Tune out by plugging in.
As a mindfulness consultant, lawyer, yoga teacher, social entrepreneur and longtime lover of my bevy of Apple products, I am always on the lookout for the latest apps that enhance the productivity, creativity and bliss factors of my life and work. And as mindfulness becomes a hot topic in the innovation space, more and more software that combines cutting-edge technology with modern mindfulness is available, melding plugging in with unplugging. So for your yogic pleasure, here are four simple tools I enjoy:
GPS For the Soul:
GPS for the Soul (free for iPhone, iPad and Android) is the Huffington Post’s answer to combining technology and stress reduction, a great passion of Arianna Huffington’s, as she is on the vanguard of the “Digital Health Revolution.” If you do nothing else, this app tells you once a day to check in with yourself. Often, that daily check-in is enough to remind me to take a deep breath, relax and refocus. GPS for the Soul also has a built-in sensor to gauge your emotional state, which is another useful tool for tuning into your stress levels, especially if you are into activity tracking technology trends, AKA “quantifying the self,” but are not quite willing to commit to around-the-clock monitoring and wearable tracking gear.
If you want to go beyond a check-in or stress sensor reading, you can launch a guide from a myriad of choices, from a breathing exercise with Dr. Andrew Weil to a meditation with Mirabai Bush. The app also has a hypnotic visual breathing pacer and some lovely nature scenes and musical selections. You can even go social and see your friends’ activity or your own previous check-in results.
This app has a lot of variety, expert cameos and snazzy features, and you can customize it to your taste. Support the HuffPost’s efforts to bring more serenity and naps into our lives and give it a try.
f.lux (free for Mac OX and Windows) adjusts the lighting of your computer screen to match the time of day, allowing you to move more in concert with natural rhythms, which has many advantages for your well-being. You can customize your night lighting (candle is lovely), brightness and transition speed, and you can also disable it for an hour at a time (and you may always brighten your screen back up).
I am a f.lux fan because it’s a gentle reminder that it’s time to dim the lights and transition to night time, especially if I have been so immersed in work that I have lost track of time (my screen actually dimmed as I edited this article). It’s not that I shut off my computer as soon as the lights go down, but I do find myself being more conscious of the cadence of daylight and more attuned to whether I need a break, a brief look away from the screen to rest my eyes, or whether it’s time to start unwinding.
As technology and harsh lighting at all hours become more pervasive, our natural sleep cycles are being thrown off, and we are becoming more disconnected from nature and our inner worlds. And staring at bright computers at night has been linked to lowering our melatonin levels, which are important for regulating our internal clocks and sleep cycles. This software is a pleasant reminder to become more quiet at night and more energized in the morning, leading to more productivity, better sleep (which is crucial to our health) and a healthier balance between connection and disconnection.
While you are at it, adjust your iPhone and iPad brightness settings at night too.
Insight Timer is my current favorite meditation timer for its simplicity, authentic array of bell chimes and the ability to connect with other meditators around the world. Set your desired duration and bell and you are ready to rock. You can save your presets and meditate with friends or even make new meditation buddies, bringing a sense of global community to your practice. And social accountability adds a layer of commitment that helps make new habits stick.
This app also has a journal, which is fabulous because I highly recommend writing as part of a mindfulness practice, often integrating it into my seminars. Associating these behaviors makes it more likely that you will do both, and make a routine out of it, especially when you are only asking yourself to take a few minutes out of your busy schedule. Insight Timer makes progressive alarm clock software too.
Try Insight Timer, and notice how you feel. This app brings new meaning to the words of Sharon Salzberg, a great meditation teacher, who said: “Meditation is the ultimate mobile device; you can use it anywhere, anytime, unobtrusively.”
Buddha’s Brain is Dr. Rick Hanson’s app based on his book by the same name. With over 50 simple contemplative practices, this app is a series of excerpts, complete with “How,” “Why” and “Self-Care” sections, should you wish to delve deeper. Aside from the app’s beautiful icon image, Dr. Hanson provides a lovely counterpart app to his book and blog, where you can read a few sentences and try a simple practice, or learn more at your leisure.
Some of the practices are general commentaries, whereas others offer more active tips and exercises. You can save your favorite practices as well. I love the mix of scientific research, quick breathwork and meditation exercises, along with more involved invitations to look deeper into ourselves. While the pages are a bit wordier than we are used to in the 140 character age, if you want learn more about neuroscience and meditation while also relaxing, check this app out. If you aren’t sure you want to commit, subscribe to Dr. Hanson’s “Just One Thing” newsletter to start.
What mindfulness apps do you use? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
Originally published in the Huffington Post.
Flynn Coleman is a mindfulness consultant, lawyer, yoga teacher, and the founder of SAMYA Practice, an innovative social enterprise that designs mindfulness seminars for organizations and individuals seeking balance and transformation. SAMYA also gives back to local and global communities through its OM for OM initiative. Visit us to learn more about SAMYA Practice or to design your own seminar. Connect with Flynn on Twitter or Facebook.
Asst. Ed: Wendy Keslick/Ed: Brianna Bemel
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