Do you hear the words mindfulness or meditation being used all the time? Have you tried meditation? Do you wish your kids would try it? Whether you choose to actually try it or not, you can be educated about exactly what meditation/mindfulness is and what’s out there. Hi, I’m Michelle, a St. Louis psychotherapist, and I am lucky to be a friend of Mindy. I will describe why I find mediation useful and offer some opinions on some popular apps that may be easy for you or for your child to use at school.
Mediation is a practice of calming the mind and body by choosing an intention for your thoughts. Examples of meditations might be using a single focal point, being contemplative, or may be directionless. Focal point meditation could simply use your own breath, an object, or a piece of food such as a piece of chocolate. The ideas for a focal point are endless. Contemplative meditation could be sitting with an idea or concept such as, “What foods would make my body healthiest today?” “What am I grateful for?” And it is also possible to meditate with no specific focus or agenda and to just notice the thoughts floating in and out. Mindfulness is a form of meditation. Mindfulness is described as second to second, moment to moment awareness without judgement. Mindfulness is being in the moment. You can mindfully eat, mindfully wash your hands, mindfully take a walk.
So, if you’re not already a regular at this stuff, how do you do it? Though meditation is a practice as old as time, today there is an app for everything, including mindfulness and meditation. Actually, there are dozens of apps. You can learn to meditate just by downloading an app. The pricing structure for most of these apps is referred to as Freemium where many services are free of charge, but for a premium or payment you can access more features. So, here is some insight to just a few of these ever multiplying apps.
Insight Timer -The app creators say that 28,000 of the meditations are free with a minimum of ten new free additions every day, but for $59.99/year you can access even more and download mediations so you can listen offline. Insight Timer is a very thorough and comprehensive program.
You can create a customized non-guided meditation by choosing the starting/ending sound such as a singing bowl, gong, or wood sticks and then choose from 22 ongoing ambient sounds such as chanting OM to a fire crackling for your chosen amount of time from as little as 1 minute or up to 24 hours. If meditating with no guidance is not your thing, not to worry. There are also guided meditations on the subjects of coping with anxiety, managing stress, improving sleep, being mindful at work, improving relationships, boosting self-esteem, and even programs for beginners. In addition, there are featured courses with various topics with a special section for kids and teens. There are thousands of music tracks to help you disconnect and drift away, tracks and stories for falling asleep, and 2,000 talks, interviews or ideas covering a range of topics such as balance, gratitude, mindfulness.
Other additional features are the availability of discussion groups for sharing thoughts with others, and as if that weren’t enough, you can find poems, podcasts, and readings. You can be fully educated and also fully meditated with this app. It takes you into another world. On a scale of 1-10, I think this a great app and would give this a high rating of 10.
HeadSpace – Co-created by a former Buddhist Monk that has a lovely English accent, his voice guides many of the spoken meditations. The current prices in this app are either an annual membership at $69.99/year or $5.99/month or you can just to pay month to month for $12.99/month. Headspace is freemium because the initial app and some meditations are offered for free.
The main idea of this app is to really support new meditators or to help even an experienced meditator become more consistent. It helps the user set up a meditation schedule and will remind you of the schedule you chose. It promises to offer relief to everyday life, more of a secular meditation. You are welcomed at the beginning with cartoon graphics that take you through the basics of mediation. There are multiple categories from which to choose meditations. You can choose mediations to help with sleep, relaxation, anger, happiness, walking, awaking in the morning ,focus, stress, performance mindset, sports – with bonus advice from professional NBA players, parenting, life challenges, work and productivity, physical health, and there is a special section for students. These are guided meditations. This app has been around since 2010. I would rate this higher for beginners at an 8, but for experienced meditators it’s not as strong as others and I’d give it a 7.
Calm – There are fewer free options with the free app. You can of course access everything if you pay for the membership $69.99/year. With membership you get: An original Daily Calm every day, 100+ guided mediations on anxiety, stress, sleep and more, a library of sleep stories, including guest narrator Matthew McConaughey, exclusive music for sleep and relaxation, and master classes taught by experts. There is a special kids’ section with options for ages three through seventeen. Something different with this app are the beautiful nature scenes on your screen and soothing sounds of nature. A new update makes mindfulness options available on the Apple watch. If you have an Apple watch then this is excellent and it gets a 10 for innovation and accessibility, but as a stand alone app I’d give it a 6.
Hay House Meditations – This is an excellent meditation option, though it only includes different spoken meditations because this is a free podcast and not an app. However, the different narrators are often well known spiritual teachers or authors speaking about health, healing, releasing blocks, and many other topics. There is another podcast from Hay House that is a nice companion named The Hay House World Summit where you can listen to many of the same authors speak or be interviewed about their area of expertise. Also, from Hay House are many apps of affirmation cards. Some apps are free and some have a low cost from five to ten dollars. I think this is a wonderful podcast and really helps train people to meditate by having no pressure to do anything but listen. I’d rate Hay House Meditations at an 8.
I selected four apps to review in depth, but here are more top apps available: The Mindfulness App, Buddhify, Sattva, Stop Breathe and Think, 10% Happier, Breethe, Omvana, Simple Habit, and Meditation and Relaxation Pro. Check out as many as you want and make your selection. Really you can’t go wrong.
With this new information, now you and your student can be on your way to all the benefits of meditation including: overall stress reduction, sleeping better, overall health improvement, improving concentration, having more meaningful relationships, becoming more intuitive, increasing creativity, and generally being more in touch with yourself. With all those benefits why wouldn’t we all give meditation a try? Now that your zen moment is as easy as downloading an app or podcast, relax and enjoy.
In addition to apps, if you want to know what’s in St. Louis there’s live meditation at
St. Louis County Libraries through MeetUp.
There are many more at other various locations, just contact Mindy or do an internet search to find one near you.
Michelle Rubin, MEd, LPC is a psychotherapist in St. Louis. She received an undergraduate business degree from the University of Texas, and a Masters in Counseling from the University of Missouri St. Louis. Her graduate practicum was at the Washington University counseling center. Additional formal training included a two year residency at Care and Counseling, Inc. with a focus on psychoanalysis and a two year study program on Gestalt therapy. Michelle practices with a focus on combining spirituality with psychotherapy and incorporates meditation into work with groups, corporate clients, and individuals working on issues of grief, stress, anxiety, LGBTQ, relationships and more. Michelle works in Webster Groves at The St. Louis Wellness Center. www.stlouiswellnesscenter.com.