Meditation: An app a day keeps the doctor away

When journalist Catelijne Elzes was going through a rough patch in her life, she reached for her phone. Her apps for meditation, putting things in perspective and yoga helped her get back on track. She shares them in Issue 36.

The end of my tether

It was ultimately a combination of factors: Two of my closest friends were diagnosed with breast cancer. My sixteen-year-old son came home with three fail grades on his report card and said that he was completely unmotivated at school.

Plus there was all the bad news coming from so many places all over the world. Populist politicians were in power, thousands of desperate refugees were on the run… there were very few things to rejoice over.

I was also having trouble sleeping. I would wake up every hour and a half, toss and turn with worry, then fall back to sleep only to wake with a start again in a panic. Thoughts about what to do about my son, wondering if my friends would recover, worrying about whether the US or North Korea would start using nuclear weapons… they were all racing through my mind.

Everyone goes through hard times now and then, and though I’m no exception, this time I was really at the end of my tether. I was constantly agitated, had no appetite and was in very low spirits all the time. I just wanted to get into bed and bury my head under the covers. But I didn’t, because everyone I knew said this wouldn’t help. So I just kept going.

Racing thoughts

One day, I ran into an acquaintance in the supermarket. I knew that she had just been through a bad period in her life and I asked what had helped her the most. “Therapy and Headspace,” she answered.

I was already in therapy, but Headspace? What was that? All I knew was that it’s a subscription app. She explained that it is just ten-minute meditation exercises with a theme—‘stress’ for example, or ‘sleep’—and that it is worth every cent. You do them every day for two weeks or a month, and my friend said it really helped her—still does, actually.

Once I got home, I downloaded the one-month free trial. I was pleasantly surprised by the design: fresh, light and soothing, with funny, lighthearted animations at the beginning of each series including clear instructions. Topics like, ‘This is how your thoughts race past you’, ‘You’ll start seeing them like cars on the highway that you can ignore’ and ‘This is how visualization works’.

A rock during turbulent times

I took an eight-week mindfulness course once, but I just never managed to free up 30 to 45 minutes every day for the exercises. But with Headspace, the ten minutes of daily exercises were really doable and easy to make time for. Not only were they easy to stick with, they became my everyday ‘rock’ during turbulent times.

Whenever I felt restless or agitated, even in the middle of the night, I would grab my phone and listen to Andy Puddicombe, a former monk with a loving, warm and cheerful voice. You could almost even hear him smile sometimes during the intro or at the end of a meditation exercise. Listening to him is soothing and helps me put things in perspective. I have been a paying subscriber for six months now and yes, it’s worth every cent. In short: I’m a fan.

  • You can read Catelijne’s full article on meditation apps in Issue 36.
  • Find the Headspace app here.

Text Catelijne Elzes  Photography Léa Jones/Stocksy united