Close your eyes. Stop what you’re doing, let go of your worries and simply be in the present moment without judgment. Now breathe. And relax. Do you like that feeling?
It’s called mindfulness, and peace-seekers are paying hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars to go on mindfulness retreats. And I don’t blame them. With all the tragedy and turmoil in the world today, we need peace and quiet now more than ever.
Mindfulness retreat or not, it’s hard to get away from the noise inside our heads. Even our sleep is affected by mental chatter. I’d pay a fortune for a good night’s sleep. Not a cough syrup knock-me-out, real sleep. It’s no wonder that depression, anxiety, addiction and mental complications are on the rise. We have become distracted, worried, way too busy and above all, unable to get to the root of the problem. And are desperate to heal.
Well, I’ve got great news. There’s an app for that. The path to inner peace may be within your grasp. You don’t have to escape to the Himalayan Mountains and become a monk. You don’t need to destroy your cellphone in the garbage disposal.
No, as a matter of fact, grab that phone and get ready for the latest meditation apps. Calming the mind is now a marketing campaign, and these apps are all the rage. Truth be known, meditation has been around for eons. It began as an elite spiritual discipline but since the beatniks got ahold of it in the late 1950s, meditation has morphed into a self-help cure.
Now I don’t want to burst your bubble, but meditation does not lead directly to happiness. Enlightened masters will tell you that meditation brings about awareness, which eventually leads to compassion for others, acceptance of all things and eventually, mindfulness.
Just like choosing a mental health professional or spiritual guide, choosing the right meditation app is super important. Because of meditation’s spiritual roots, a lot of the newer ones have a Buddhist philosophy attached to them.
The apps in this article do not condone a particular religion one way or another. There may be a hint of it, but not super obvious. They’re more neutral for those of us who just want to calm down, sleep, heal, live in the moment, and just chill for a while. Here’s an overview of the apps I discuss in the podcast.
Headspace is the highest rated relaxation and meditation app in the country. And the story is awesome. A man in his twenties named Andy Puddicombe suddenly quit college and took off to the Himalayas to study meditation. He became a Tibetan Buddhist monk, taking a vow of celibacy and having very little contact with the outside world.
After 10 years he joined the Moscow Circus and got a degree in Circus Arts. His goal was to teach meditation to as many people as possible. In my podcast, Puddicombe shares some important concepts about meditation and anxiety. Listen now:
Thanks to Puddicombe and his business partner, millions of users in more than 190 countries are now meditating with Headspace, available for both iOS and Android.
RELAX AND SLEEP WELL
Relax and Sleep Well by Divinity Publishing was voted the number one Lifestyle app in over 50 countries, and recently placed first in Healthline’s Best Insomnia Apps, but it claims to be a healing tool as well. Relax and Sleep Well is the brainchild of Glenn Harrold, now a world-renown author and hypnotist. His parents used to cut him down all the time, so his passion is to help people with issues like negative self-talk, eating disorders and phobias. In my podcast, he opens up about how negative thinking can change how we relate to the world. Relax and Sleep Well is available only for iOS.
Relax Melodies from Ipnos is a great app if you like to mix your own sound effects and music. You can choose from tons of sounds to create your own blend of sleep backgrounds. Ipnos also has a meditation and custom Yoga Music app. Lots of great ways to explore your own creativity! Relax Melodies includes Isochronic Tones and Binaural Beats in their library, which is pretty impressive. Whether you want to study, power nap, meditate or sleep, there’s a brainwave tone available for mixing in this app. Ipnos Head of Content Aster Haile joined me on the podcast for an in-depth discussion about sound.
Now on the other side of the fence, there’s a “healing” app called Pacifica. It’s based on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or “CBT.” CBT basically says that our thoughts, actions and interpretations affect how we feel. So Pacifica claims to help us learn to think about things and reframe our thoughts in a healthier way, with the result being that we will change some of our bad habits, feel better, and live the life we want. So if you’re suffering from anxiety, eating or stress disorders, depression or negative thoughts, this app is worth checking out.
In my podcast, Dr. Martin Fletcher, a fully licensed clinical psychologist at Renew Hope Counseling, shares about his bout with severe depression. Pacifica helped him crawl out of it, and now he helps others do the same. By tracking your appetite, your anxiety triggers, thoughts and even addictions, Pacifica helps you recognize destructive patterns and nip them in the bud before they take over. It’s available for both Android and iOS.
If you’re into education, non-profits and good causes, you may want to check out Smiling Mind. Smiling Mind is a no-nonsense meditation app that’s being used by over a million students and 200 Organizations worldwide. Sixty-eight percent of participants feel calmer after a session with Smiling Mind.
Students and educators report that they’re sleeping better, feeling better and performing better in school. There’s no Asian music that makes you feel like you’re in an opium den. There are no birds or crickets or rain. It’s just a man with an Australian accent who takes you through some very powerful meditations. And despite its “no frills” sound, millions of people swear by it.
Open this app, and Calm will greet you with waves, crickets, crackling fire - welcoming sounds after the daily grind. Available for Android or iOS, Calm comes with free meditations from three to 30 minutes. Or, if you want to get specific, you can try their 7 Days of Calm, Loving-Kindness, Forgiveness, Body Scan sessions or Sleep Stories. There’s even an “Emergency Calm” feature when you’re about to lose your cool. Available for Android or iOS.
Pzizz claims to be the world’s most advanced sleep and power nap system. It uses something called “psychoacoustic principles” to help you conk out. And here’s the science. They’ve figured out what methods of internal and external learning work best, then created sequences of music and sounds based on those findings. And surprise, surprise, this app actually has the scientific research and study to back up their claims. In every clinical study, the methods Pzizz used came out on top. I asked one of my writers to download it and try it out. She’s having major sleep issues. She reported back that the app put her to sleep just fine, but then kept interjecting loud flute sounds. Fortunately, you can control the volume, length and sound mix to reduce the volume of the sounds you find invasive.
Headspace, Relax and Sleep Well, Relax Melodies, Pacifica, Calm, Smiling Mind and Pzizz. These are just some of the more philosophically neutral Mediation, Healing and Sleep apps on the market.
But here’s the catch, something to keep in mind when shopping for mindfulness apps. Many of these developers claim that their app will benefit your brain in some way. But they have no real research to back them up. The companies will brag about mindfulness studies, which produce terrific results, but those results are in no way connected with the app itself. Does that mean they’re no good? Not necessarily.
The point I’m making is you have to go with what works for you. These apps are highly personal. What calms YOU down might drive me crazy. So science or no science, go with what works.
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