Modern life can be hectic and stressful. There may be problems at work, deadlines to meet, awkward people to deal with and so on. Problems can occur in your personal life too and they may be a cause of more worry and stress. Headspace mindfulness meditation can help induce a feeling a quiet, calm, relaxation.
There is no doubt that stress is bad for you and it can be a serious health problem in severe cases. Anything you can do to reduce stress is good for you and there are various ways in which you can do this. Some people might find that walking their dog relaxes them, or they may like to chill out by relaxing to music. Other people like to meditate.
Headspace is an app for Android and iOS phones that teaches mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness, according to Wikipedia, is “The intentional, accepting and non-judgmental focus of one's attention on the emotions, thoughts and sensations occurring in the present moment.” Headspace combines this with meditation techniques taken from Buddhism.
The free app contains 10 exercises and you perform one each day. They take around 10 minutes each. Once started, you can turn off the screen because it is not really necessary. You turn up the audio volume and put the phone down beside you. Andy Puddicombe’s voice then guides you and explains how to relax and enter a meditative state.
There are two difficulties that people experience with meditating and one is falling asleep. Don’t laugh till you have tried it! When you relax and let go of your thoughts and worries you are doing exactly what you do to get to sleep at night, so it isn’t surprising. However, Andy’s voice will keep you awake. It isn’t constant or grating, it is smooth and relaxing and there are large silences where you can concentrate on your meditation. It’s just a few words to focus you every now and then.
The other difficulty is the ideas and thoughts that occupy your mind, preventing you from relaxing. Again, Andy’s voice, every now and then, giving you direction, prevents this from happening.
The app records your progress and shows the average duration of your mindfulness meditation, the total number of sessions and total time meditating. It also records the number of days you have been meditating too. You can invite your friends so that you can track each other’s progress and encourage each other.
Several animations are included and these explain various techniques and topics. Sometimes you watch an animation video and then meditate using the technique that was presented.
I like the app and I like the 10 free guides that come with it. The problem is that going beyond the free stuff is expensive. Unlimited access to everything for example costs over $400 US or around £250 in UK money. There are cheaper deals, and the cheapest I saw was an emailed offer of one year’s access for $5.99 / £3.75 a month. That’s still $71.88 / £45 for the first year.
What is the alternative? Well I found a free Kindle ebook on mindfulness on Amazon and there is a very good Mindfulness for Dummies book that includes a CD on there for less than £12. If you want to explore mindfulness then there are cheaper ways to do it than with this app.
Mindfulness meditation has been shown to have beneficial health effects. However, I have not seen any evidence that it is better than any other relaxation technique, such as yoga, going for a brisk walk in the open air, or whatever you like to do to relax. You should definitely do something to reduce stress and relax each day and Headspace is as good a way as any.
I recommend the free app and the 10 free lessons. The cost of subscribing is too high for my liking though.