Practicing mindfulness with technology: does it work?


3 years ago, I was told to meditate because I was stressed. Like many people today (1 in 4 in the US, 1 in 2 in France), I was suffering from workplace anxiety. Overworked and constantly tired, I decided to have a go at mindfulness. 

Indeed, research says that meditation is good for your body and your brain, and my father swears by it. As a buddhist and entrepreneur, he has been practicing for 20 years. My method is different than his: I cannot wake up at 5 am every day to meditate in my beautiful garden in the countryside. Instead, I turned to technology to teach me how to be mindful.

The power of white noise

My first concern with meditation was noise. I was living in a big European city, which meant that noise was everywhere. If I tried to meditate in the morning, I could hear the sound of waste collectors and commuters and neighbours taking a shower. If I tried in the evening, I could hear the sound of bars and people walking and my own boyfriend cooking in the kitchen.

Of course, even in a remote area, you can never really be in blissful silence. Meditation is actually about noting the noises around you, instead of reacting to them. I knew that; I had read it online by searching “how to meditate with noise around you” on Google. Knowing it didn’t help, though.

I found help with white noises – fuzzy, relaxing sounds made by mixing different frequencies together. There are several tracks on Spotify, so I selected this playlist, chose the first one and played it on repeat. It was incredibly helpful. The sound erased every other. I was finally able to close my eyes and focus on my breathing.

If you tend to be easily distracted by your surroundings, look up white noises on Spotify or YouTube and put on your headphones. This will help you retrieve your calm and focus. 

Regarding meditation apps

Then, I searched online for meditation apps and found Headspace. “We like to think of meditation as exercise for the brain”, the website explained. I was interested in the idea of having a teacher, and training mindfulness as a skill. I signed up for the 30 days free trial and started the “Basics” pack.

For 3 months, I listened every morning to the voice of Andy Puddicombe, the British co-founder who narrates the sessions. Once I had finished learning the basics, I started the pack on “Managing Anxiety”. The app is great, however the price is relatively high: $12,99 per month. When I went back to university to start a Master’s degree, I decided to cancel my subscription. I felt that I had enough experience and knowledge to be able to meditate on my own.

If you are a beginner, subscribe to meditation apps like Headspace or Calm. They will add structure, focus and purpose to your practice of meditation.

The benefits of journaling

Did you hear about the 100 days of productivity challenge? The premise is simple: each day, for 100 days, you publish a post or picture on social media (usually on Tumblr) to show how productive you have been. The smallest tasks count – from doing your laundry, going to the gym, but also working towards that big goal at work or in your studies. It’s a great way to keep yourself on track. After a while, you can reflect on your posts to see how much you have accomplished.

Keeping a journal has tons of benefits for your mind, but it is often difficult to implement in your daily life. Writing on a piece of paper takes time, and you cannot do it everywhere – unless you want to bring your journal with you. That is why I started this challenge on Tumblr, because I could use my phone all the time. Looking back at my daily posts, I can see how productive I was during my studies.

Give the #100daysofproductivity challenge a try, even if it is only for yourself (no need to post on social media). The exercice is a great one for those who lack motivation in their long-term goals. 

Other great resources on mindfulness and meditation:

“Meditation for Real Life” is a series published on The New York Times. Each article is a guide on how to be mindful in every situation imaginable – while grocery shopping, in an argument, when your flight is delayed or while eating chocolate.

“The 52 Lists Project” is a book written by Moora Seal that allow you to create 52 lists, one for every week of the year, to nurture self-development and self-expression. It’s wonderful for those who are interested in journaling, but don’t know where to start.

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