Android mindfulness apps

Mindfulness has attracted a lot of research interest in recent years and its benefits for physical, mental and emotional well being are often discussed.

I've been practising mindfulness for about 7 years. The improvements that I've experienced in the same period have been decreased anxiety, decreased tendency to panic, increased patience and tolerance, a sharp decrease in physical illnesses (colds, flu, etc) and a decrease in non-specific physical symptoms that were probably related to stress and/or my very low blood pressure. This is all obviously anecdotal and I've been looking after myself in other ways too. My subjective judgement is that mindfulness has played a big part in these improvements both directly and by giving me the perspective I need to choose more beneficial courses of action.

Most of my mindfulness practice has been using led meditations, i.e. audio recordings that talk the listener through a mindfulness exercise. I started with the recordings that came with the excellent Breathworks "Mindfulness for stress" course. That course was conducted in person and I found it very useful to have other human beings with whom to talk about the benefits and difficulties of mindfulness practice.

Since then, I've found an online course and smart phone apps that have helped my mindfulness practice in different ways. Here are the three that I use most:

Simply Being by Meditation Oasis

Simply Being is the least directive of the three apps I use, although it does explicitly discourage labelling thoughts and feelings. (Labelling is a technique I picked up in other mindfulness practices.) This app has a few parameters you can play with including whether to have some ambient sounds added and how loud they should be. The most useful setting is how long the meditation should last so you can fit your practice to your available time. The meditation has some written instructions. If you are new to mindfulness practice then these are well worth reading.

I use Simply Being when I am pushed for time (as I can use it to do a 5 minute meditation) and when I feel rushed or overloaded and I just want to "settle down" a bit. I have even used it to settle my mind a little before doing more unfamiliar meditations.

Disclaimer: I have only used this app on iOS. I've looked at the Android screenshots and the user interface seems to offer the same features as the iOS version.

Buddhify Classic by 21awake Ltd

Buddhify requires just a little more choice on the part of the user than Simply Being. All the meditations are about 7 minutes long and there are four different kinds. The different meditations are to practice different skills. These are: Stability, clarity, embodiment and connection. Trying each meditation a couple of times will probably give you a better idea of their purpose than the names (although I do think the names are well chosen.) You can also choose the situation in which you are listening to the meditation and again there is a choice of four: At home, walking, at the gym, and being a passenger in a vehicle.

I keep meaning to try Buddhify on public transport but I haven't remembered to do this yet. (I travel most places by bicycle.) I do use this app at home. Sometimes I'll decide which meditation to do once I've opened the app but frequently I'll use Buddhify for a specific purpose and choose the meditation accordingly: Stability if I'm feeling jittery, Clarity if I am having trouble getting in to my day, Embodiment or Connection if I feel too much "in my head".

Note: As with the next app, the meditations download the first time you try to listen to them. I've found that the Buddhify meditations can take several minutes to download, so if you're trying a new meditation then I advise you to start it several minutes before you need it. (You can always pause the meditation if it starts playing before you finish what you are doing.)

Headspace (on-the-go)

Headspace is a course of many meditations. The first 10 are free and should give you an idea of whether the course is for you. The remaining 355 meditations are made available to the app by subscribing through the website. Last time I looked, an annual subscription was easily the most cost effective and discount offers are occasionally available. The meditations are organised in a set of series that concentrate on different aspects of mind. They are designed to build on each other so the app's interface encourages doing them in order rather than dipping in and out.

Headspace was the first mindfulness app I used and I still use it today. Sometimes the relentless progression to new techniques becomes overwhelming and I return to using familiar meditations from other apps for a while. I always end up returning to Headspace. Every meditation seems to be individually recorded so that I am less likely to start "tuning out" the meditation than I am with other apps. Headspace also provides a feeling of progression which I sometimes find rewarding.

Justin Hellings

I'm a geek in a world that insists on being irrational and a greenie in a society that insists on speeding towards its own destruction. There's some work to be done here. Nah, let's go snowboard. Woo!



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