The benefits of meditation are well known. From reducing stress to increasing focus, happiness, memory, and reducing blood pressure and dementia, meditation is loaded with benefits. While eight percent of the population has tried the practice, many have not, and even more of us have trouble sticking with it. If you want to try meditation but don’t know where to start, these meditation apps can help.
Why Meditation is Worth It
Establishing a meditation practice isn't easy but it's well worth the energy both physically and mentally. Here's why, according to the Mayo Clinic, you should give it a try if you haven't already:
- It reduces stress and teaches you to better manage the stress in your life.
- It reduces the negative emotions that can lead to depression and anxiety.
- It can help manage the symptoms of chronic illnesses like asthma, cancer, heart disease, chronic pain, and insomnia (although it is not a replacement for medical treatment).
- It slows aging both physically and mentally.
Give These Meditation Apps a Try
Guided meditations via mediation apps are great for beginners or the seasoned meditator that's in need of motivation. Here are some good ones:
1. Dharma Seed
Dharma Seed allows you to look up your favorite meditation teachers or scroll through various meditations and try teachers you’ve never heard of before. Additionally, when you’re exercising, cleaning the house, or doing your daily commute, you can listen to Dharma talks that walk you through the struggles of daily living. (Free)
2. Relaxation Melodies
Relaxation Melodies is one of the best apps to provide meditation background sound for those times when background distractions make it difficult for you to center. From Zen to slow waves, wind chimes, heavy rain, and frogs croaking, these sounds can help put you in the zone after a busy day. The app also has meditation background sounds for whatever you’re looking to work on, from reducing stress to squashing anxiety, finding gratitude, or living with abundance. (Free)
Headspace provides personalized progress reports along with meditation on a buddy system. Just like you sometimes need a running partner, you may also need someone to cheer you on to meditate regularly. The first level provides you with daily ten-minute meditations to help you make your way down the path of peace. (Free)
The Gaia app is a great way to enjoy a meditation class without having to leave the house. Choose the amount of time you have to meditate and the kind of meditation that fits your needs. While the app is loaded with yoga classes and alternative health videos, it also contains lots of great stuff when it comes to meditation. (Starts at $1 for the first month.)
5. Smiling Mind
Smiling Mind is easy to use and it’s designed to keep you on track. Smiling Mind is an organization whose purpose is to increase happiness and compassion throughout the world. The app’s simple design makes it a great tool for beginners as well. (Free)
Easy Tips for Maintaining Your Meditation Practice
Meditation takes dedication and it’s especially difficult because often times the results are subtle and can take years to really show up. That said, at some point, you may become so accustomed to your meditation practice that your day feels off on those days when you miss it. These tips can help you stay on track when you really don’t feel like sitting.
1. Set reasonable goals
Focus on making meditation a habit by being very specific. For example, say that for the next two months you’ll meditate for ten minutes every morning. The trick to succeeding is making one goal that’s within reach. By the end of the two months of meditation it will become as much of a habit as brushing your teeth. Then you can add more time to your meditation sessions.
2. Decorate your meditation room
Your meditation room can be as small as a portion of your shoe closet, but that’s not what’s important. The point is that it’s your designated peaceful space where you go every morning to get your Om on. Decorate the room with objects that mean something to you like photos, mini statues, books, or candles.
3. Listen to Dharma talks
I mentioned it above, but it’s worth saying again. Dharma Seed and Audio Dharma both provide downloadable Dharma talks that can keep you motivated. Most importantly, Dharma talks are led by seasoned meditation teachers that know the trials and tribulations of maintaining a strong practice.
4. It’s not all or nothing
Don’t think of meditation as an all or nothing activity. In the same way that exercising just a few hours per week is great for your physical health, just a few minutes of meditation is great for your mental health. Even if you have just a few minutes on a given day, that's enough to remind you of why it’s important.
Find the Best Type of Meditation for Your Needs
Just like yoga, there are a number of types of meditation. Here are a few:
1. Mindfulness meditation
Mindfulness meditation is all about returning to the present moment. Close your eyes and begin to follow your breath. Every time your mind wanders, reel it back to the present moment using your breath.
2. Mantra meditation
Mantra meditation uses the repetition of a silent, calming mantra to stay present. It gives you something to focus on doing, beyond the rush of thoughts that sometimes can take over the mind.
3. Guided meditations
Guided meditations like those provided by the meditation apps listed above, can help you meditate when you need a little extra help. They use visualization, mindfulness exercises, and calming music to help you learn to meditate.
Yoga, especially slower forms of yoga, are supposed to be “moving meditations”. This means that throughout your practice you remain focused on connecting the breath to movement, or the yoga poses.
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