For over a year I’ve been listening to podcasts (usually Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour) during the 35 minute walk to and from work. But while striding through the park on a commute last month, I realised that although I might be up-to-date with what’s going on in the world, being constantly plugged in meant that I had almost missed spring-time; I had barely noticed the seasonal transformation of the trees, flowers, birds and sky around me. I removed my headphones that day and discovered something else; that by being mindful of my immediate surroundings, my head felt clearer – and less stressed.
I don’t know why this felt like such a revelation when after all, I’ve known for years the benefits of mindfulness to mental and physical health in increasing happiness, improving relationships, and in reducing stress, depression and anxiety. I’d even dabbled with mindfulness and meditation in the past at workshops and yoga events, but as I paused that day in the park, I had a powerful feeling that I wanted to experience this more regularly.
My approach to developing a daily mindfulness habit was, ironically, to put my headphones back on…
The Headspace App
I discovered Headspace, a fantastic online tool for learning meditation in just ten minutes per day using animations and guided meditation practice. Initially I was sceptical – is ten minutes per day really enough to feel the benefit of mindfulness practice? Could I even find ten minutes in my crammed daily schedule? I was to find that the answer to both questions was a resounding yes.
I downloaded the Headspace app to my smartphone to access the first free ten days and was surprised at how quickly I developed a much more clear and positive mind-set. I was then more than willing to pay £4.99 / month for the annual subscription for unlimited access to the Headspace Collection – which incidentally is the same price as my (now-cancelled) Love Film rental subscription (which at times actually contributed to my stress as I struggled to find the time to watch movies and keep my rental list updated…)
Here’s what I’ve found after completing the Headspace 30 Day Foundation Series Pack:
- I’m now in the routine of taking ten minutes to meditate every day, and I look forward to making the time for it. (At weekends I’m trying to meditate for longer).
- My meditation technique has improved (I’m no longer falling asleep!).
- After meditation I feel significantly calmer.
- I’m now realising that taking ten minutes out of my day to meditate is not going to cause the world to end (or a project to fail)! Usually with an approaching deadline I keep battling on without taking a break even if this is to the detriment of whatever I’m trying to achieve. But after meditation I find that I have renewed mental energy and focus; my perspective on life is more clear, and that’s helping to improve the way I think about and approach work challenges.
- My head feels much less cluttered generally.
- I have improved patience / tolerance in my relationships.
- Mindfulness reminders on my phone throughout the day are helping me to integrate mindfulness practice into other activities.
The Headspace app has made it so easy to develop a daily meditation habit – in fact, with daily life as fast and as complex as it is for many of us, I don’t know how it would be possible otherwise! I’m excited about progressing to the next set of Headspace meditation packs to help me cultivate increasing mindfulness in all areas of my life as I navigate relationships, work and other projects to become a more aware and better friend, thinker and do-er.
I’m particularly looking forward to my summer commute…