We’ve come a long way since happiness was defined as a popular brand of cigar. Science debunked that marketing tagline and as time passes, people are more persuaded and aware of the benefits of a healthy body.
Despite progress, it is still taking time for the message to get through about a healthy mind. Stress, the most common manifestation of mental health problems, is like any other, indiscriminate. Wealth, standing, and even physical well-being are no barrier to its cruel invasion in lives.
In professional sport, as much attention is being paid to the psychological element of winning as the physical. Footballers have long been trained to do battle in ninety minutes, with elite clubs investing in medical facilities which rival many of the public health services around the world.
Those clubs are all employing increasing numbers of sports psychologists to give their players an edge, any edge in every match. This development is not unique to football. Perhaps the most intense developments come in the individual sports, such as tennis. The top players – Djokovic, Federer and Murray – all employ their own psychologists.
While an individual can be ‘carried’ in a team sport if they fall prey to poor form or freezing but stage fright in an individual sport? That has the most intense and disastrous of consequences. Roberto Forzoni, who worked with the Lawn Tennis Association and Andy Murray told Betway Insider that too often the players were distracted by the scoreboard or elements of the match which is out of their reach.
Telling Betway Insider Forzoni called the key to success “control the controllable.” Essentially when playing sports, if it’s out of your hands, then the only aspect of this you can challenge is training strategies and techniques. Crucially, there needs to be a clarity of thought.
Frequently, a penalty taker or field goal specialist will focus on the ball and the goal or posts, visualising the ball leaving their feet. The same with a tennis player on their serve; that comes through training the mind to be in control of thoughts, physical feelings and surroundings. Often called ‘focus’ in a sporting context, mindfulness has its roots in meditation as practiced in Buddhism.
In the world of eSports, the psychology of handling the pressure of the occasion is becoming more accessible with professional sporting outfits, such as Manchester City, becoming involved.
This is the 21st century and with time a precious commodity, apps have been developed to help with meditation; some carry celebrity endorsements.
Headspace is one such example, ‘recommended’ by actress, Emma Watson, on their website. That’s not to slam them for doing so. However, the collaborative process they undertook on creating the app is surely worth a higher profile? Perhaps not; this is the age of celebrity, after all.
While not endorsing the product specifically, the influence upon the creative process of Barts Health NHS Trust and Stanford Health Care cannot be overlooked.
Broken into subscribable segments, Headspace comes with targeted packs for ‘Relationships’, ‘Focus’, and ‘Motivation’ among others, with a blog and community augmenting their offerings. The ‘pick ‘n’ mix’ approach is popular; close to 9m users downloaded the app.
2. 10% HAPPIER
Funkadelic hollered to the world that if you “Free Your Mind and Your Ass Will Follow”; 10% Happier want you to do the same, bringing the rest of your body along for the ride. John Harris and Joseph Goldstein provide a ten-day course, the aim of which is to promote mindfulness techniques.
This app takes more of a holistic approach rather than breaking out their offering into segments. While each day of the course covers a different topic, it is a cohesive plan to learn how to meditate. Scientific fact is dotted throughout their site; Harvard Studies which proved the brain grew after just eight weeks of meditation can’t easily be dismissed.
Muse is different from the rest, something more than an app. The Muse headband measures brain activity, directing the app to provide appropriate sounds to aid your meditation. “When you’re calm”, their website tells us, “you’ll hear peaceful weather sounds” while the weather “will intensify” to get you back on track if you are agitated.
It’s a ‘New Age’ approach to meditation, more about controlling the environment and ensuring you are in the right from of mind for it, than training you how to do so. With third party apps available to supplement the product, this is designed for the more advanced user with a focus on healthcare professionals.
As with Headspace, Calm takes the menu approach to its offerings. Each is aimed at providing specific meditation techniques. There’s an exhaustive list of ‘7 day’ programs covering sleep, relaxation, and happiness, along with gratitude, among the help. There’s even a ‘Daily Calm’ to provide you with a meditation program for that specific day.
The free version is very much a ‘lite’ product with monthly, annual and lifetime options. It’s unique selling point is the depth of the programs, supported by articles on the website. The daily meditation plan offers something different, broader than the targeted ‘7 day’ programs.
5. THE MINDFULNESS APP
It’s the Ronseal of meditation apps: this does exactly what it says on the tin. The Mindfulness App is initially, a five-day introduction to Mindfulness with timed sessions and access to a library of meditations and courses. As with everything else in life, there are reminders and statistics to keep you disciplined in your meditating.
The ’Freemiium’ version doesn’t have the library access nor targeted meditations. However, it straddles the world of the novice and experienced ‘meditator’ by offering the ’5-day introduction to mindfulness’ course. Along with the app comes the ‘Journal’ on the website, with tips and techniques on all aspects of mindfulness, including what to eat. Jamie Oliver is already planning his recipe book on the subject.