For over a year or so, I’ve been meditating regularly. It was originally suggested to me by a fellow freelancer, Fran Swaine, for a good way to deal with stress. As a not particularly spiritual, terribly cynical kind of person, my initial reaction was a little…doubtful.
Thankfully, meditation has come a long way over the years, and has been adapted to work for those with busy, technology-fuelled lives. I found a selection of great apps and online tools to help me get into meditation:
I started using an app called Headspace first, which sets you a challenge of 10 minutes of meditation each day for ten days. As a newbie, it was a great way to ease in to meditating, and get an idea of the benefits. There is a fee now to use it, around £3.74 a month, but the first 10 days are free so it’s worth giving it a try.
I found several meditation podcasters, which were handy for train journeys in particular. They have a tendency to be a little more spiritual, but they’re useful all the same. Many of them are tailored to deal with specific situations or areas.
My favourite method of meditation at the moment is using the Calm app. I’ve got the pro subscription, which gives me access to dozens of different meditation programs, ranging from ‘creativity’ to ‘anxiety’. Each program has a choice of times – 2 mins, 5 mins and 10 mins (the standard relaxation one has more length options too). Once you’ve chosen your program and time, you can choose the background music and scene. Scenes vary from a waves on a beach to a misty lake, and includes a number of relaxing music options. You can also try out the Calm website too, for a work break.
I’ve come to the conclusion that meditation works best for me when it’s guided – otherwise I find it too each to get distracted and switch off. However, you may find that once you get used to the basics, you’ll be happy to do it unguided. I usually tend to do 2-5 minutes a day, sometimes 10 if I’ve got a quiet seat on the train or it’s the weekend. 5 minutes a day isn’t tricky really, is it?
But what does it actually do, Emma?
Ok, so that’s how I get my meditation fix. Here’s why it helps me.:
- Helps deal with anxiety and stress – When I’m having a stressful day, I try to take two minutes for a quick meditation break. At home, it’s just a case of taking a break on the sofa. At work, I try to grab a minute at lunch, or have been known to pop to the loo with my phone and headphones in my pocket! All that deep breathing and visualising really helps calm my mind and stops me freaking out. Some companies now encourage meditation, so if you know of a few colleagues who might be interested, why not suggest a lunchtime course to see if it improves business?
- Improves productivity – When I do a morning meditation, I feel far more focused throughout the day – especially if I go for one of the creative or confidence programs. It helps organise my mind, so I feel like I can move on to new stuff. A bit like doing the filing for your brain.
- Clears my mind for new ideas – More often than not, during a meditation, a new idea pops into my mind for a blog post or a project. If you’ve got a case of writers block, a spot of meditation could be just the thing.
- Sleep – I’m lucky to not struggle too often with sleep. But when I am struggling to drop off, a 10 minute meditation session for calm usually sends me straight off
- Improves mindfulness – Meditation, and using apps like Happier and Lift, are great ways to practice mindfulness. This is a way to focus and appreciate what’s happening now, which could make it easier to identify and deal with strong feelings or emotions. When you’re a freelancer, it’s easy to become overwhelmed without realising it, so mindfulness helps deal with that.
There are a bunch of other benefits here (100 of them!).
Are you a fan of meditation? What benefits have you found? If you give meditation a try this week, I’d love to hear how you get on!