Meditation is a good way for busy parents to (try to!) keep calm. How do you fit it into your day though? Years ago, when I kept hearing and reading about the benefits of meditation, I had the vague idea that to meditate, you needed to sit crosslegged on the floor, in total peace and quiet, and chant or hum. As if us parents have the time to do that. Meditation in the digital age means we can instead use an app!
At first, I found meditation really difficult. I’m not over exaggerating when I say it took me literally years to get to the point where I could calm my mind for even a few minutes. It would actually irritate me to listen to the “relaxing” music or “soothing” voice of the meditation guides like Deepak. Now, however, after lots of practice and experimenting with different apps, I’m addicted and it’s become a part of my regular routine. I’ve even come to love Deepak.
For a year or so, I also attended weekly yoga classes, where a 5-10 minute meditation was part of the session. This helped me – and my mind – get used to the practice. If you can manage meditation without an app – fantastic. In these classes, it works really well that you simply have nothing else to do except focus on the meditation. For various reasons though, I can’t attend classes at the moment. At home, there are always a hundred other things competing for my attention, including the kids. However I’ve found that putting my headphones and opening an app at either the very beginning or end of my day works well. My ideal goal is to do this every day but some days just don’t work and I have learned to not be too harsh on myself and just try again the next day. I attempt to do the sitting on a yoga mat thing but the reality is that it’s usually when I’m in bed – and yes, sometimes I fall asleep! That’s not a bad thing though right?
Overall, I highly recommend finding a few minutes to fit meditation into your day, and meditation apps make that even easier. Even you’re an experiencer meditation, maybe you’d like to take a look at these for something new. If you’re a total beginner, this is a chance to just get started! All the apps have a free/trial and paid version, and some options below (like podcasts) are completely free. Here’s some I’ve tried, and I’d love your thoughts in a comment as well.
This was the very first meditation app I used, which back then was really basic. Its since developed much further with hundreds of sessions around themes like stress, sleep, anxiety and focus. You can do the 10 day introduction for free, then can subscribe for around 13 euros a month or 95 euros a year. Personally I thought it was a good introduction to meditating, but didn’t love it enough to pay.
The Calm meditation app opens with a very cool rolling clouds animation and some interesting options such as sleep stories, with famous narrators such as Stephen Fry and Matthew McConaghey. I like their breathe bubble which simply allows you to train your in and out breath on a timer. Sounds basic, but is quite useful – I didn’t realise how hard it can be to just simply BREATHE! They also have a Masterclass series, tapping into the online learning trend, where you can learn about wellbeing topics such as “Creative Living Beyond Fear” with author Elizabeth Gilbert. If you don’t like rolling clouds, there are lots of other natural scenes and music. Sometimes I just leave it on next to me while I’m working for a few minutes of – well, calm. They have lots of meditation options and themes and something called Calm Body which I’ve not tried but seems to be a few short stretches. The Calm company offers a range of different products and services, including a partnership with XpresSpa at US airports which is quite clever, keeping calm while travelling is a great idea. Their annual subscription for the app currently sits at 12 euros a month/35 euros for a year.
I was totally addicted to this app for a while, and at one stage was actually their “champion meditator” in their monthly challenge worldwide! They use statistics and gamification as a motivator and while this worked for me temporarily – I didn’t want to miss a day on my meditation streak – after a while I found it was kind of at odds with the relaxing meditation experience I was after. I still dip in now and then on their free meditations, but am not willing to pay the around 12 euros a month/99 euros a year.
Oprah & Deepak
Oprah and Deepak Chopra do regular free 21 day meditation challenges. I’ve done several of these over the years and really like them. Each meditation is around 20 minutes and start with a small introduction from each of them on a particular theme for a few minutes, followed by around 10-15 minutes of meditation music. I love the “bell” at the start and finish of this meditation and have found it tends to tell my brain to start and finish, and have managed some really deep meditations with this. These series are one of my favourite ways to meditate, however when the free challenge finishes (they tend to have one or two a year), then it costs around USD$30-40 to buy the 21 day series. I believe this is over priced considering you’re only buying 21 sessions that become boring after listening once or twice. I did buy the 7 day sleep meditation for around USD$10 but found I like a bit of variety in my meditation, so prefer other apps with a larger range of options.
They say they are “the largest free library of meditations and music on earth”. Their core feature is, as the name suggests, a simple meditation timer. They are also going down the elearning route and offering courses, which are paid, but structured to support the free meditations. These are only around 5 euros each and cover everything from learning gratitude to tantric sex! There is a built in journal, log and stats and Apple users can connect to Apple Health to have sessions show up as “mindful minutes”. Overall, since I last opened this app there are a lot of new developments that look promising and I need to explore more. They have a premium membership of 5 euros a month or 37 euros a year, but says this is to support free meditation – but offers additional benefits of offline listening, higher quality audio and advanced player (repeat, fast forward, rewind, pick up where you left off).
It just dawned on my last night that there are no doubt many meditation podcasts out there. I’ve not tried this yet but will take a look soon, or if you have favourites, please recommend.
I’ve never used YouTube for meditation but have been told by others they have favourite meditation videos there. Whether you actually watch the video or only listen to it, there are thousands of options. I’ll try sometime but imagine that YouTube advertising will interrupt the flow! These tend to only be at the beginning though. If you have found a YouTube meditation that works for you, please share.
Do you meditate? How? What’s your favourite app? Come and share over in our Family. Work. Balance. community on Facebook.