Technology and mindfulness don’t sound like the most likely companions. You may feel as though staring at your phone actually prevents you from being mindful of the world around you.
But there are some ways that technology may be able to help us maintain the mindful habit. Many of us will have completed a Mindfulness or MBCT course, but to feel the benefit it isn’t enough to understand it on an intellectual level. We need to find a way of bringing daily mindfulness practice into our lives. Here’s where our phones, already deeply embedded in our lives, can help.
Which App Should I Choose?
There are hundreds of meditation apps out there. Some are simply timers. Others play gentle music or guide you through positive affirmations in whispery voices.
Different approaches will work for different people but I would recommend choosing one that has its root in mindfulness. The Mindfulness App by MindApps and Mindfulness Meditation by Mental Workout are two examples. Ideally, choose one that focuses on acceptance and curiosity about whatever we’re feeling. This is the key to a mindful approach to our moods.
I was looking for something specific and practical, something that reminded me of the theory as well as giving me new ways of thinking and embedding meditative practice in my life. The Headspace app was the one that met my needs.
Headspace starts with 10 minutes a day, moving up to 15 and then 20 minutes (you can choose a time that suits you). Cartoons and explanations give you new ideas to think about every few days. It’s a gentle reminder of the detailed theory from the course. It’s reminded me to recognise thoughts for what they are – the weather in the sky of my mind. Mental events that will pass and don’t always need attention.
But it’s the actual meditative practice that has helped most. My depression and anxiety always get the better of me slowly. When my thoughts and attention are elsewhere, clouds gather above and sands shift beneath me. By the time I realise that things feel dark and cold, I’m no longer on solid ground. When it gets to this point it’s much harder to find my way back.
Spending a short time meditating (almost) every day enables me to check in on my mood and make sure I can still find the clear sky of my mind behind whatever thoughts are gathering, storming or scudding that day. I’ve only been doing it for 20 days or so and already it feels strange when I miss a day.
Having an app to help me do that has been great. Mindfulness can be easy to disregard, especially for those people who are feeling negative anyway. It doesn’t always make sense immediately. You can’t see the benefit straight away. You need to give it time and keep practising. An app helps people to do that. It’s provided structure and helped remind me how mindfulness works bit by bit.
When I press play and sit down, I can feel my breath slowing. That space is just mine until the time is up.