If you’ve been reading my story, and especially the bits around my bus accident, the session with a Life Coach and the day I broke my leg, you’ll know that I’ve been trying to introduce a little more mindfulness into my life. After not having a great deal of luck with books, I found the Calm app, and I would really recommend that you give it a go. A proper go – it’s really worth it.
First thing first, make sure you make time for it!
If, like me, you’ve not done much meditation at all, it can be hard to start off with and keep at it. You have to make it a bit of a habit for yourself, and if you get the app on your smartphone, it has reminders that pop up (unless you turn notifications off) to tell you “It’s time to meditate” – the problem with that is that you might see that pop up in the middle of rushing to school to pick the children up, so it really is up to you to find a time in the day when you won’t be disturbed and that you can totally dedicate to yourself and give meditation a proper go.
Decide on your goals
The app allows you to focus on the 3 areas that are most important to you. You can pick 3 of these:
- Reduce anxiety
- Improve focus
- Increase happiness
- Develop gratitude
- Better sleep
- Learn to meditate
- Build self-esteem
- Reduce stress
Arguably, you just want to pick all 8, right? And I’m sure the 3 you pick probably depend on your mood for the day, but have a go at thinking about what you want to really focus on – I can’t remember what I picked, but they’re all quite good things to want to achieve!
Do you have meditation experience?
The app also tailors the tracks to how much experience you already have, so even if you have a lot more experience than I have, you can say so and still get a lot of value out of the guided meditations. They can be tailored to people with:
- No experience
- Some experience
- A lot of experience
The 3-minute body scan
My first experience with the app was to go through the 3-minute body scan, which guides you through some deep breathing and helps you ground yourself to the present moment. It’s very relaxing!
Create a profile to track your progress
Once you’ve completed a guided meditation, if you want to keep track of how long you’ve meditated for and which days you meditated (hopefully every day), you can then create a profile and track your progress.
Select your relaxing image and your background sound
You have a few ‘scenes’ to pick from:
- Daily scene
- Mountain lake
- Rain on leaves
- Sunset beach
- Silent clouds
And there are LOTS of additional scenes which you can download if you wish to. Both the background image during your meditation and the sound will change, depending on the scene you pick. You may even want to choose what you find more relaxing on a daily basis!
Start The 7 Days of Calm programme
Because I selected ‘no experience’, when I started the introductory mindfulness programme, called The 7 Days of Calm, day 1 was a useful introduction as to what mindfulness is and a guided breathing meditation. This track is only 10 minutes long, but I must admit that it took me 3 takes to complete it all! I kept being interrupted by something, which goes back to my tip of making sure that you pick a time when you know you’re likely to not be disturbed.
Day 2 is about paying attention. Once again, it took me 2 attempts to go through this one! Essentially, this 10-minute track helps you to focus on the breathing, trying to get you into the habit of acknowledging your thoughts but letting them drift away. I felt so relaxed while focusing on my breathing with my eyes closed that I nearly fell asleep!
The Day 3 meditation is a body scan. The voice helps you to go through (mentally ‘scan’) all your body parts and focus on the sensations you feel. I’ve tried body scan meditations before, and I tend to always register ‘blanks’, i.e. a lack of sensation. You’re not meant to judge the sensations, so I’m ok with a blank, but I just wonder why that is.
I do wonder ask myself whether it’s to do with the face that I’m so new to meditation and have not really done it before that I am ‘out of touch’ with my body? And therefore whether the more experienced you become, the more sensations you become aware of when you ‘scan’ through your body. Or maybe it’s to do with the fact that during the body scan my body feels relaxed and ‘happy’, and therefore I can’t pick up any particular discomfort? I’m just curious about this.
Day 4 is about working with thoughts. The track explains that your mind needs training, a bit like the muscles of your body needs training in the gym – the mind has to be trained at letting thoughts go.
In the 10 minutes I was trying to focus my mind on my breathing and purposely letting go of any thoughts that popped into my head, I couldn’t help but notice just HOW MANY things popped into my head in such a limited amount of time! Can you imagine what your mind goes through during a whole day? No wonder we feel tired in the evenings! And this was me trying to focus on the breathing – acknowledging the thought and gently coming back to my breathing. Imagine when you’re NOT trying, and just let your mind go from one thing to the next, as it naturally does – imagine the clutter in our minds!
Day 5 is about returning to the here and now, and the track talks about the importance of stillness and non-doing to allow ourselves to heal and recharge, to avoid feeling exhausted and burnt out and overwhelmed. This was the first time I tried doing the meditation sitting on a chair with your back straight (as always advised). During the previous sessions I had been lying down, and I wanted to see if sitting straight made a difference to the experience.
Something I noticed during this track is that when the voice was silent (and not guiding me through the breathing), I still sat still with my eyes closed, but I became completely unaware that my mind had wondered! I totally forgot to bring it back, until the voice reminded me of what I was meant to be doing – bring my mind back to my breathing!
The funny thing about meditation for me, I find, is that yes, I acknowledge thoughts, and I’m happy to bring my focus back on the breathing (unless I forget I’m meditating!), but in a way, it’s almost like I want to ‘pin that thought down’. It can go for now, but I need to make sure that I remember it later because it’s often something that I need to do and therefore needs to go on a to-do list somewhere!
Does this happen to everyone or just me?
The Day 6 of Calm is about patience. The track explains that cultivating patience during meditation practice helps this quality become more natural to us in daily life, and in particular in helps to respond to situations with compassion, rather than just reacting. Don’t we need plenty of this, especially as parents? And I find that this is true in meditation practice as well as in life – as human beings we tend to become very easily frustrated when we’re faced with mistakes and failures, and we don’t offer ourselves much compassion or kindness.
The track introduced a technique to help with keeping the focus on the breathing – you count ONE as you breathe in and count TWO as you breathe out. I really enjoyed this session, but once again, I still found myself getting ‘itchy feet’, wanting to pin thoughts down on a to-do list rather than letting them go completely.
Finally, day 7 is about awareness. The track talks about the fact that as we go through our daily lives, we are unaware of what goes on in our bodies, thoughts and emotions. We tend to carry out daily activities like eating or walking to a knowns place very ‘mindlessly’ – how many times do we find ourselves on ‘auto-pilot’ and not sure how we got somewhere because our mind was somewhere else completely?
Awareness is described as freedom – freedom to change. So the track goes through another body scan and invites you to register the sensations you experience, with no judgement. It invites you to bring patient, non-judgemental awareness to your practice, sensations and emotions, and it reminds us that the more awareness we bring to our lives, the more freedom we have to make choices.
So what’s next?
Oh, there’s plenty more.
I now need to try the other programmes available on the free version of the app. For example, the ‘Body Scan’, ‘Loving Kindness’, ‘Calm Light’, ‘Forgiveness’ and ‘Sleep Stories’. There are various guided meditation time options for each of these, and I’m looking forward to trying them out.
The free version of the app also has unguided meditations available (i.e. where there is no voice guiding you through it). These are either timed (you have 13 timed options here, ranging from 1 minute to 8 hours) with a bell ringing at the end, or open-ended meditations with an option to have bells playing at regular intervals (every 2 minutes, 5 minutes etc.) to remind you to stay present, just in case your mind wandered off, and you forgot to bring it back!
Or you can subscribe to the paid version of the app and pay:
- £7.80 per month on a monthly subscription
- £2.68 per month on a yearly subscription
- £269.99 as a one-off for a lifetime subscription
Programmes that become available if you subscribe are:
- 21 Days of Calm
- 7 Days of Managing Stress
- Seven Days of Focus
- 7 Days of Calming Anxiety
- 7 Days of Sleep
And many many others, including ‘Calm Kids’, sleep stories and meditation for kids. I’m quite intrigued by the ‘locked’ programmes, I must admit. But before deciding whether I want to subscribe or not, I want to try out the other free ones and become a bit (a lot, actually) better at doing this on a regular basis, otherwise I’ll end up paying for something I don’t do.
I have also tried other apps for mindful meditation – you can see my review of the Welzen app here or head over to my blog post with my top 3 recommendations for mindfulness meditation apps.
Did you try the Calm app? Are there any other Apps that you’ve tried for guided meditation or living more mindfully? Make sure you pop them down in the comments please, and I’ll go check them out! Thanks!
**Please note, this is NOT a sponsored post. I was not asked by Calm to write this review. All recommendations and opinions expressed in this post are my own.