If it’s time to focus, slow down and de-stress, a mindfulness app may help.
Mindfulness is a kind of meditation in which you focus on being aware of what you are feeling and sensing, being ”in the moment” without passing judgment or interpreting it, say the experts at Mayo Clinic. Mindfulness can help you not overeat, stress less, improve memory, lower blood pressure and in general make you a calm and collected human being.
Some people pick up the mindfulness knack naturally, but if it’s new to you, take heart: guidance is as close as your smart phone or laptop…or a Senior Planet class (more below).
Choosing an App
UCLA operates a Mindfulness Awareness Research Center (learn more here) with a full suite of information and resources; the site offers free guided meditations. Diana Winston, the director of mindfulness education at UCLA, offers tips on choosing an app, and a few apps to explore, including a new app from UCLA that went live just last week. Here are her suggestions:
- As you try out the apps, listen closely to the voice or voices in it. “Do you like the voice of the person on the app?” Winston asks. Otherwise, it could get annoying.
- Do you want basic instructions of hold-my-hand instructions? “Some are more curated,” Winston notes, “..like a 10-day program, or a 5.”
- How much interaction do you want? Do you want timed reminders?
- Check to see if there is a free trial period before subscribing.
- Determine why you want to try it: to sleep, anxiety, stress? Many apps have specific meditations.
- Don’t think you have to spend a lot. “There are free apps where you don’t have to sign your life away,” Winston says. The UCLA one is an example.
Stop, Breathe & Think (https://www.stopbreathethink.com)–the name says it all. You check in, telling—honestly—how you feel right now. Then the app suggests what you might like to do with your mood (fall asleep with a 2-minute meditation? Take a 4-minute walk?). This app customizes the meditation to your mood. Premium subscriptions are $58.99 yearly; a monthly subscription is $9.99.
UCLA Mindful (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/ucla-mindful/id1459128935?ls=1&mt=8 or https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.uclahealth.marc) promises to be easy-to-use and is free; among the many features, it has basic meditations for getting started (English & Spanish), includes information about the science supporting it, and weekly podcasts from the UCLA Hammer Museum on different themes.
Headspace (https://www.headspace.com). To access, you need to sign up, but many features are free, and they personalize it, asking if you want to meditate to quell anxiety, for instance, or to sleep better. You can get a reminder at a certain time of day, or not. You can sign up later to add features beyond the free basics by paying $95.88 annually.
Calm (https://www.calm.com). If you’re into apps with awards, Calm got Apple Ap of the year 2017 and Google Play Editors’ Choice 2018, among other accolades. There’s a 7-day free trial, then a $59.99 annual fee. Or, go big and get Calm for Life, $399.99 and done. It does offer a lot—mediations, sleep help, music to relax by, experts on mindfulness.
10% Happier (https://www.tenpercent.com). This app first gets to know you—Do you meditate? Why are you here? Your gender and age, please? Would you like a daily reminder? After a one-week free trial, the fee is $99.99 a year. There are guided meditations, talks, daily features, and more.
Buddhify (https://buddhify.com). For the nonconformist in you, this app promises it won’t tell you what to do. It’s $4.99 on the app store (no free trial available, but you can get a free preview on their YouTube channel, just google Buddhify & YouTube). There’s 200 plus meditations, all levels; if you’ve got hyped up grandkids, there are 60 meditations just for youngsters. If you want to ”dive deeper,” and get even more features, there is an optional $30 annual membership.
Note: The Senior Planet Center in Chelsea will host a hands-on workshop on the leading mindfulness apps on Friday, June 14 from 1:15pm to 2:15pm. Space is limited! RSVP required. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 646-590-0615.