by Liberty Stembridge, Lifestyle Columnist
Published in Lifestyle on 8th March, 2019
Meditation may have only become popular in mainstream western society in the last couple of years, but it's actually been around for centuries, being practiced and promoted by philosophers and spiritual leaders from around the globe.
Now with new interest from the scientific community, meditation has become an invaluable tool for dealing with everyday life for many people, and the research is there to back it up. If you're looking to get into meditation, but don't know where to start, you've come to the right place.
Meditation apps are the most popular way to access meditation for most people. They are quick and easy to access, and usually not that expensive - plus you don't even have to leave your house or speak to anyone. But there are a lot to choose from, some free, some paid, some good, some bad - so here are your top options.
Headspace is my personal favourite, which is why i've put it first. It's not just me who likes the app though, with over 16 million people having downloaded the app to this date, and it's easy to see why.
Headspace is a perfect introduction to meditation for beginners, especially those who are potentially put off by some the more "hippie" side of meditation. Founder Andy Puddicombe is a retired buddhist monk who guides you gently through his beginner meditations in a 10 day free trial period, accompanied with adorable and quirky graphics to explain some of the basic principles of mindfulness and meditation.
If you like the trial, you can purchase a subscription, and gain access to a huge database of meditations ranging from 3 minutes to an hour. Meditation "packs" can help you to tackle specific issues from sleeplessness, depression, anxiety or chronic pain. It even now has a dedicated sleep section to help you drop off in the blink of an eye.
Calm is similar to headspace, but focuses more on relaxation and sleeping well, and is a great option for people who like a bit of gentle background noise. Their guided meditations range from a short 3-minute boost to a lengthier 25 minute session, plus a new feature called daily calm - a 10 minute daily practice to fit into your everyday routine.
There are also breathing exercises, unguided meditations and bedtime stories read by popular narrators such as Stephen Fry. Calm is perfect for anyone who wants a simple, beautiful way to relax and unwind, and particularly good for those who struggle with anxious thoughts or sleeplessness.
Buddhify is a program for the more serious meditator. Maybe you've already been meditating for a while and you want to up your game, or are experienced but struggle to maintain a meditation practice but don't want to pay for an annual subscription. Buddhify has over 11 hours of meditation tracks available to use and each practice is geared towards a different area of your life.
Whether you want to sleep, reduce stress, take a break from work or stop worrying so much. It's also great for tracking your progress, as it's check in system allows you to evaluate your progress.
Have kids and want to let them in on the benefits of meditations, but just don't know how to get them to sit still and in silence for 10 minutes every day? Enter smiling mind - this meditation app can be tailored to different age groups, to children as young as seven years old.
By creating accounts for different family members everyone can track their practice in the app. If you're a teacher you can even integrate the app in the classroom.
Sattva is an awesome little app that motivates you to meditate everyday, with handy features like a heart rate tracker, timers, mantras and a huge bank of information on the science and benefits of meditation. Plenty of preloaded exercises will give you lot's of different options to keep your practice fresh.
Meditation videos are by no means new - youtube channels featuring guided meditations and visualisations have been around for years, so they are worth a mention.
For some, meditation videos can be more informative and help to keep you more present than just an audio track. Having something to focus on such as another person or calming image on screen can help you to remain grounded and present.
Yoga journal features a variety of meditation videos from their experienced yoga and meditation instructors. Yogi's are well-renowned for their love and practice of meditation both on and off the mat, with specialised videos on more in-depth topics such as "recognising your strength" "creating space" and "finding calm in 60 seconds".
The honest guys are one of the most popular youtube channels offering guided meditations and visualisations. The sonorous voice of their meditation narrator would put even the most anxious person to sleep, and with the accompaniment of stunning photography and background music, you will soon find yourself drifting off into nothingness.
Gaia is a fairly new service offering resources and videos on spirituality, meditation, yoga and much more. They have a huge variety of meditation videos on offer, from a selection of world-renowned teachers, all available through a monthly subscription.
If guided meditation isn't your thing and you want to try out something a little more independent, meditation music might be for you. Meditation music is designed to be focused yet relaxing, which makes it perfect to sit down and sink into the present. You don't need to be worried about losing track of time (unless you want to) as the track slowly comes to an end, so does your practice.
There's lots of different types of meditation music available, from calming nature sounds to more intense binaural beats meditation tracks - pick what works for you.
The most popular resource for meditation music is probably already on your phone - and that is spotify. There are hundred of tracks and playlists dedicated to meditation and relaxation tracks, even podcasts with new weekly guided meditations available.
Meditation is an ancient, spiritually rich discipline and simultaneously a new, modern area of pioneering scientific research. Everyday more research is published on the efficacy of meditation for treating anxiety, depression, insomnia and much much more.
Its been shown to boost immune function, relieve stress, manage chronic pain, improve memory and help you to recover quickly from illness. Some of the most successful people in the world attribute their success to meditation, so it's easy to see how it's become so popular.
Don't just take my word for it though, look for yourself. There are numerous studies into the benefits of meditation, but for easier reading and comprehension, here are some useful resources.
Written by two Harvard researchers, this book dives into the science and research behind meditations, including studies into life-long meditation experts and reveal what's true and what's not.
Despite the clickbait title, this book is a treasure trove of fascinating information from evolutionary psychologist Robert Wright, showing you how and why meditation can create a better and more spiritually meaningful life for everyone, regardless of religious beliefs (or lack thereof).
If the ihe idea of getting a hyperactive toddler to sit still for more than two seconds seems laughable to you, you're not alone. Meditation can be incredibly beneficial for kids, especially those struggling with anxiety or learning disorders - but they're probably not going to want to sit down for 10 minutes a day with a guided meditation, but luckily, there are plenty of child meditation specialists out there that have come up with some solutions.
While not technically meditation, this book is a great introduction for younger kids to practice mindfulness, while still being kept entertained and active. Good Night Yoga is a step by step kids book that tells a story with accompanying yoga poses to help your child relax before bed.
Calm Kids by Lorraine Murray is a great beginners introduction to teaching your child mindfulness, using kid-friendly techniques acquired over many years teaching mindfulness meditation. You can use this book to inject a little more calm and relaxation into your child's life, with meditation scripts and activities to do together.
TeachChildrenMeditation.com is a website with an abundance of resources to help you involve your child in meditation and mindfulness. With activities, articles, guided meditations and much more.