This is a great time to think about keeping ourselves healthy in body and mind (and through the connections between them) as we begin a new year. Over the years, I have dabbled in meditation informally through audio guides, etc, but I have been thinking I want to step it up and make it more of a regular habit. I am impressed by recent news I have read on the benefits of meditation, and how it not only relaxes us, but can improve performance on cognitive tasks and actually change the structure of the brain. SLPs have other reasons to be interested in meditation besides our need for stress relief. First of all, it often involves a focus on the breath that we should be particularly good at, being educated in the anatomy and physiology of speech production. Additionally, I for one am fascinated by the overlap between Zen principles and those of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), with both espousing mindfulness, self-talk, and focus of thought on positive avenues. These are tricks we can afford to learn a lot more about in order to coach our clients with anxiety and autism spectrum disorders.
Now to the iOS part. We are also hearing a lot about the negative influences of technology in terms of our always being "connected" and not really present in our daily lives and with people we should be attending to. I definitely struggle with this too. However, technology can be what we want it to be: an overwhelming presence, an assistant, or even absent. I do tend to consider apps as helping me solve problems these days, so I was happy when Lifehacker positively mentioned buddhify (iPhone/iPad, $2.99) and I wanted to share it with you. I naturally was thinking about meditation as being a small, new habit that would not require me to consult a professional or go to someplace with mats, and buddhify indeed lets you give this new practice a try from your device, on the go. Don't be scared by the title, the app does not aim to change your religion or anything.
Instead, buddhify is a kind, very mild and helpful way to explore meditation through short guided audio sessions and a simple interface that allows you to track your "practice."
First, you can pick your location. No, this is not to be done from your car as you don't want to get that relaxed or close your eyes, as is sometimes prompted, while driving. Different meditations are played for each location, and you can then choose what you would like to work on (stability, clarity, connection etc). In some cases, you are given a choice of short vs. longer meditations and even meditations for "one player" vs. "two player." I have been using the app for a few weeks and the sessions are of good quality (though not of unlimited variety, as they are meant to be repeated and practiced) and comparable to other audio products I spent more money to buy. I have definitely found myself feeling calm after a quick session, and skills you learn can transfer to other situations, such as that middle-of-the-night head-jog you'd rather avoid.
The app has the additional benefit of allowing you to "check-in" and track how you are feeling, as well as keeping track of the regularity and continuity of your meditation through a "dashboard."
Buddhify is definitely worth checking out if you are interested in progressing through the new school year in a calmer, gentler fashion!
Author's note: Author is not actually a basket-case, as might appear from references to nervousness and head-jogs.