Will a mindfulness app help you find bliss?
Technology is changing our lives, no doubt. We can do so many things so much faster than ever before. At the touch of a button I can have dinner delivered to my door, a movie queued up and ready to watch, and even FaceTime friends across the world any time I want.
The mindfulness field is no stranger to technology’s advances either. Endless mindfulness apps exist that claim to help us find bliss. But do these tools really help us as much as they say?
Mindfulness Apps—Useful or Time Suck?
I’ll admit, I have pages of apps on my phone. Several of them are even apps that offer meditation timers, guided meditations, and tracking software. At first glance, these apps make us feel like they’re the missing piece between us and a regular meditation practice. “If only my phone could remind me to get up early and meditate every day,” we think, “and walk me through the whole process. Then I’d finally have my mindfulness practice down pat.” We get caught up in the planning phase, and might even follow along for a few days or weeks, but before we know it, we’re right back to where we started with a few more icons cluttering our phones.
The only thing getting in the way of your mindfulness practice is you. No app can help you with that.
Don’t get me wrong, mindfulness apps have their place. In fact, I often recommend them as a way to maintain your practice. They’re great to help you when you’re out of your regular routine. I use them often when I travel, listening to guided meditations while on a plane or on my Uber ride. But if you have never truly been taught how to meditate and why meditation works, a shiny new app isn’t the answer.
A Distraction for Your Already Distracted Mind?
Mindfulness helps us train our distracted mind, which tends to jump from thought to thought, one minute aware of current circumstances and the next, caught up in a flurry of worries and thoughts based on what happened yesterday or what might happen tomorrow. I can’t tell you how many times I pick up my phone to do something, get distracted by a text or notification, and completely forget why I picked up my phone in the first place. Involving our phones in our mindfulness practice often only serves to push us further from our goal of being mindful, no matter how well-intentioned the app.
Some suggestions to get the most out of your mindfulness practice:
- If you want to introduce mindfulness into your daily routine, take a course or find a local class or meditation teacher. If you were learning to ski or play golf, you would likely find an instructor—mindfulness is no different.
- If you have already taken a mindfulness course and are using an app to help you maintain your practice, be intentional in how you use the app. Use the activation of the app as an opportunity to practice mindfulness and to control your impulses toward distractions. Start by putting your phone in airplane mode to avoid distracting pop-ups, calls and texts. Look for practices that can be downloaded so you can access them while your phone is in airplane mode.
- If a mindfulness course is not an option, look for apps that teach you how and why to practice mindfulness in an intentional way. Understanding how meditation works and what to do when you encounter obstacles in your practice is crucial for success of a long-term practice.
Do you wake up in the morning and reach for you phone to turn off your alarm, but then get sucked into your notifications and end up spending twenty minutes working (or worrying) before your feet even hit the floor? We’re all guilty of it, so you’re not alone. But if you feel the need to create some space in your life to let your mind JUST BE, you’re also not alone.