The Merit Club Gets Mindful: The Best Apps to Help Your Wellbeing

Noticing we’ve drifted away is the first step to coming back.
— The Calm App

What even is "mindfulness"? 

In line with our Meditation & Mantras series, we wanted to investigate a little further how we can bring a stronger and more focused sense of wellbeing into our every-day lives. And maybe even succeed in finding more 'mindfulness' along the way. But first, we can't lie, we did have to ask ourselves, what even is 'mindfulness'. What is it you are being mindful about exactly? It sounds great, it sounds very zen, but what does it take to practice mindfulness in every day life and actually know what you're talking about without sounding all airy fairy? 

When you hear the word ‘mindfulness’, you have to understand that it is presence of heart.
— Jon Kabat-Zinn

Founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in 1979.

First of all, we turn to Greater Good Magazine, which defines mindfulness as, 'maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment. Mindfulness also involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them—without believing, for instance, that there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a given moment. When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future.'

Living in the present... don't we do that all the time? But no, the more we think about it, we don't, and that's where mindfulness comes in. It guides us into the present moment. It encourages us to challenge the chaos of our everyday minds, hurtling to and from past events and future plans, and direct our thought waves into the simple present. Here, accepting the present moment, we can check in with ourselves, both mentally and physically about how we are feeling. Practicing meditation allows you to create more space between your thoughts and reactions, so you can figure out what's really going on in your head, what it is that makes you stressed, and how you can curb any annoying or unproductive habits. In this meditative space you can open, clear and cleanse your mind without judgment. 

As we have discovered in our Meditation & Mantras series so far, there are useful ways to deal with distraction, methods to concentrate on your breathing, good times to meditate and favourable places to practise. However, if you are looking for that little extra push, there are some really useful apps that will guide you with your practice, break up the silence of your room, and motivate you to keep going with meditation every day, even if it is just 3 minutes! We've tested them out to save you the time and have rounded up the best we can find.

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Headspace: Guided Meditation

Headspace lets you take your meditation practice into your own hands, but with gentle prompts and goals along your journey. Asking you when you would prefer to meditate, it sends you little reminders to fit in your practice, while giving you the chance to choose how long you would like to practice. It's super simple to use and helps with your consistency. You can also discover loads of helpful free sessions targeted for different mindsets, from work and performance productivity to restlessness, pregnancy and relationships. 

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With the Calm app, you can track your meditation practices with a huge range of different sessions to unlock. Pick where you want to channel your energy, from self-care and inner peace to resilience and personal growth, and Calm will set you off on your journey with different series of guided meditation clips to listen to. Struggle to concentrate in silence? This app also offers sounds such as crackling fireplaces, and thunderstorms, to relax your state of mind. We love! 

Just like a bodybuilder lifting weights to build muscle, the more you think positive thoughts, the stronger the part of your brain that allows you to experience positive feelings will become!
— Stop, Breathe & Think
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Stop, Breathe & Think

"At Stop, Breathe & Think, we believe that taking a few minutes each day to feel the calm is as important as regular exercise." And we couldn't agree more. This app is here to help you rewire your brain to make you feel more balanced and encourages you to devote a little bit of time every day to meditative practice, simplifying the process of meditation from the beginning. First up, for example, it asks you a series of questions about how you're feeling and then gives you really useful recommended meditation practices to trial depending on your personalised results. Stopping what you're doing to check in with what you are thinking and how you are feeling; practicing mindful breathing to create space between your thoughts, emotions and reactions; and to think, learning to settle down and strengthen your force field of peace and calm by practising one of the meditations: 3 simple steps to stop, breathe & think. 

Mindfulness helps us stay focused and present when we practice the two kinds of meditation offered in SB&T: Active Thinking, where we intentionally direct our thoughts and imagination to think and feel positively, and Resting the Mind, where we let it all go.
— Stop, Breathe & Think
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This app uses the idea of a pharmacy as its main point of difference, providing you with fast and effective digital "pills" to reduce stress and help you relax; an app where you can build up a "cabinet" of mindful practices. Prescribe yourself a variety of guided courses, from stopping smoking, conquering fears of flying, increasing comfort and focus, to fostering both creativity and confidence. Unlike others, you are given an initial "pill" but will have to pay for other series from around £3.99. First on our list? "Mind of a Genius", prescribed for lateral thinking. 

In the time it takes for you to have a cuppa, you can grab yourself a little peace and quiet; a few quality minutes to really relax while you are being expertly guided to restoring yourself to full capacity.
— Digipill

The mindfulness app

The Mindfulness app gives you the option to begin a five day guided practice and introduction to mindfulness, or to simply use guided and silent meditations from 3 to 30 minutes. There's no fuss with this app, just easy access to a variety of timed sessions. If you're looking for some more guidance, their course is really helpful for beginners, as each day they it focuses on different meditative elements, from the breath, letting go, to sounds, the mind, and appreciation. 

Mindfulness brings ancient wisdom to our modern lives... Research shows that [it] can prevent or reduce the severity of stress-related illnesses, including depression. Studies have shown its positive effects on the immune system, pain, chronic depression, sleep, and anxiety. Mindfulness also leads to increased levels of concentration, tranquility, and a general feeling of well-being.
— The Mindfulness App

Words by Lottie Franklin