Eight weeks into school, as we drown in exams, essays and projects, we all need to clear some â€˜headspace.â€™ Itâ€™s way too easy to get preoccupied and lose perspective when we get so busy. Working out, getting sufficient amounts of sleep and eating right are common ways to improve mental health, but meditation is also a useful, yet overlooked way to open up headspace.
The App Store contains countless meditation apps, which walk you through beginning to advanced meditation in various ways. VALLEY’sÂ pick of the week is Headspace, a â€œdigital health platform that provides guided meditation training for its usersâ€.
Andy Puddicombe is a co-founder of Headspace and the soothing British accent narrating the tutorials. He was trained as a Buddhist monk for 10 years and the exercises he studied are now the lessons behind the app.
Puddicombe says, â€œMeditation isnâ€™t about becoming a different person, a new person, or even a better person. Itâ€™s about training in awareness and understanding how and why you think and feel the way you do, and getting a healthy sense of perspective in the process.â€
There are so many benefits of meditating that not many people know about. On Headspaceâ€™s official website, it describes the benefits of meditation as:Â being able to sleep better, stress less, have healthier relationships, manage anxiety and have sharper concentration.
The website contains information about sleeping better, â€œA meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials for insomnia found that eight weeks of in-person meditation training significantly improved total waking time and sleep quality in patients with insomnia.â€
Also on the website, regarding sharper concentration, it says, â€œFindings suggest that meditating for just four days is enough to improve novice meditatorsâ€™ working memory, executive functions and their ability to process visual information.â€
Avid Headspace user, Richard Feloni, wrote in a Business Insider article about what it’s like to use, â€œHeadspace isn’t a hippy-dippy placebo; it’s a straightforward teacher that helps you learn the basics of breathing and visualization associated with secular meditation.”
â€œThe company reports it has 8.5 million active users, and this includes Wall Streeters, Olympic athletes, and celebrity executivesÂ like Arianna Huffington and Richard Branson. Companies like Goldman Sachs and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute have bought package subscriptions for employees. The app is free to download, but a subscription unlocks full access to all of its lessons.â€
Headspace includes animated tutorials with cartoons and pastel colors to teach you along the way. In the introduction, one of the tutorials portrays the basics of meditation with a simple metaphor. If you are sitting by a busy highway, with multiple cars passing, you can either notice all of the noisy cars, or you can focus on one car and watch it drive down the road. Parallel to meditation, if you are sitting down meditating you will inevitably have multiple thoughts going through your mind. You can think about all of them, which often has negative effects, or you can acknowledge that they exist without engaging them.
Some people give up on meditating because they think they canâ€™t do it, or their mind wanders too much. A large part of the meditation itself is working through this as it happens to everyone. The point is to learn how to control your mind by realizing your thoughts but not letting them distract you.
Feloni concludes his article by sharing, â€œThe reason why I enjoy Headspace so much is because it gives me a daily reminder to calm down, relax, and realize that I’m in control of my emotions regardless of what’s happening around me. It’s definitely worth a try if you struggle with any form of anxiety, and it’s also worth checking out if you’ve ever tried yoga or meditation before.â€
Just taking a few minutes can change your entire day and teach you to appreciate the present moment. Help the snow in the snow globe of your mind settle and improve your mental health by taking just 10 mindful minutes. You can also check out other Meditation apps VALLEY loves, including Buddhify, Breathe and Calm.