Testing Out Mindfulness

Mindfulness is in. What began as a form of Buddhist meditation has now been picked up by the mainstream, with even the NHS recommending it as a treatment for mental health conditions. It seems like everyone and their gran is preaching the benefits of switching off and finding your inner peace. So qmunicate challenged 5 of our contributors to take a break from their stressful lives of lectures, essays and making the best magazine in Glasgow. Here they report back on the challenges and benefits of the latest craze in mental wellbeing.

Student life doesn’t come without its stresses, especially on the approach to deadlines and exam season. The practice of mindfulness is one supposed solution to this problem and a variety of apps exist to guide you through it, although I was very sceptical.

The first thing I noticed on my mindfulness journey is that some of the apps cost a little bit of money, which I’d think to be quite fair if the first app I saw didn’t ask for two-hundred-and-thirty fucking pounds for a lifetime subscription. That makes me the exact fucking opposite of stress free.

Anyway, I eventually settled on using “Headspace”, co-founded by Andy Puddicombe, former Buddhist monk and lover of subscription meditation services. Headspace provides 10 starter sessions for free, meant to be done one-per-day to give you a taste of how stress-free your life could become, guided by Andy himself in the form of verbal instructions. Regular sessions beyond the tenth have an additional fee, and separate individual sessions meant for use in certain situations (to deal with a fear of flights, for example) could also be bought.

I settled down on my bed, deciding to sit cross-legged as seems to be the traditional thing to do when meditating. I put my headphones in my ear, and started the first introductory session. The instructions were pretty much exactly as I expected: “relax”, “pay attention to your body”, “breathe like so”, and so on. Apart from the breathing exercise reminding me of something we used to do in my first year of Primary School, I didn’t take a great deal of information in. I wasn’t relaxed at all, and my mind was not particularly clear. My whole take-away from my first session was that I would have felt much more relaxed if I’d just went to sleep instead, which I then proceeded to do.

The app also allows you to set it to notify you every day at the same time to start your session. It automatically sets this time to be the same as when you started at first, and so it was set to around 5:30pm. It turned out this was an awful choice, as at that time I’m either not home yet or I’ve just got home and I can’t be bothered spending 10 minutes sitting still “meditating” when I could be doing literally anything else, like studying, watching TV, or browsing the internet. As a result, the most my daily routine changed for most of a week was that at 5:30pm every day I’d get another notification to ignore.

Eventually I decided to start again but not at the same time every day, just whenever I could be bothered. My initial feeling that I’d hate the experience of mindfulness was validated every time I tried it. No amount of meditation is going to make me less stressed in the face of exams. Wasting 10 minutes on Headspace is just as useless as wasting 10 minutes on YouTube, and at least in the latter case it might make me laugh.

I would not recommend that you bother with mindfulness, but if you’re curious it’s at least good that Headspace offers at least a taste for free. It’s a shame that’s the only positive thing I can think to say about it.

[David McGingley] 

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