I’ve been using meditation as a tool to treat and handle my anxiety and depression for awhile now. I wish I were more regular with it, but my practice is kind of sporadic. I’ve been taking a mindfulness class as my local yoga studio once a month. It’s fantastic. I’m learning a lot, trying new kinds of meditation, and being encouraged to continue and expand my meditation practice.
My favorite way to meditate on my own is through guided (as opposed to simply timed) meditations that are available though several great apps. Some are free, some might cost a few dollars (honestly, I can’t remember). Here are my favorites:
Meditation Studio – This app by Gaiam has an elegant design and lots of great guided meditations for $2.99 in the Apple app store (I got it as a free download from Starbucks a few weeks ago). Meditations are organized nicely to help you find one that fits your needs in the moment, and all of the teachers I’ve listened to have been excellent.
Headspace – This app was recommended by the teacher of my mindfulness class, and I already had it on my iPhone. It includes a 10-day free trial, but after the ten days, a membership is $12.99/month (or less per month if you get a yearly subscription), and I just can’t bring myself to pay for it when there are great free apps available. It might be worth checking out though if you like the free content.
Insight Timer – I love this world-wide app. The design isn’t very sophisticated, and it’s a little wonky to search through the multitudes of guided meditations to find the ones right for you, but there’s something awesome about seeing a community of meditators that spans the globe. There are lots of guided meditations available to sort through, a wide variety of “teachers,” and lots of community interaction among the users.
10% Happier – I have recommended this app to my beginner friends, and I continue to use it myself. It is led by news anchor Dan Harris, who learned the benefits of meditation after his own breakdown, and it is aimed at “skeptics” who don’t think they can or should meditate. Explanatory video interviews with the meditation leader Joseph Goldstein are used to introduce each meditation, and a live “coach” is available to chat and help as you begin your meditation practice. This might be my favorite app to use and pass on to friends.
Please comment if you have other meditation tools that help you begin and maintain and grow in your meditation practice.
I’ve always got a big stack of books (or several stacks) laying around, waiting to be read. Historically, I am really bad about actually picking them up and reading them. There are several reasons for this:
I tend to read at night before bed, when I’m likely to fall asleep two sentences in;
Netflix…watching Friends reruns is more relaxing than actually using my brain to take in new information or stories;
I read a lot for my job, so often my eyeballs and brain are tired and not inclined to further use in my free time;
The books I want to read (like the ones in the picture above) serve a purpose beyond mere entertainment…I want to get something out of them, and sometimes I’m just too emotionally exhausted to put in the work.
During a very long solo road trip recently, however, I discovered something I should have thought of long ago: audio books. I figured I would have to be alone but awake and alert for so many hours, I should download some books to listen to as I drove. I’m ashamed to admit that I bought two audiobooks that were already part of my “to-read” pile. I double paid for them (and audiobooks are expensive! Why?), but by gosh, I finally got them read. I listened to Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin and Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg as I drove, and I completely loved both of them. The sense of accomplishment from finally getting two books out of my towering stack feels great, and my enjoyment of these two books has fueled me to keep moving through the stack. I finished the actual paperback version of Daring Greatly by Brene Brown today. I also downloaded the Goodreads app to keep track of what I have read and want to read. It’s so energizing and gratifying to read (or listen to) books of substance and value, rather than just watching endless Netflix loops.
To be sure, there is still plenty of Netflix in my life. But it’s so nice that the simple shift of trying a different reading format has rekindled my desire to read. I’m trying not to buy any more duplicate audiobooks of books that are physically sitting in my stack, but I’m excited to seek out more audiobooks to add to my virtual Goodreads stack. I do have one question though…what is the deal with audiobooks costing 3+ times as much as hard copies?
As I continue to pull myself out of my depression, I’m preparing myself for how to stay healthy and handle the stress of the holidays. My family is no more stressful than most, I suppose, but having everyone in one place brings chaos and occasional skirmishes. Like most families with grown children, we have issues and run-ins, and sharing limited space can be overwhelming. So I have been brainstorming a bit about what I can focus on and enjoy to keep the chaos from interrupting my healthy progress.
So, here are some of the things that make me happy, all year long, and especially through the holidays:
Red lipstick. This is totally a girl thing, but I love makeup, and red lipstick always lifts my mood and makes me feel merry. I’ve been coveting MAC Russian Red for awhile, so I might finally grab a tube and have a new pick-me-up to help me feel festive and put-together.
Yoga. Yoga and meditation have been game-changers for me during my recovery. I feel so relaxed and connected to myself (if that makes sense) when I work yoga into my schedule. If I don’t have time to make it to scheduled classes, I use Apple apps to help me get my practice in. Finding a cozy, quiet spot may be a challenge with a full house, but that’s what the early morning is for. My favorite yoga app is Yoga Studio; my favorite for guided and timed meditation is Insight Timer.
Reading. I’m one who learns by reading, and finding new insightful books has been a huge help in taking back my life the past few months. During the holidays, I think that keeping up the practice of reading a helpful, healthy book for at least a few minutes every night will help keep me focused on my mental health and stability. My current read is Brene Brown’s Rising Strong. I’ve found it so interesting and encouraging, and it dovetails very well with what I’ve been working on in therapy.
Art. Another thing that has helped me “wake up” from my depression has been exercising the artistic right side of my brain. I’ve started drawing again for the first time since high school. It is so soothing and relaxing to focus intensely on something visual and artistic. For Christmas this year, I’ve been working on colored pencil drawings for my family and boyfriend. I love that it’s multitasking: checking off the people on my Christmas list (almost for free!) while doing something that’s so beneficial to my well-being and sense of accomplishment.
Blogging. I’m new to blogging (in case you couldn’t tell, my one reader), and it is therapeutic to put myself and my thoughts out here for others to see. Openness and vulnerability are healing for me, so continuing to blog through the holidays will help me monitor myself and process what’s going on in my life. As the blog progresses, I hope it will focus on more things that I enjoy (makeup, lifestyle, physical health, current events, etc.), in addition to overcoming depression and mental well-being. That’s where I’ve started my blogging, because that’s what is going on in my life right now, so it’s the most authentic thing for me to focus on right now. But as I continue to gain strength and move forward in life, I hope that I can tackle many other topics here.
I’m wishing all people a peaceful and happy Thanksgiving. Let the Christmas decorating begin!