Headspace’s co-founder reveals *exactly* how we should be meditating to improve our mental health

Andy Puddicombe learnt to meditate at 10, spent 10 years of his life as a Buddhist monk and now he is putting his work into practise at the helm of Headspace, the leading mindfulness app helping tackle the global mental health crisis. Reaching more than 54 million users in 190 countries, meditation is at the heart of the app, most of which is voiced by Andy.

With 30 days on Headspace clinically proven to reduce stress by a third, the founder and CEO aims to bridge the gap between meditation and medication. “We’re working to a point where doctors aren’t just recommending it but they’re prescribing it,” he revealed.

Here, Andy opens up about the surprising benefits of meditation, why three minutes a day can make all the difference and how you can achieve the ultimate calm state of mind.

“Meditation is a lifestyle choice”

There are three keys stages to Headspace: prevention, management and treatments. Some people use the app as a way of preventing themselves getting stressed while others use it like aspirin, waiting until they’re stressed to use it. People are increasingly looking at meditation as a preventative lifestyle choice. Our aim is for it to be used in hospitals and clinics as mainstream healthcare alongside traditional healthcare.

Meditation has been clinically proven to reduce stress, anxiety and depression, and increase focus, compassion and productivity. But one benefit that gets missed out which I hear the most is improved relationships with others. I get a lot of letters and emails from husbands or wives saying they don’t use the app but their partner does and it’s completely changed their relationship for the better. Meditation coming to the West has become very self-focused but traditionally, meditation was an altruistic intent. It had to be good for you but it was also about being good for the people around you.

“Think frequency, not duration”

The most important part of meditation is showing up. It sounds so obvious but when people do it consistently, as close to daily as possible, they see more benefit than those who don’t. It’s like buying a really nice pair of trainers and thinking you’re fit because you’re walking around town in them. You can have the app on your phone but you won’t benefit from it if you don’t use it. Think frequency, not duration. Do 3 minutes 3 times a day and you’ll notice a huge difference. Once you’ve experienced it enough times, it doesn’t make sense not to. You just need patience for it to become ingrained.

“The morning is the prime time to meditate”

The morning is the best time of day for creating a habit. You’re more likely to do I and it will make you more likely to be mindful during the day from making better food choices to higher productivity. It starts the day on a very positive note. I don’t see it any different to brushing your teeth. You wouldn’t leave the house without brushing your teeth because it’s not good for your teeth and your breath will smell. If you don’t look after your mind, your head will hurt.

“Phones have amplified the noise in our life but they cannot be blamed for our neurosis”

Most of us have a really unhealthy relationship with our phones and use them very irresponsibly. Yes, screens can contribute to mental health problems if you don’t use them to your benefit but Headspace is a good example of using your phone for good. It can deliver something useful. We’re also meeting people where they are which is on their phones. We could have stood on the street corner all day encouraging people to meditate but we would never have reached 60 million people. People aren’t going to stop using their phones but we can encourage them to use them better.

“So many physical ailments are amplified by stress which means they can be reduced through meditation techniques”

Meditation is increasingly being dished out as medical advice which makes me so happy. It was not happening ten years ago. In the US, we’re working towards a point where doctors aren’t just recommending it but it gets prescribed. In the UK, that means people won’t have to pay for the app. So many physical ailments are amplified by stress which means they can be reduced through meditation techniques.

My top three lifestyle tips for achieving a calm state of mind are…

  • Daily meditation practise. If you have that, everything else takes care of itself.
  • A conscious attempt to be mindful about one daily activity. Most people think meditation is about calming down but it’s about understanding the mind. The more you understand the mind, the calmer you’ll be so it’s important to apply this same idea to other activities throughout the day such as your morning cup of coffee. Instead of gulping it down whilst doing emails, just be present.
  • Physical movement. Living in our everyday world, there’s a lot of tension in our life and physical movement helps to move everything around. It has an undeniably beneficial impact of the mind.

[i]For more information, visit Headspace.

Courtesy of glamourmagazine

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