The world it seems, is moving faster than ever. Technology is growing at an unprecedented rate and most of us never really seem to switch off. But does it have to be all bad or can technology be put to good use when it comes to slowing down? Sophie Benson investigates
While we are almost in February already, the weight of expectation from the New Year still feels heavy – there’s the expectation to work harder, be more productive, workout more, achieve more and do more. With all that pressure to improve hanging over our heads, it can feel like we’re trying to start a marathon from two miles behind the start line.
But after so much effort to better ourselves exerted every January, are those goals and resolutions doing us any good? Are they really improving our lives, our careers and our health? It seems not. In fact, overloading ourselves could well be contributing to stress becoming the ‘health epidemic of the 21st century’ according to the World Health Organisation.
Work days lost to stress are on the rise and a survey by global risk management and advisory company Willis Towers Watson showed that stress is the number one workplace issue in the Gulf. It seems that adding yet more to our collective plate is counterintuitive; making us ill rather than making us better. Instead of taking on more, let 2018 be your cue to slow down.
If you struggle to put the brakes on life, these are the apps that will provide some breathing space throughout the year.
With over 16 million downloads, Headspace is one of the apps taking mindfulness and meditation to the masses. It’s the brainchild of former Buddhist monk Andy Puddicome whose history uniquely positioned him as the perfect person to spread the manifold benefits of mindfulness.
Simply put, Headspace is a guided meditation app. Puddicome’s voice calmly guides you through the basics of meditation, from breathing to awareness of how you feel in the moment. He acknowledges that it’s a skill to be learned rather than an inherent ability; tactfully removing any sense of frustration when your mind inevitably wanders.
You can try it for free with the basics, after which you have the option to subscribe; a worthwhile investment given the proven benefits of meditation include reduction of stress, better management of depression and anxiety and improved sleep and attention span.
PAUSE came to life when founder Peng Cheng, suffering from severe stress and depression at the time, realised he needed to ‘participate in [his] own healing process.’ Based upon the fluid movements of tai chi, which Cheng practised throughout his recovery, PAUSE is designed to capture your attention to keep you in the moment.
Users simply drag their finger across the phone screen slowly and continuously, encouraged by the lava-like graphics, positive messages and calming sounds. Go too fast, however, and the visual and audio effects will fade away. You are rewarded for staying calm, steady and focused. And it certainly works. The team behind the app tested it by scanning brain activity as subjects used it. It’s been proven to ‘calm the active mind and lower the mental workload.’
Most of us are guilty of using our phones and devices too much. Scrolling through our various apps is a contemporary impulse. Research by the likes of Nielsen, eMarketer and comScore vary somewhat but averages suggest that we currently spend more than four hours per day on our mobiles.
Luckily, Moment is the app set to put a stop to our tech-reliant habits. By tracking your screen time, Moment reveals the cold hard data of just how long you spend on your phone each day, how many times you’ve picked it up and which apps you spend most time on. Armed with the facts you can set yourself time limits, coach yourself to use your phone less and even force yourself off it with an unpleasantly loud, pre-set alarm.
In an interview with the New York Times, developer Kevin Holesh claimed that most Moment users spent an average of 25 minutes less on their phones each day. With attention spans dropping, escaping the grip of our phones is a positive step towards giving our minds a little downtime.
When our schedules are bursting at the seams, exercise is often the first thing to fall by the wayside, despite the physical and mental health benefits. However, with its easy interface and choice of programmes which start at as short as ten minutes, Yoga.com can help you fit a revitalising workout in at any time of day. All you need is a mat, your phone and your apps.
Whether you’re a seasoned yogi or a complete novice, the Yoga.com will fit your ability. Beginners can watch videos for reference, take advice from the instructive narration and check their form against the comprehensive pose base while the more advanced can create their own sequences.
An in-app calendar and a photo community will help to keep you motivated to take time out, set your intentions and hit the mat.
Stay focused and plant trees, both digital and real, with Forest. This clever app helps you fight the urge to answer that email, update your profile or post a photo, by encouraging you to simply be present instead.
Set a timer, plant a seed and, as the clock counts down, watch your tree grow. Leave the app to tend to something else, though, and your tree will wither and die. Slowly, if you manage to defy distractions, your forest will grow.
Not only does this app help you beat the twitch and live in the moment, it also allows you to plant real trees. By partnering with Trees for the Future, Forest allows you to spend your virtual coins on real trees; boosting our environment as you boost your wellbeing. So far Forest users have planted over 220,000 trees and counting.
- Feature image: Mohamed Lammah