Feeling stressed, anxious or just not sleeping?

Molly Pearson, the SU Content Producer, trialled Insight Timer, a free meditation app, to see if would improve her focus and stop her thoughts moving too fast. Here’s how she got on…

MONDAY

I started bright and early with very good intentions. I’d read that it’s better to meditate in the morning when you’re fresh, so after a couple of hours work, I got out my yoga mat and lay down in Savasana.

My meditation app Insight Timer has a very basic mode where you set a timer and it plays any kind of ambient noise (gongs, birds, rainfall etc) in the background while you meditate. I put 20 minutes on the clock and played some ocean waves.

I’d thought I was relatively relaxed, but when I lay down and closed my eyes, I was suddenly aware of all my constituent parts - every joint, every pulse, every gurgle of my body. It started to occur to me that listening to Fujiya & Miyagi beforehand had not been a brilliant idea. I could feel the residue of the music, as it were, making me tingle. I had a bassline stuck in my head and kept wanting to flex my fingers.

Afterwards I tried not to be too disheartened. After all, I’d learnt what not to do before meditating!

TUESDAY

Day 1 had not been a disaster, but it hadn’t exactly been a success. With that in mind I came up with a new plan. Instead of going in cold, I’d do a yoga session beforehand to burn off some energy.

Fuelled by unpleasant memories of myself lying on the mat absolutely pinging the day before, I deliberately chose something fast-paced and demanding. One hour, half of the Ashtanga Primary Series and a lot of sweat later, I turned on my meditation choice of the day.

Seeing as I’d just done yoga, I felt in the mood for a mantra so had a quick search on the app and found a recording of the Mantra of Compassion (om mani padme hum). The tiredness from the yoga worked and afterwards I felt pleasantly chill. Guided meditations were definitely the way forward.

WEDNESDAY

After a full-on day, I didn’t feel up to a full yoga workout and thought it was time to try meditating in the evening. Day 3’s guided meditation was called Deep Healing, by a guy called Davidji who professed to be ‘from the sweet spot of the universe’ and had a super-gravelly, Iggy Pop voice.

The meditation was a body scan, in which you focus on every part of my body and relax them one by one. This was really helpful. I could feel the relaxation spreading and my mind starting to quiet.

‘It’s working! I remember thinking. I’m absolutely nailing this. I’m zen as fu*k!’

I woke fully clothed on the mat with my headphones on at 1.18am. Having fallen asleep without my retainer, my mouth was wide open and the entire left side of my jaw was covered in drool.

THURSDAY

Today I wasn’t feeling a guided meditation, so I decided to mix things up and opt for a 20 minute session of binaural beats.

A binaural beat is produced when two sounds at slightly different frequencies are played simultaneously, creating the perception of a single tone halfway between them. Hearing sounds at very low frequency is meant to create shifts in your brainwaves, boosting relaxation, aiding meditation and helping you to fall asleep.

The music (if you can call it that) was almost parodically trippy. It was also weirdly effective. It might have been psychosomatic, but I immediately tuned into the sounds and the time flew by. I came out of the session feeling like I’d discovered a powerful tool to use against anxiety, stress or sleeplessness.

FRIDAY

Having tried meditation before, I knew it could take a while to get into. But by Day 5 I was actively anticipating the pause and inner quiet of meditation, rather than seeing it as a chore. I began to notice the phenomenon Matt D’Avella describes in a video about his own meditation experiment - the ability to ‘let go’ of repetitive thoughts that were bothering me in my day-to-day life, in the same way that I ‘let them go’ while actively meditating.

Deciding to push myself, I recreated Day - got up in the morning without exercising and set the basic timer for 20 minutes again, this time with gong chimes. It was still difficult, but I was less wired and more accepting of lapses in concentration. They still bothered me a little, in a perfectionistic way, but I didn’t spin out in the way I had initially.

I don’t see myself as someone who is ‘naturally suited’ to meditation. My thoughts move fast and I go off on trains of thought which can be invasive and distracting. But after doing it on a daily basis I’ve started to wonder if the deliberate way of thinking that meditation creates can improve my focus and will definitely continue to experiment with it in the future.

What apps do you use to meditate? Do you any recommendations? Let us know!