November should be a time for reflection – after all, Thanksgiving is coming, a time to reflect on what we are grateful for. At the same time, though, we’re under intense pressure gearing up for the holidays. How to calm down? Enter technology. The biggest distraction in your life, your phone, can also be a source of calm and mindfulness.
Many studies show that meditation actually works. Meditation changes people, according to this article, in brain and body and soul. A raft of studies has shown that it lowers blood pressure and cortisol levels, while improving mood and reducing the incidence of anxiety and depression. It makes people more focused, more self-aware, more resilient, and happier too.
Can meditation apps provide these benefits? Yes, according to Berkeley.edu, which says the findings may not be as conclusive as app marketers would have you believe—but they do suggest you should at least consider trying one.
The biggest distraction in your life, your phone, can also be a source of calm and mindfulness.
Which apps for inner peace?
The problem is there are too many apps out there promising to calm you down. (You can have a panic attack just figuring out which one to use!) In fact, the Wall Street Journal reports that more than 2,000 new meditation apps launched between 2015 and 2018. Offerings have only increased as a result of higher demand during the pandemic. Many, including some of the highly recommended ones, are very expensive, rivalling the monthly cost of Netflix or HBO. But there’s no need to take on that kind of cost when there are lots of free meditation apps that offer as much or more than the pricier options.
How can Apps help?
Here are some examples of free or low-cost apps and what they can do for you:
Meditation and mindfulness: Insight Timer is the top free app according to mindful.org, which evaluated hundreds of apps out there.
Insight Timer has a huge library of content: over 80,000 free guided meditations from more than 10,000 teachers on topics like stress, relationships, healing, sleep, creativity, and more. You can even sign up to Circle for Teams, one of their newer offerings, which allows you to create circles (read: groups) to meditate in real-time with friends or colleagues. If you prefer a quieter meditation, however, you can simply set a timer and meditate to intermittent bells, calming ambient noise, or soothing music.
Gratitude: For Thanksgiving and throughout the year, something like the Gratitude app helps you count your blessings. According to this story in Positive Psychology “This colorful app offers a large variety of features; for example, you can write journal entries for your gratitude journal, construct self-affirmations, receive daily quotes, and build a vision board that consists of images and goals. Here is one woman’s experience with gratitude apps.
Sleep: There are options like the Calm meditation app, which is effective for both meditation and sleep. According to this Good Housekeeping story which lists the best sleep apps, it’s super easy to use, and the Sleep Stories section has bedtime stories (for kids and adults!) read aloud by people with soothing voices, including celebrities like Matthew McConaughey. Only a few stories are included for free, but getting a subscription for $70 per year unlocks a huge library of meditations made specifically for sleep. If you don’t want to pay, here is a list of effective, free, sleep apps.
Inner Peace with an App?
So what’s the key to actually finding inner peace using an app? Practice every day, says Diana Winston, director of mindfulness education at UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center in this article. She recommends meditating daily so that it becomes a habit, and reinforcing the habit by connecting it to an existing daily habit, such as meditating after your morning coffee
Why not use your phone to remind you!