Will you take the 1% challenge? Practice mindfulness for 1% of every day over the next month — here are seven meditation apps to help you on your way.
Can you commit to 10 minutes of mindfulness a day? That’s 1% of the 17 hours and 40 minutes that the average senior executive is awake per day. Most of us spend more than 10 minutes a day on social media or watching TV, yet we often struggle to invest that amount of time in managing our minds.
Perhaps you feel that you have too much going on to focus on mindfulness for 10 minutes. I would argue that you have too much going on not to do so. Research has shown that people only get the full benefits of mindfulness if they practice it for at least 10 minutes a day, over a minimum period of one month. It’s like gym workouts for your brain: the more you train, the better the results.
What are the benefits? In their book Altered Traits, the University of Wisconsin neuroscientist Richard Davidson and the psychologist Daniel Goleman used gold standards for medical research to sift through thousands of studies on mindfulness and meditation. In the studies that proved solid, they found that mindfulness leads to stronger focus and staying calmer under stress.
These studies have shown that the brains of those who meditate are less likely to jump into defence mode — be it flight, fight or freeze. Their amygdala, which sets off this reaction when it perceives a threat, has become less trigger-happy.
Whenever our amygdala acts up, it signals to the prefrontal cortex — the executive part of the brain that controls attention, problem solving and decision making — to shut down. But mindfulness calms the amygdala. This allows our prefrontal area to operate more effectively, so we can focus our attention and make better decisions.
What matters more to you: managing your to-do list, or managing the quality of your mind and the ability to focus effectively? Are you inspired to do the 1% challenge? The benefits ripple out from your meditation and start to permeate your everyday life.
One of the easiest ways to practice 10 minutes of mindfulness a day is to subscribe to an app for it. Find one that resonates with you: some like a variety of different people guiding the meditations, whereas others like the constancy of the same person.
Here are seven that my clients really like:
eMindful The most interactive, with three live meditations per day, led by experienced teachers from America and Europe (including me!). Despite large corporate memberships in America, eMindfulness is still relatively unknown in Britain. (Free two-week trial, then $7.99 a month; emindful.com)
The Mindfulness App Its Swedish founders, the yoga instructors Martin Wikfalk and Magnus Fridh, previously worked for the United Nations and Universal Music respectively — and their premium library is similarly international, with more than 200 practices by leading global meditators. (Free one-week trial, then £3.50 a month; themindfulnessapp.com)
Insight Timer Rated the top free meditation app, this community of more than 3,200,000 meditators connects you with others on the same path. Mindfulness is but one subsection among a wide array of faith origins and practices. Its library of more than 5,000 guided sessions and 1,500 teachers is like a buffet for the mind, but is not curated so can feel overwhelming. (Free; insighttimer.com)
Headspace Used by the actress Emma Watson, diver Tom Daley and entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, Headspace is now a $250m Californian business. Andy Puddicombe, a British sports science dropout who became a Tibetan Buddhist monk, leads all the sessions in a friendly, secular style. Choose from courses on everything from stress to sleep, tracks for experienced meditators, and a suite for children. (Free trial includes 10-session “basics” pack, then £9.99 a month or £71.99 a year; headspace.com)
Calm Michael Acton-Smith, the entrepreneur behind the hit computer game Moshi Monsters, co-founded Calm after nearing breaking point. Besides guided meditations of 3 to 25 minutes on themes including loving-kindness, forgiveness and gratitude, it also has calming music and sounds (think crackling fires or falling rain). A popular feature is its 60-plus fiction bedtime stories for adults, told by the likes of Stephen Fry. (£9.99 a month or £35.99 a year; calm.com)
Buddhify Meditate on the go with 4- to 30-minute sessions for every part of your day — whether you’re travelling, going to sleep or even using your phone. Creator Rohan Gunatillake started meditating while studying chemistry at Oxford; then founded the app while working as a business consultant. He now runs it full-time from Glasgow with his wife, Lucy, who is the lead female voice among the diverse teachers on Buddhify. (£4.99 single payment; buddhify.com)
Stop, Breathe & Think Stands out for its assessment tools: you rate how you feel physically, mentally and emotionally, and the app recommends a few meditations to suit. (Free version includes more than 30 meditations; £9.99 a month or £54.99 a year for another 50 or so premium meditations; stopbreathethink.com)