30-12-1: January – Meditation, A Retrospective

February is now upon us and since we’ve gone 1/12 of the way around the sun, it’s time to talk about January’s plan and how it went.

For January, I was focusing on Meditation. The goal was to meditate every day and track how I was feeling, what went right and what went wrong.

To be honest, a lot went wrong, but a few things went right.

 

The Apps — Plus My Favorite

None of us are born with an innate ability to meditate. It’s just not a thing we instinctively do. That’s where guided meditation helps.

Most of us can’t make it from one side of town to the other without Waze or Google Maps, and since meditation is a journey, we need the same kind of directions. Fortunately for us modern, app-obsessed people, there are a plethora of Google-Maps-like apps made for guided meditation.

Just like any category of apps, there are good and bad.

Like I outlined in my original post, I planned on trying out several of them to figure out which was the best, and one stood out from the crowd: Calm.

[Image of the calm app here, plus a link to download]

All of these apps shared two commonalities:

  1. A list of guided meditations, usually categorized
  2. Explainer videos to teach you about meditation in general

From there the experiences differed significantly. From the voices, to the background noise (or lack thereof), to the steps they guide you through, each app took different approaches to each.

Voices

When you’re focusing on relaxing, your meditation guide’s voice can make or break the experience.

The wrong sort of voice can take you out of the present moment and distract you. The right voice lulls you into relaxation and allows you to focus.

The two that stood out for me in this regard were Headspace and Calm.

____’s voice in Headspace is a calming, male, British-accented voice. Seeing as this guy spent some time as a monk, it only makes sense his voice is calm and great for guided meditations.

On the other hand, Calm’s guide is a relaxing, American-accented, female voice.

Your gender preference for a guide is a deeply personal choice, so I won’t comment on whether one or the other is better, but for me personally I prefer the female voice. I find it comforting, non-distracting, and soothing. Whether that says something about me, I’ll let you decide.

Satva is an interesting case for an American like me. While the other apps have one or two specific voices on the guided meditations, Satva is a collection of multiple different guides, some recorded live, and most of them by Indians.

We have a senior developer in our company who introduced me to the Satva app. He’s from a town in southern India, and for him the Indian accents and practices are familiar and comforting. For me personally, they were a bit jarring and distracting. I work with many Indians on our team, so I have nothing against the accents, but for this use case, they were distracting to me.

The winner for me on voice is Calm. Your results may vary here.

Background noise

When you’re in a guided meditation, and you’re a busy person, you don’t want to open your eyes to realize you’ve been sitting there for 10 minutes because your phone locked and paused the meditation you were in. You also don’t want to sit through a silent part of the meditation and feel like you have to open you eyes to check whether your phone locked or not.

That’s where Calm’s background noise won me over.

For as good as Headspace’s guided meditations are, there are many periods within a meditation where you’re practicing part of your meditation in silence. For me personally, that’s where my mind would wander to the thought “Is this thing still on?”

Calm, on the other hand, plays your choice of background noises like rainfall, birds, a stream, and more. You can even play those on their own without any meditation as soothing background noise.

My wife particularly loved having these background sounds on at night while we’re reading before sleep.

Satva, since many recorded live, you could hear background noise of the guide breathing, or people in the group shuffling.

 

What Went Right

Is meditation a panacea? Did it turn me into a monk-like master of my emotions, calmly able to deal with anything life could throw my way?

No, not really, but I did notice some great side effects.

On the days I meditated (my compliance was less than perfect, more on that below), I noticed my stress levels were significantly lower. In fact, when things got particularly stressful, or I was feeling more anxious than usual, a quick meditation helped level me out.

A meditation before bed also helped me sleep better.

I also noticed I had a bit more focus during the day and could spend longer times in the “zone”.

These side effects meant I could perform more focused work for longer periods of time, and when I was done with my day, I had less stress in general, which made a better partner to my wife. Win win!

From my personal experience, the side effects from my meditation practice are definitely worth it.

In short, meditation works. At least for me. 

What Went Wrong

Honestly, my compliance was shit. Seriously.

Embarrassingly bad.

According to my Calm app, I meditated a total of 9 days, less than a third of the month. Pathetic.

On the other hand, this taught me something important: I need a trigger; Something to connect my practice to.

That means I need to find something that I do every day already and simply practice my habit before, during, or after that thing.

For example, maybe I practice as soon as I get out of the shower, or immediately after eating lunch.

Connecting a habit, any habit, to something you already do anyway stops you from having to find the time, or all of a sudden remembering at the end of the day that you still need to get your habit in.

 

Will I continue?

Now that this month is done, am I going to continue meditating?

Yes, definitely. But I need to improve my consistency. I haven’t decided what my trigger will be yet, but for now I’m still experimenting with whether meditation is better in the morningn

I haven’t decided what my trigger will be yet, but for now I’m still experimenting with whether morning, afternoon, or evening meditation is better for me. Once I figure that out, I’m going to decide on a trigger and continue meditating through the year.

———–

Now it’s your turn. Have you tried meditation? Did you notice any good effects? Let me know in the comments!

And if you enjoyed this article, please share it on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or email!

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