Many of us will have started 2019 with the ambition of making a change in our lives, and while cutting back on chocolate is great, taking up a skill like mindfulness could be a whole lot more rewarding.
Mental health charity Mind found that 1 in 6 people in England experience a common mental health issue such as anxiety or depression every single week. While mindfulness certainly isn’t a cure for these, Rachel Boyd, Information Manager at Mind said that it can still be a powerful tool in keeping ourselves mentally healthy and happy.
“Research has shown that practising mindfulness can help to manage mild depression, some anxiety problems and other common mental health conditions,” she explained.
Here are five simple ways in which technology can help you practise mindfulness.
1. Start a digital detox
We love our smartphones, in fact a recent report by Ofcom revealed that we check them around every 12 minutes. Constantly being connected is great, but it’s important to switch off every now and again.
Both Google and Apple now have powerful tools that can show you the apps you use the most and then set limits on the apps you think you need to cut down on.
Instead of an app, Apple users have a new built-in feature called Screen Time that’s found in Settings and is included with the latest software on your iPhone or iPad.
2. Create a daily wind-down schedule
Switching off after work can be difficult, and in fact a report by the CIPD states that two-fifths of us check our work emails at least five times after we’ve left the office. Creating a wind-down schedule before bed will help you detach from work and in turn help you get a good night’s rest.
Both Google and Apple devices have features that can help you ditch your phone before bed while also alleviating the stress on your eyes when you do use them. The Digital Wellbeing app for Google lets you set a Wind Down routine that’ll make the screen colours warmer at night and then go black and white before bed. You can even block certain apps - social media or games, for instance - that you're guilty of getting sucked into using before bed.
For Apple users the Bedtime feature within the Clock app can set a reminder to help you know it’s time to start winding down and will then automatically activate Do Not Disturb so you don’t get any notifications as you're nodding off. Additionally, a feature inside Screen Time called Downtime will block certain apps.
3. Get some insta inspiration
Becoming more mindful of yourself and your surroundings isn’t something you can just learn from a textbook (although there are some great books on the subject). How we practise mindfulness, whether it's breathing exercises, a repetitive hobby that allows you to switch off or just going for a walk, varies from person to person.
Social media can actually be a great resource, whether you follow inspiring people or just enjoy an account that helps you switch off from what’s going on around you. Author and presenter Fearne Cotton’s Instagram account is a brilliant place to start, filled with tips on mindfulness and self-care.
If you’re just looking for escapism, look no further than Humans of New York which chronicles the lives of the city’s population. For a wider world view, the National Geographic Instagram account provides a humbling sense of perspective by introducing you to fascinating stories from every corner of the globe.
Photo by @michaelchristopherbrown | Our baby Poppy arrived two weeks ago today. She is a healthy and present baby and we are so thankful! As a former semi-nomad now first-time father, the meaning of words like home, family and love has began to shift to something deeper. “Heart surgery,” as my partner calls it. Happy new year from our family to yours 🎈
4. Learn how to meditate
At the core of mindfulness is meditation, but as Rachel Boyd from Mind explains, it’s not the kind of meditation you might expect. “Mindfulness has its roots in Buddhism and meditation, and people might believe that they have to be spiritual to use it, but you don’t need to hold any particular beliefs.”
The best way to learn the basics is through an app and there are two clear frontrunners in the form of Headspace and Calm. Both are free to download for iPhone or Android phones although they do offer premium subscriptions.
Headspace focuses purely on meditation techniques while Calm is more of an all-rounder giving you bedtime stories (yes, for adults), gentle stretches to help you stay limber and of course meditation techniques.
5. Music - and more - to your ears
A great way to unwind and disconnect yourself from the world is by literally closing it off around you. Whether that’s with a podcast, audiobook or a piece of music, the act of listening can allow you to shut off from the outside world.
One of the most relaxing podcasts you’ll find is the BBC’s Desert Island Discs, in which Kirsty Young and her successor as presenter Lauren Laverne interview guests from Tom Hanks to astronaut Chris Hadfield about their fascinating lives.
Next up is Reasons to be Cheerful, in which Ed Milliband and Geoff Lloyd talk to smart thinkers around the world. Whatever your political leanings, this podcast is purely and simply about being inspired.
Finally there’s Sleep, an 8.5-hour album of music created by acclaimed composer Max Richter for one purpose: to help you sleep. It’s a masterpiece of slow-moving, beautifully layered sounds that evolves throughout the night.