How a free app and 5 minute exercise for the brain is like a reboot for your day.
By Brad Beckstrom
For years I’ve been reading about professional athletes, coaches, CEOs, artists, writers and others I admired, who meditated daily. I’d read about meditation and written about my experiments with it in the past. I wanted in on the benefits of meditation and mindfulness and I’ve been trying to make it a daily habit.
To be honest, I struggled with it. The longest streak of daily meditation I’ve had was five days, five minutes per day. Surely I could spare 5 minutes a day for this life changing habit? I was really having trouble silencing my ADD tendencies enough to get started and stick with it.
My problem was trying to meditate in silence. I learned quickly that the way my mind works is trying to fill any silence with thoughts. I’ve tried to train myself to silence these thoughts and banish them as they appeared. My meditation experiment included interesting tricks like envisioning these random thoughts as Post-it notes floating through the air and then being crumbled and tossed as I tried to clear my mind and focus on my breath. So, that’s what my meditation looked like, breathing sounds and Post-it notes full of thoughts and to-dos. I learned that’s how meditation often begins, helping you understand how your mind works so you can silence stress and negative thoughts. I was still having trouble with it as my stream of thoughts just became more visual as I sat in silence with my eyes closed.
How I Fixed It
That’s when I stumbled across guided meditation. Instead of sitting in silence with my thoughts bouncing around, I would have a guide. The type of guided meditation I chose was a simple five-minute body scan. A guided body scan made sense to me because it was a bit like a mini- workout starting at the top of the body and working all the way down to the feet and toes. If you search for guided meditation online, you’ll come across all kinds of YouTube videos with waterfalls, yogis and gurus, but I found using a free smartphone app called Calm was the best fit for me.
I started with the free seven days of Calm option which introduces the user to different types of simple guided meditation practices. The app allows you to plug in some headphones, select the length and type meditation, close your eyes, and follow the simple guided instructions to the body scan. I started with the three-minute body scan and have moved on to the five minute version. It’s really just simple relaxation and guided breathing exercises as you think about each part of your body, head to toes.
At first I thought it was counter intuitive to use an iPhone app to help me meditate, but using it with headphones is very effective. If someone is thinking of interrupting you, it appears that you’re on a call or listening to music instead of sitting in a corner with your eyes closed. As I got better and better at moving through the body scan, I realized it was beginning to work. After a short 5 minute session, when I opened my eyes it almost felt like I had rebooted my system. Sort of like slowly running a systems check as you move through each part of the body and get ready for the day.
In the Calm app, you’ll also see some in app purchases. Luckily there’s enough quality free content on it to keep me going for years.