Over the last few months, I’ve noticed just how much my mind wanders. Maybe you’ve been here, too: When a comment or question requires your response mid convo, and you have to resort to the lame (and obviously distracted) nod and smile. Naturally, I’d like to blame social media for this lack of attention span. I’ve caught myself thinking more about what my Instagram caption will be than actually experiencing the intensity of my workout or savoring every sip of my Bloody Mary. The first step is realizing you have a problem though, right?
So when my editor asked if anyone wanted to try a new five-minute meditation app, Simple Habit, I quickly raised my hand. (Because I was listening closely that time!)
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This wouldn’t be my first attempt at powering up my mindfulness skills. I occasionally listen to a Buddhify meditation before I go to sleep. I try to eat my dinner at least a few nights a week sans Gilmore Girls — that way I can taste my food without distraction. I’ve also signed up for more yoga classes than ever. But I was ready for some extra tech-spiration.
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Simple Habit: A Meditation App for People on the Move
The idea behind Simple Habit (free on iOS and Android) is, well, pretty simple: Listen to the short, guided meditations throughout the day to gain a calmer, more in-the-moment mindset — aka exactly what I needed to get focused. Founded by an entrepreneur who started meditating to deal with her own work-related stress, Yunha Kim had discovered that a few quick bouts of mindfulness each day tipped her mental scale toward zen.
“At Simple Habit, we believe that starting with just five minutes of daily meditation is the easiest entry point into a lifelong meditation practice,” she says. “One common mistake beginner meditators make is setting the bar too high — like committing to 30 minutes of meditation every morning.” While an admirable goal, she says, it’s easy to miss a day and get discouraged.
I was in that same boat, only able to get through a lengthy meditation when fully submerged in a studio setting. But a five-minute solo session? Totally doable, I thought. Here’s what I learned after trying the app for a little over a week.
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5 Things I Learned from Using a Meditation App
1. Scheduling a meditation really helps you stick to it.
I knew I wanted to try to meditate for at least a few consecutive days to feel the effects. But with a busy day at work, followed by events and sleepiness, I made it to whopping Day Three before messing up my plan. And that’s mostly because it just slipped my mind. (Have you sensed the distracted theme yet?) The next day I decided that I’d add “meditate!” to my calendar every morning for the next seven days, and I could adjust on the fly if I wanted to listen to the app on the way to work or after leaving the office. Lesson learned: Actually having a wellness-boosting task on the schedule — complete with reminders — will get you to do it.
2. A midday mindfulness sesh can boost productivity.
In Simple Habit’s “on the go” feature, a wheel of meditations lets you choose based on the activity you’re doing — commuting, walking, etc. I chose “at work,” which opened up a few more options from which I selected “improve focus.” (Within the work category, you can also opt for “lunch break,” “stressed,” “frustrated” or “work break.”) I sat in a small conference room to listen. While it took me a minute to get over my fear that someone would see my eyes closed and think I was sleeping, I quickly pressed play and settled into my five minutes of peacefulness. A voice with an Australian accent told me to roll my shoulders down, relax and tune into how my hands felt. Concentrating on just one sensation certainly helped bring me into the moment.
Without the distraction of emails, Slacks or chats gone wild, I did manage to walk out of the room ready to take on the next task. (Hint: writing this story.) While I don’t think that calm and concentrated vibe lasted through the remainder of the day, it was definitely a welcomed break. And confessional side note, I didn’t really get over the fear of a co-worker thinking I was sleeping. So I did this one with my eyes open. Picture the possibilities if I had them closed.
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3. You can meditate anywhere, even on your morning commute.
I can’t even imagine just how lovely the New York City subway would be if everyone listened to a meditation while on it. Just think of the benefits of stepping onto the train to de-stress!
That’s precisely what I did on day two of testing this app — as soon as I got on the subway, I popped in my earplugs to meditate. While most people read or play music to pass the time, the app forced me to stay in the moment. I listened as the voice in my ear instructed me to observe the sounds, sights and smells around me. It’s certainly tough to tune into everyone and everything you encounter on your morning commute, but it’s probably one of the most effective ways to learn to focus on the present. I plan to practice en route to work more often, even if that opens my eyes to more subway shenanigans.
4. Not all guided meditations are the same.
As mentioned, this app offers different categories for various meditations. Besides work and commute, you can choose one for sleep, the morning, a tough day, a big event, walking and more. For each of those categories, comes more subcategories that practically called my name: Mallory, are you restless? Want to improve your mood? Feeling under the weather? We have the magic formula, just click here.
I wanted to hear what all of these meditations sounded like. So I ended up listening to two of the audios on some days. For example, I’d tune in while walking to the subway in the morning, when I’d pay attention to how my body was moving and observe the environment around me. Then I’d listen again before I went to bed, when I concentrated more on my breath. With so many options, it’s easy to find a meditation you like or one that better fits your schedule.
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5. Meditation is the best way to get out of bed.
…especially for non-morning people, like me. Even if I go to sleep at 10 p.m. and only need to get up around 7 a.m., I still have a tough time crawling out of the covers. A quick post-snooze mindfulness session changed the game, though. Taking five minutes to listen to Simple Habit before jumping to my feet basically put me on cloud nine and let me float through the morning. In other words, stay in bed for a few extra minutes tomorrow and try it. Day, made!
Want to try Simple Habit? Download it for free on iOS and Android devices. It also has additional in-app purchases for more guided meditations.