I know what you’re thinking. For a lot of people, mindfulness and meditation fall into the same category as horoscopes, energy crystals and ‘Magic Happens’ bumper stickers.
But in actual fact meditation has loads of clinical evidence in its favour… and anecdotal stuff too, from some of the world’s most successful people.
If you’re game to dip your toe, continue below.
What does it feel like when you are doing it right?
Mindfulness is really quite incredible at creating some space between ‘you’ and ‘yourself’.
Like us, you will struggle to place a finger on it, but you may be more present in conversations, less distracted by your phone, and time may appear to run slower. Sex is also better.
If you struggle to sleep, if you ruminate on things, if you find yourself swept up in your emotions (anger, stress, lack of control), mindfulness can have an incredible impact on you.
The aim of the game
The general idea with meditation is to:
1) Empty your mind of thought (focus on your breathing) 2) Within seconds, your mind will wander into thought (that’s normal) 3) Become aware of the wandering, and note it as a thought (this is mindfulness) 4) Repeat for 10-15 minutes a day
How long does it take to get an effect? It can take between a week and a month to start noticing the benefits, and you generally notice it more the longer you do it.
Again, like a routine, it relies heavily on habit-building.
Isn’t it religious, like a cult?
It’s true: there's very little difference between religious and non-religious, ‘secular’ meditation.
Some apps make no mention of religion, but still teach exercises that are similar to those in Buddhist and Hindu teachings. Other more accessible forms of meditation involve repeating ‘mantras’ in your head.
If this freaks you out (or you’ve got a healthy sense of cynicism like us), keep an open mind and try it anyway – there’s nothing really to lose.
Where do I start? A ‘guided meditation’ is a great way to learn. It’s basically an audiobook that talks to you as you meditate, and teaches you the basic technique.
Our advice is to start with a paid app that has a single, introductory course, (they all offer free trials) and then decide on whether you want to keep paying, or use a free app.
Meditation apps - free
Insight Timer is a great free option (and is an Aussie success story, being the most-downloaded free meditation app in the world). It offers standalone, guided meditations.
Meditation apps - paid courses
Headspace - This is a great intro hosted by Andy Puddicombe, who has an amazing voice and teaches the basics really well. Has a free intro series which is very good.