use techniques (mindfulness, controlled breathing) to train skills like attention and awareness. This will, hopefully, help you to feel calm and chill again. Giving your mind some space to let thoughts come in – good or bad – and sit with them comfortably, the idea is to find a sense of stillness. Meditation can, in theory, produce a deep state of relaxation and a tranquil mind, but it’s a journey not a destination, baby. IRL, people often do meditation with a guide, just to reassure them all is good and that they’re on that path to stillness.
But do they work?
Meditation works. We know that much. At least, meditation is proven to be effective in a few ways. Back in 2015, a study from the University of California, Los Angeles found that meditation might help brains stay young. Another study suggested that meditation can help with anxiety and depression.
Getting zen via mobile doesn’t seem to alter the effect, either. 2010-founded app Headspace has been studied academically, but not many of the other applications out there have, it seems. According to Harvard University’s health blog, which references this study by the University of East London, Headspace “showed decreased depression and increased positive emotions after use for 10 days”.
This offers some optimism for other applications, too. So, the science is light, but there is evidence that these applications work. You know, assuming your definition of meditation aligns with the results the study found (that it’s about increased positive emotions).
Decent. So which one do I need? There are loads.
There are loads, over 2,500 according to this article, but they tend to all have their unique selling points (USPs), a bit like dating apps do. There’s apps for spirituality, sleeping, waking up, guided meditation, breathwork, mindfulness, and more. There are also many for each type of meditation (for example, mindfulness meditation, transcendental meditation, guided meditation, vipassana meditation, loving kindness meditation, chakra meditation, and yoga meditation.) So really, figure out what you want it to do for you (help you sleep? de-stress?) and what you might want to achieve (breathing but like, properly, yoga-style), and go from there.
Are you sure they work?
Yes! Didn’t you read the data above? For further reassurance, we spoke to Dr Deborah Lee of Dr Fox Online Pharmacy, who says that “practising regular mindfulness meditation, for 10 to 30 minutes a day, has been shown to reduce stress, depression and anxiety, as well as improve sleep.” So there you are, then. Thing is, you do sort of have to work with the app. Like how you do the gym, and any of those other ‘good for you’ things. Persistence is key, sadly. That being said, there’s some meditative practices that are easier (or more satisfying for you) than others.
Go on then, what’s the best one?
Given that Harvard have suggested Headspace works, and that Headspace has mindfulness elements, maybe that. Another accessible way is to look into guided meditation apps, like Buddhify. You can also Google stuff like “how to sit for meditation” and “meditation positions” without the use of an application. Simple Habit is meant to be good for “quick meditation”, so if you’re looking for 10-minute meditation (which should so be called zen in ten) then that’s the one for you, probably. The Mindfulness App, meanwhile, has a good offering for beginners.
Are any free?
Some are, such as Oak (though it’s not on Android). Most have free elements – Headspace lets you use some features for free, but not all. Calm is one of the most popular applications, but it only offers a free trial before you’ll have to pay. The free bit is usually going to be enough to let you know if you like the whole vibe of it and think you’ll be able to stick to it, though.
Class, might as well try it then?
Yeah, might as well! But stick at it if you want a real shot. Consistently doing ten minutes a day is enough, remember. If you find the apps and using a phone a bit long, Calm and other meditation “apps” are also on YouTube.
And… breathe. That’s it, then, meditation apps. Apparently likely to work, and generally quite accessible. Why there’s so many, who knows, maybe it’s down to vibes and frequencies, or maybe it’s something to do with the world being too busy and us all wanting to lie down doing very little but thinking about nothing. Blissful.