The idea of mindfulness in the Western world has started to grow in popularity over the last few years. With work becoming more demanding, time consuming and stressful, it is no surprise that many are trying to (or want to) seek a ‘way out’. Fortunately, for many of us, the ‘way out’ does not mean having to emigrate to India nor does it mean living in a cave for the next 6 month. The way out is a state of mind, it is the freedom of living life with more meaning, and learning to capture and appreciate those memorable moments forever in our hearts. The world will seem to slow down (or more importantly, move at your pace). Mindfulness may be completely new to you or perhaps like you need to de-bunk the ‘mysticalness’ or if all before trying it out. However, some of you may be keen to jump in and start trying out some of these tools and seeing how it feels for yourself, if so then please read on.
So together lets find a way off this monotonous roller-coaster ride many of us are on. Lets live as intended: with purpose; passion; focus and with that crystal-like clarity we all deserve. We can still live out our greatest dreams and ambitions but with a renewed sense of self, a happier self and one which is present, in the moment, living it to the full – don’t we all owe ourselves that?
Over time I have tried and tested many great mindfulness tools included apps, books, websites, podcasts and documentaries. These are my 8 all time favourite mindfulness apps and I would love to hear your thoughts on these and perhaps you have a favourites list to? Most of these are either free or cheaper than a cup of coffee. So try out some mindfulness, sleep well tonight, ditch the coffee in the morning and treat your mind.
“Think of it like a gym membership for the mind” – Andy Puddicombe
Headspace is such a simple, accessible way of getting into mindfulness. The app is free of charge and includes 10, 10 minute guided meditations. It is encouraged to complete one of these each day however you can easily pick the programme back up at your leisure. You have an option to purchase a subscription for around £9.99 a month which will unlock a bunch of content-specific development in creativity, focus, relationships etc. If you intend to use the app most days then it is certainly worth paying for, however it may be worth going through the free, 10 sessions first to get comfortable with the basics so that you can get the most out of the deeper practices. I jumped in too quickly and struggled a bit with the longer 15-20 minute subscription meditations and I got frustrated and cancelled. However, I persevered and went through the free 10 day guides another 2 times and eventually re-subscribed.
I think the ‘problem’ with this programme (and mindfulness in general) is that the simplicity frustrated me. I felt like I needed to be ‘progressing’ and found myself itching to find something more challenging. In actual fact, part of the progression is being able to enjoy the journey whilst appreciating such simplicity. Certainly during the first month (and even on occasions now) I find it difficult to just sit still and be present. So don’t underestimate the simplicity process. Being able to be at peace with this simplicity is part of the progress.
I tend to boot up the app after a morning yoga session and let Andy’s soothing voice take me through a very straight forward and highly effective mindful practice. The app is accessible on Android and iOS and creates a gentle and welcoming transition into mindfulness for beginners and curiosity seekers.
“Packed full of guided meditations that you can listen to throughout the day”
Buddhify has a fantastic interface which is cleverly put together and caters well for mindfulness on the go. Headspace has a fantastic, structured programme which is great for regular, set practice. However, where Buddhify fills the gap is its ability to cater for many other areas of our modern life. For example, I really like to use the ‘eating’ and the ‘sleep’ collections. I tend not to put too much pressure on myself as to how and when I fire up this app but it is a faithful companion if I am sat around waiting for someone, going for a walk or on my lunch break. It comes in handy when I need to take control of the monotonous auto-pilot we all sometimes find ourselves in.
It has help tremendously with more restful sleeping and I seem to wake up calmer and more positive in the morning when I use it. I don’t tend to use this app as consistently but it always seems to be there when I need it most. This app costs roughly £2 and the instant accessibility and ease of use alone makes it a worthwhile purchase.
“Pause quickly helps you regain focus and release stress within minutes”
This app is freakishly awesome. I was blown away by how simple, yet unique it was. I saw this app on my iTunes page a few times and was slightly curious but never took the £1.49 dive. One day in Starbucks I received a gift card to download it free on my iPhone. When I downloaded it I didn’t really know what to expect but it’s safe to say that I absolutely love it in a weird, zen kind of fashion.
You basically start off as a little blob and are guided through moving the blob carefully around the screen with your thumb. After a minute or so the training wheels are off and you are left to your own devices, moving around the screen in a calm, slow motion to allow the blob to grow in size. If you start going to fast the blob will start to shrink and you will have to start all over again. There is something strangely fulfilling about growing the blob until it has covered the whole screen.
The settings are fairly basic but you can increase the difficulty (sensitivity of movement) and the amount of time you do the exercise for. I tend to use this when I am waiting around somewhere. Even if you don’t ‘complete’ the game in the time limit it is still worth pulling out and playing around with for a minute or two. It has helped me to become less reactive and more responsive in situations, allowing me some space to think. It was very eye-opening at how agitated and excitable my mind can be. It sounds so simple but some days I really struggle to maintain my focus and complete even the 5-minute programme.
“…A life with fewer distractions. *Phone rings* You’re joking right? Dude, are you serious, we are trying to give a talk” – Ryan Nicodemus [TEDx Talk]
I don’t quite know how I came across The Minimalists, I think I was flicking through iTunes podcasts and the long-haired, beard-wearing, happy chap that is Ryan Nicodemus caught my attention. There mantra is ‘living a meaningful life with less stuff’. Although they don’t specifically address mindfulness all the time a lot of what they talk about (and minimalism in general) underpins a lot of the discussions.
The podcasts are updated on a weekly basis and I try to listen to them on a morning on the way to work. The podcasts can be a bit lengthy (1 hour plus) and at times a bit wordy, which is ironic given the ‘minimalist’ mantra but there is some real inspiring and welcoming advice to be found here. Also, for you podcast veterans, there is NO ADVERTS! The Minimalists are busy fellas and you can find find interviews, TED talks and lots of other content at www.theminimalists.com.
These podcasts will be a worthy companion in helping you to become more mindful through thought-provoking discussions on your career, relationships, technology, children, money and lots of other things. The main reason I listen to this podcast is how welcoming and friendly their narrative is. Many ‘self-help-type’ podcasts can sometimes be condescending, egotistical or even patronising. The Minimalists are regular, awesome dudes and you may even be able to relate to their previous money-driven, hectic lifestyles. It feels like you are sat in the pub having a regular, everyday conversation with them.
“Though I run this site, it is not mine. It is ours. It’s not about me. It’s about us” – Lori Deschene [Tiny Buddha Founder]
Tiny Buddha is a beautifully constructed blog site which discusses mindfulness, yoga, simplicity, happiness, peace, love and meaning, amongst many other things. The website draws knowledge from a wide range of authors who post meaningful content about some of life’s big questions. You can select a particular subject area you are interested in and browse through these articles at your leisure. Alternatively you can sign up to the page and you will receive regular article updates across a broader range.
Whilst I do enjoy looking at the regular posts as they get updated it is certainly worth taking some time to explore the archives of this site as there are thousands of little gems to give you a guiding hand on just about anything. Many of the articles are centred around Buddhist ideologies and it is perfect for the mindful enthusiast or anyone who wants to find peace in such a frantic world.
The website has over 3 million readers a month and it is clear to see why. The articles are clearly well vetted before submission and are written by experienced writers. This is refreshing as many websites have fallen victim to ‘click bait’ and lost the real purpose of their mission. For now at least, Tiny Buddha has stayed true to its aims and certainly goes above and beyond what is says on the tin.
“Install a weekly ritual of going for a walk in the woods. To me, it’s like a tonic from toxicity” – Robin Sharma [Why I walk in the woods episode]
I first came across Robin Sharma through his insightful book ‘The Man Who Sold His Ferrari’. I didn’t look too much into what it was about initially, I was simply intrigued by the title. As I read through the book I was drawn in to the storyline and the book highlighted important lessons in materialism and being mindful to what is important in life.
Robin Sharma Mastery sessions provide fresh, less-conventional and thought-provoking episodes on a regular basis. He centres a lot of his topics around the idea of mindfulness and creates a beautiful combination of both zen-like calm and fired up, motivational rocket fuel.
The pocasts are around 10-15 minutes long and because of this, I try to save these gems when I feel that I really need them. The episodes are really concise and up-lifting without having to drudge through unnecessary wordiness. However, saying that, most of Robin’s content is so fresh that you could listen to it time and time again and take away something new. If you’re in a rut with work I recommend the ‘How to shift from doing a job to working a craft’ episode.
“So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they’re doing busy things they think are important” – Morrie Schwartz
I’ve been a bit naughty here – brand new this book is roughly £7.99 and, unless your cup of coffee comes with a free Tuesdays with Morrie book then I’m struggling to fit it into my ‘mindfulness-tools-for-less-than-a-cup-of-coffee-criteria’. For any of you out there who have read Tuesdays with Morrie, you will understand how I simply couldn’t not include this in the list. It is a beautiful story, beautifully written about a beautiful man’s last days.
I remember getting this book as a farewell gift from a friend I met in America a couple of years ago. As I left her apartment in New York she told me that I had to read this book and that it would help me to become more mindful, live with more purpose and question what we should all live for. The book is a fairly easy read and the chapters are short meaning it is very handy for soaking up a few pages on the go.
It’s a book you can read time and time again. The third occasion I tried to read it I realised I had misplaced it. However, Amazon had lots of used copies (and probably still do) for less than 3 quid – so I’m justifying putting this in the less than a cup of coffee category now!
“We don’t take time to look after our mind. We spend more time looking after our cars, our clothes and our hair…okay maybe not our hair, but you see where I’m going” – Andy Puddicombe [TED Talks]
Meet the man behind Headspace. Andy Puddicombe is mindfulness and meditation expert and former Tibetan Buddhist Monk. His simple, short TED talk ‘All it takes is 10 minutes’ is incredibly insightful and teaches the fundamentals of mindfulness for anyone interested in learning more.
Take some time to watch his videos at https://www.youtube.com/user/Getsomeheadspace and you can access a lot of content that isn’t necessarily available on the Headspace app, but equally as valuable. The animations are very well thought out and well worth a watch.
So there you have it, there’s my top must have mindfulness tools – please share and comment on your experiences with these tools and perhaps you have some of your own to offer.