It’s Mindfulness Monday! Today: Swipe right for some peace of mind.
Here at our New York Freshly office, a fifteen-minute meditation session is a big part of several of our team member’s work day. Often practiced in the mid-afternoon, it cuts an otherwise stressful day in half, and gives us room to breathe. Everyone meditates in their own way but we go for a pretty bare bones, cut-to-the-chase style: everyone turns on the meditation app of their choice, plugs in their headphones, and gives themselves a fifteen minutes “time-out” from whatever’s on their mind – work calls, deadlines, emotional worries, etc.
We’re not alone in finding that this works. In her research, Sara Lazar, a neuroscientist at Harvard Medical School, found that eight weeks of meditation gradually altered the neural structure of the brain, mainly in areas correlated to reduced stress, emotional strength, better decision-making, and deeper self-awareness. The upshot: You go back to work with a clear head and a light heart.
We’re making meditation easy for you to try. Here are five apps that we know and love.
#1 CALM | Good for: Simplicity.
A favorite among us for its utter simplicity. Mindful magazine calls CALM “good for
catching a few blissful moments to do absolutely nothing.” That’s an activity we can get behind. The app is perfect for beginners and those who just want to cut to the chase – it has several options to choose from, including guided (and non-guided) relaxation sessions between 2 to 30 minutes, 16 music tracks from Kip Mazuy (a meditation musician), a “7 Steps to Calm” guided program for beginners, and special programs designed for everything from “anxiety release” to “confidence” to “creativity” to “energy.” Click and go.
#2 OMVANA | Good for: Personalizing and experimenting with meditation tracks.
Omvana lets you be the DJ for your own meditation soundtrack. While most apps give
you a list of guided or non-guided meditations to choose from, Omvana serves up a huge library (literally, nearly a thousand) high-quality audio tracks, ambient sounds, narrated guides, and “binaural beats” which you can splice and combine to make your own tracks. (Binaural beats switch up different frequencies and levels of sound in your ears to soothe your brain with nuanced tones.) There are even narrated lessons by Martin Luther King Jr. Achieve perfect peace your own way.
#3 HEADSPACE | Good for: Easy, friendly, fun.
Andi Puddicombe created this app, and he’s a former Buddhist monk with a background in circus arts, and also one of the coolest guys in the meditation/business circuit – so you know this is going to be fun. (Here he is featured in the New Yorker.) Headspace is described as a “gym membership for the mind” (which we find pretty appealing), and through simple, fun graphics, animations, and everyday, relatable banter, it teaches you – Mr. or Ms. Busy – how to meditate and be mindful in under 10 minutes. The app also sends you reminders throughout your day to keep your head, and not get tangled up in the mess of your thoughts.
#4 STOP, BREATHE, & THINK | Good for: Learning compassion, too.
Maybe we’re suckers for cute designs, but this meditation app from k.d. Lang and the
nonprofit “Tools for Peace” makes meditation seem fun, approachable, and important. It’s free, and incredibly crazy simple to use – it literally has three prompts: “Stop. Breathe. Think” – all of which you can do in five minutes, before returning to your day a more sane and kind human being. Here’s how it works: You tell the app how you’re feeling (mentally or physically) or thinking from a list, which then recommend one of 15 audio meditations. What we love most about it is that its guided narrations also try to help build kindness and compassion, too. Mindfulness isn’t just about your own inner peace, but also about building love and empathy for the people around you, too. Go that extra mile.
#5: THE MINDFULNESS TRAINING APP | Good for: If you’re serious in owning the craft.
So you not only want to meditate – you want to know the SCIENCE behind it and what it’s doing to your brain. This app is probably for you, since, while it’s a little bit clunkier in design than others, it packs tons of guided meditations, narrations, lectures and talks about the definition of mindfulness, it’s science, different practices, neuroplasticity, and happiness from leading think-tanks of Western meditation, like Jon Kabat-Zinn (he created Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction) and Jack Kornfield.
Cost: free. Download for iOS