Living through a global health pandemic is anxiety-inducing. Living through a global health pandemic and losing your job? That's a whole other level of stress. In the UK, the latest data shows that over 600,000 workers were made redundant between March and May 2020. 2.8M people are now seeking work-related benefits – a climb of 126%. Many people have been furloughed, but, with the scheme set to end in October, further unemployment is expected.
Managing this harsh reality is no easy task. One small thing that might help? The Headspace app is offering a free year-long subscription to its library of guided meditations to anyone who is without a role, right now. This includes people who are on furlough. Typically, this would cost £49.99.
Prior to COVID-19, WH caught up with Andy Puddicombe, the co-founder (and voice) of Headspace. Here's his insider tips on getting the most out of your time spent tuning in.
Andy Puddicombe – co-founder of Headspace – is not affecting that lilting inflection that draws you into his mindfulness app and keeps you parked until 20 minutes have elapsed and you feel like a milk-drunk baby who's had her head stroked and is now sufficiently soothed.
No, that's just how he talks. The 46-year-old Bristol native, who now resides in California – the home of Headspace's HQ – spent 10 years living and teaching as an ordained member of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, in a period characterised by silent retreats and endless hours in in reflection.
One legacy of this? A calmness in his speech, that's, doubtless, one reason for the app's astounding popularity (and we mean popularity. Over 42 million people in 190 countries use Headspace. Yeah.)
WH is chatting to Puddicombe thanks to the launch of the app in Germany, an event that's brought him to Europe. Curious as to how he thinks that you can get the most out of the tech, we sat down to tap up his advice.
First off, let's dive into the basics of using the app. Then scroll through for his and WH's pointers.
What you need to know about Headspace, and 9 ways to get more out of the app
Is Headspace free?
Yes. But only up to a point. Gratis, you have access to three basic packages, all of which are comprised of 10 sessions. The first has meditations which you can choose to run from three to 10 minutes, 'basics 2' lets you choose from between 10 to 15 minutes, while 'basics 3' goes from 10 to 20.
You can download and use these as many times as you like. But, to unlock the full library of meditations you'll need to pay £9.99 a month.
There's also a family plan, in which you pay £14.99 a month for up to six people.
Headspace and Spotify: the details
Headspace and music streaming service Spotify have jumped into bed with one another, with a bundle that gives you full access to both the former and the latter. So, fully unlocked Headspace, plus ad-free Spotify. You pay £9.99 a month for the first three, then £14.99 a month after that.
It's all available via the Spotify website.
How does Headspace work?
So. Like we say, you've got your basics, which is a three part pack of meditations. You can then pay to unlock further 'packs.'
These are collections of 30 day meditation courses, which are clustered into specific themes, like 'stress and anxiety', 'personal growth,' and 'movement and sport.'
Said 30 day meditation courses are then more specific. Think: 'managing anxiety,' 'connect with the world' and 'self-esteem.'
Beyond that, there are 'pro packs,' which you can find by tapping into 'meditation essentials' on the navigation bar. Here, you can find challenges, such as how to get comfortable with silence and how to step back from your ego and identity.
Move into the 'day to day exercises' tab, and you'll find one minute snippets on how to engage your senses when you eat, a guide to walking in nature with more mindfulness and lessons in calming yourself down in a stressful moment.
How to get more out of your Headspace
Set your reminders
Before you get going, head into your 'settings' tab then 'notifications' and then tap into 'reminders.'
Here, you can set little alarms to go off at a set time, each day. If you're serious about getting down with zen on the daily, get them in. You'll find it a lot harder to ignore.
If you plan to do your meditation while you're at work, you can also set these reminders to come through to whatever calendar you have installed on your smartphone. Say this is Google Calendar, this can also come through to your desktop, if you're working from one.
Sync up with Apple Health
If you want to see your meditation practice in the context of your wider health and fitness efforts, then accept when the app asks you if you'd like to sync it with Apple Health. You'll be able to see your meditation data alongside your running and your healthy eating regime – spurring you on to keep going.
'Start with basics,' says Puddicombe. 'There's three levels to basics and each level is 10 sessions long. To start, you can choose three, five or 10 minute meditations. Maybe try 10 days of three minutes, if you're a total beginner, and then move onto 10 days of five minutes and then 10 days of 10 minutes.
'It's easy to do 10 days, and then think you've got the basics and to move on,' he explains. 'But I feel really confident that your results will be considerably enhanced if you take time to do basics 2 and basics 3.
'Think of it like fitness: we don't just do four weeks of exercise and say 'I'm done for the rest of my life.' Don't rush.'
If you're using an iPhone, then this is a nifty trick. In the 'settings' bar of your Headspace app, click onto 'Siri shortcuts.' From here, you can give your phone an instruction to respond to a personalised voice command, such as 'let's meditate', by directly starting a fresh meditation exercise.
Repeat your packs
'I really encourage people to repeat packs,' says Puddicombe. 'In the monastery, we were taught to learn, practice and master.
'The first time you do something your intellect is engaged, the next time, you're more familiar and the third time, you can do it while thinking, less.' The upshot? Don't feel like you're not using the app to its full potential, or whatever, if you go back and experience some of those early meditations again. It's a marathon, not a sprint.
Think about your strategy
Not to make this overly clinical, but it's worth reflecting on how best to move through the app. If you do pay to unlock the next set of meditations, then don't get caught up in the 'progression trap.'
'I like idea of doing the basics, then a 30 day pack, [such as 'managing anxiety' or 'movement and sport'] then a pro pack [such as 'getting comfortable with silence'] then another 30 day pack, then another pro pack.
'This allows you to slowly get more comfortable with hard things, like sitting in silence, as well as learning technique,' Puddicombe elaborates.
Make it a routine
Daily meditation is great – and where you're going to see the most juice. But Puddicombe says that 10 minutes, four days a week, is enough to see 'considerable positive results.'
The best way to do this? Being flexible. 'We tend to be very black and white about things,' says Puddicombe. 'And, say we oversleep, we beat ourselves up and then think we've missed out chance to meditate that day.'
A better way to think about it is this. 'Say you were going to do 20 minutes first thing. Getting in 10 minutes in the evening is better than nothing,' – plus, it keeps you on a regular practice rhythm. It's not all or nothing.
Try not to conflate meditation with sleep
Listening to the gentle lull of Puddicombe's voice can be enough to tip you over the edge, if you're meditating in bed at the end of a hard day. There are 'sleep' options in the app, designed to get you to nod off –use those, rather being wildly optimistic about your ability to stay awake.
'You can still get benefits if you fall asleep,' says Puddicombe. 'But being present is more beneficial. I'd say that you're better off getting up 20 minutes earlier and using that time to meditate... keeping sleep and meditation separate.'
Carry your meditation into the rest of your life
'The point of meditation is not so that you get good at sitting still with your eyes closed,' says Puddicombe. 'It's about carrying that state forward into the rest of your life.' Applying calmness in your relationships, when you sit down to eat, in your interactions with your colleagues – that's what this is really about.
Find out more, at headspace.com
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