3 Free and Easy Resources to Make Meditation Fit Your Life
By Enike Kadar, PT, DPT
Meditation has become a more mainstream and less “woo-woo” part of optimizing health and wellness.
To be completely honest, I didn’t always find it helpful and didn’t feel like prioritizing sitting still would do anything but give me anxiety about all the things I wasn’t doing.
That is, until I started hearing more and more people attribute their stress management, incredible focus, and success as high performers to the simple habit of meditation. (You can find a detailed summary of evidence on the positive effects of meditation and mindfulness at www.apa.org/monitor/2012/07-08/ce-corner.) I gave it a chance and tried a bunch of different things, drank the proverbial Kool-Aid, and now meditating every day keeps me more focused and less anxious than ever before.
As health care providers, we are not immune to the effects of mental, physical, and emotional stress that we are often helping our patients navigate. If anything, as people who spend their days pouring energy into others, I’d argue that we are more vulnerable to the negative effects of stress (you can’t pour from an empty cup!). This holds doubly true now as uncertainty and new challenges emerge in every area of our lives, while we also navigate adult acne from our PPE. “Meditation is not my thing” is something I hear often. The internet, smartphones, and apps have become the “Holy Grail” resource for all things meditation, and it can quickly become overwhelming. There’s almost too much choice.
Where do you begin? Guided or unguided? Should you pay for an app? How much time do you need? I’ve come to find there is no “right” or “wrong” to it. This goes for every other aspect of healthy lifestyles, so why not apply this principle to meditation too? I’m all about finding tools that work for you, on your terms, in whatever form you like the best.
As a budget-conscious kind of person, I’m also all about finding tools that don’t cost much and hold my attention. When it comes to meditation I need to feel engaged but not so calm that I fall asleep (unless, of course, that is my goal). It has to be just right. Over the years I’ve found what work best for me and created a master list for you from my experience. Here are my top free meditation resources and why I love them!
This is my recent go-to and favorite. It is streamlined, simple, and made by the same people who designed Zero, the intermittent fasting app. If you’re the kind of person that gets overwhelmed by a lot of choices, this app is for you. You can choose between a meditation, breath work, and sleep recordings as well as courses to guide you if you’d like. The amount of time and the background sounds are all customizable, too. I personally love the Guided Breath for sleep – it starts off with breath work to calm your central nervous system then continues playing your music of choice as you fall asleep.
One of the few meditation apps whose free version offers a decent amount of variety and options. Headspace gave me a solid intro to meditation with their Basics course using short, 10-minute sessions. It also offers Sleepscapes and meditations based on specific topics in the free version. The whole app has a friendly, non-intimidating vibe to it so I refer my patients to it often, especially if they’re skeptical. If you already have a solid meditation practice, you may feel like this app is too basic. And thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, Headspace is offering additional free content in the Weathering the Storm section of their app.
Offering a great variety of guided meditations, walking meditations, guided relaxation, and some with music only.
The Daily Meditation Podcast
This app offers daily, 5- or 10-minute episodes on varying topics that offer insights and self-reflection prior to the actual meditations. I like this when I’m short on time or if I find the topic of the day particularly interesting.
The Meditation Podcast
This app uses binaural sounds that are said to change your brain waves. Some may find the sounds unpleasant but I got used to them. There’s a greater selection on their paid app, but the few they release on the podcast channel are really good.
These videos are unguided and often labeled as study or deep-focus sounds. I use these as background noise for an unguided meditation and just set my own timer. A good option for experienced meditators or as background music for some deep breathing.
Sometimes I’ll just type in the amount of time I have + the type of meditation I want (e.g., “5-minute meditation morning”) and get a few hundred results. However, these kinds of customized searches offer a good, quick way to find exactly what you’re looking for (if you’re picky like me!).
Enike Kadar, PT, DPT DPT is a traveling physical therapist in upstate New York. She can be reached at Instagram/Twitter/Facebook: @holisticdpt.