Every year, I make a list of resolutions. The list is pretty typical — eat better, exercise, spend less, travel more. This year, I included one additional resolution: start meditating. I had heard that meditation was an easy way to find mindfulness and to lower stress and anxiety, so like a subscription to a gym membership — boom. There it goes on the list of resolutions.
I started out well. I focused on daily meditation, sitting silently by myself for a few minutes every day. But this lasted approximately 4 days. After that, life got in the way, and I promptly forgot about my resolution. Shocking.
If ever I needed meditation in my life, it’s been this year. I’ve been settling into a new job, raising an incredibly rambunctious toddler and recently, I’ve added a move back home to Florida from New York City to the agenda. To say that I’m crazed is an understatement. With my life feeling nothing short of chaotic and desperately needing the calm that meditations can provide, I decided there was no better time than the present to pick up where I left off and begin the meditation practice.
To help me in my journey, I decided to seek out the help of technology. I downloaded the Headspace app, designed for beginners and experts alike, to provide daily guided meditation sessions. The meditation app refers to itself as a "personal trainer for your brain," and like any form of exercise, Headspace meditation takes practice before you start to get the hang of it. After 30 days of meditation sessions, I finally feel like I’ve found my groove. I’m officially a convert.
But, first, why go through all this trouble? Why meditate at all? Headspace creator, Andy Puddicombe, shared some of the many benefits of meditation: “47 percent of our life is spent lost in thought," Puddicombe said. "Distracted!” If we meditate a lot, “it’s almost like there’s a little more room, a bit of space in the mind.”
Mindfulness meditation helps to reduce your levels of stress and can even reshape your brain when done consistently over time. Meditation also helps with mood, anxiety, concentration and can even help boost your immune system.
Not convinced to download Headspace from the app store just yet? The benefits are plentiful, but if you’re anything like me, the meditation process can seem daunting and intimidating. This is why apps like Headspace are so helpful. The process begins with a 10-day trial that leads you through the basics of mindfulness and meditation with 10-minute sessions. These sessions are guided by Puddicombe, his soothing voice and calming British accent could put even the most wired among us at ease.
I had always thought that meditation was about erasing all thoughts from your mind. But through Headspace, I learned that you don’t have to eliminate your thoughts. In fact, you probably won’t ever be able to. But you can foster mindfulness and create a different relationship with your thoughts; you can let them float by without engaging with them. You can recognize when your mind has wandered off and simply return your attention to your breathing, to your body, to your surroundings. It isn’t always easy, but with trusty Puddicombe’s help, it’s manageable.
For me, I had the best results with the Headspace meditation app when I meditated in the morning before I started my day. Taking a few minutes to center myself, prior to beginning a stressful day of parenting and work, always helped to kick things off positively, and I felt the benefit of meditation throughout the day. Meditating at night was also a nice treat to help me quiet my brain after a long day, though if I’m honest, I did fall asleep a time or two (or five).
While the initial 10 days are free, continuing with Headspace will cost you. Once you have the app on your iPhone, there are a variety of packages available as in-app purchases. They range from $8 to $13 a month, or a one-time $400 payment that guarantees you access forever. Once subscribed, you can download a number of packs that focus on different aspects of your life including self-esteem, anger, regret, relationships and creativity. I've found these packs particularly helpful as I face different challenges.
Although I am typically anti-paid apps, this one is well worth the spend. If for no other reason, knowing that I paid for the Headspace subscription is incentive to remember to take time for myself. In a world that moves at record speed, it’s important to settle down, find calm and just be for a few moments. It’s only been a month, but I’ve already experienced the benefit of meditation and can’t imagine going back to a mindless state anytime soon.
At the end of the day, it’s a small price to pay for the clarity, peace and genuine happiness I experience on an (almost) daily basis.
Natalia Marulanda is a former practicing attorney who currently works on women's initiatives at a law firm New York City. She also runs The Girl Power Code, a blog dedicated to empowering women in the workplace and in their daily lives.