5 of the Best Mindfulness Apps

Contemplative woman

Mindfulness is the buzz word at the moment.  In our last blog, we looked at some apps specifically aimed for children.  This time we review some of the most popular mindfulness apps more aimed at adults, although of course children will still benefit hugely.  Again, I’ve included those apps that are initially free to download, with the option to pay for upgrades.

1.            Headspace

This is one of the most popular apps in the mindfulness sector.   It’s plain, simple and will appeal to those who are not so fond of or comfortable with the new agey feel to many apps.  You can start with a free series of 10 minute meditations for 10 days that are so calming.  Brit Andy Puddicombe, the voice of Headspace, takes you on a mind shift in the most down to earth way.  Once you’ve completed Take 10, you can find other free content or subscribe from £9.99 a month for a whole host of mindfulness sessions tailored to your requirements.  Check out www.headspace.com for more info.
 
2.            Stop, Breathe & Think

With this app, you are asked to check in with your current mental and physical self and choose up to 5 emotions.  Based on this info you are then offered up different meditations from Mindful Breathing to Engaging Your Senses. 

A progress board allows you to keep track of what you’ve been doing.  The easy to use app is free with enough free content to get you going.  You can upgrade to access more meditations.  www.stopbreathethink.org

3.            Calm

This is a beautiful app and even the initial page on opening the app is enough to calm you with its scene of blue sky, mountains and lake, birds singing, water gently moving.  These scene changes and I particularly like having this open on my computer so in the background I could have the gentle sound of waves lapping a beach or a fireplace cracking

On the free version is a great little tool for helping you breathe if your anxiety levels are rising.  You have 7 Days of Calm mindfulness meditations which are beautiful spoken and left me feeling calm, balanced and clearer in my head.   The Sleep Stories are also a great addition to help you wind down and nod off.  As with other apps, you can upgrade from as little as £3.74 a month to access further content including a Daily Meditation and a 21-day program.  

I also loved the website for its Mindfulness Tips and articles.
 
4.            Mindfulness: The Art of Being Human

Lots of interesting information on this app about mindfulness which is useful in addition to a couple of free guided meditations.  The full version has a lot more content included daily meditations, live recordings of the author’s own group meditations, exercise, tools and tips.  You are also invited to take part in an 8 Day Challenge – 8 days of 10 minute meditations to get you started.  Not as ‘slick’ as, say, Calm or Headspace, but worthwhile nonetheless.
 
5.            The Mindfulness App

A comprehensive app with a wide range of content on the free version for you to get you on your mindufulness journey, before upgrading to access more meditations.  The  5 Get Started sessions are about 5 minutes in length designed to be done over consecutive days. 

Once you’ve completed the initial sessions, then you can choose other tracks in the Timed Sessions.  All tracks have the option of background sound if you wish, eg rain, beach and you can also choose to have them guided with the voice, or unguided.   Upgrades to premium content  start from £0.99 for a single track or £7.99 a month for lifetime access.

Do let us know what you think of these apps and if you have any others you love to use.

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5 Mindfulness Apps for Kids

Meditating child

There are a lots of mindfulness and meditation apps available for kids now, in addition to those more suitable for adults.  Of course, parents can also use the kids apps alongside their children and will may also find the content relaxing.   We will review some of the best mindfulness apps for adults in a later blog but for now we look at those specifically aimed at children.

Naturally, the best way to test an app for children is to get a child to try them out, so here are our thoughts and also my 9 year old daughter’s thoughts on the best of those that we trialled.

All the apps we’ve chosen are free to download; we haven’t looked at those that require an initial spend.  Within some of the apps, there are opportunities to purchase extra content.
 
1.    Wellbeyond Meditation for Kids

Beautiful artwork accompanies each of 5 meditations for centering, kindness, feelings, focus and sleep.  The meditations range from 3 minutes long to 10 minutes.

The language used is user friendly and calming.  Music plays whilst you decide which meditation you’d like to but here is no background music during each meditation.

“I liked this because it’s calming and she tells you to imagine nice things like being on a beach.  I also think it’s very colourful”

2.   Story Book from Relax Kids

Relax Kids are well known for their classes, trainings and beautiful product range to help children with relaxation and anger management. This app isn’t a meditation as such but a short story that helps focus the child’s mind and would be great to use if you need to centre or de-escalate your child.  The story is probably aimed at infants but my daughter enjoyed it nonetheless.

“I thought this was good because it’s got lots of colour.  It’s a lovely story that kids can understand and asks you to whisper words that are in the story.”
 
3.   Feeling Mindful Lite

An app that focuses on feelings.  There isn’t too much to this app as we chose the Lite option and there are no upgrades.  What the user gets is a game, some animated information about the brain and a song.  It’s colourful and engaging (but the tune might get into your head!).  My daughter sometimes has issues around understanding emotions so for that reason it was a useful app.

“I liked it because there’s a song you can sing about emotions.  Also there is a fish game that is calming and a meditation about breathing.  It is colourful and fun”
 
4.   Settle Your Glitter

A beautiful little app, engaging and very simple to use (I’ve used it once or twice myself).  The user selects how they are feeling and on what scale.  A glitterball then appears after which you must shake your phone/tablet as if you were shaking a snowglobe.  The more you shake, the more glitter appears.  As the glitter falls, a sweet puffer fish appears next to the ball, inviting the user to breathe in and out in time to its own puffing in and out. 

“This was good because the breathing is calming.  It’s calming watching the glitter settle and the snow globe move. It’s my second favourite”
 
5.   Smiling Minds

The strapline is “Meditation Made Easy” and it certainly does. At the outset there is a five minute body scan meditation, based on how the user feels and on what scale.  I certainly enjoyed this yet the language was easy enough for my daughter to understand.  Background music is optional.

Once you create a free account, you then have many options for many different programs and meditations depending on the age of your child. For example, the program for 7-9 years is designed for children who are learning new social skills and ideas, whilst that for 13-15 years is designed for teenagers as they transition through high school and make new friends.  The amount of content is excellent for a free app.  Our favourite.

“This was good because you can choose if you want music and has lovely colours that are mixed together.  The meditation I did was about bubbles and bubbles are calming.  I think it’s great because you can understand it and uses child friendly words.  This is my favourite because you can just lie there and relax.  You can lie in any way and you are happy now.” 

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Why we understand children with additional needs

Child and Adult

Today on the blog our Children’s Therapist talks about her work and her intimate understanding of children with additional needs.

Working with Children

I made the decision to specialise in ASD / ADHD/ ADD when working with children seven years ago after a placement with the Child Development Team.  Not only did the psychology of the specific impairments with these individuals interest me,  I also found myself in awe of these misunderstood children. 

Beneath the challenging behaviour and the anxiety ridden meltdown I discovered  the sweetest children with amazing talents. I thrived on working with these children and when I qualified I went back to work with the CDC team.  I was empathetic to the families and I tried my best to understand what they were going through. I listened sympathetically, I supported DLA applications and applied for charity fundings for the family.

I patiently spent weeks working with their children on eye contact,  choice making and forms of expression, enjoying the sense of achievement when I broke down the wall and helped the children express themselves.  I completed research on the impact of family functioning whilst they waited for an autism diagnosis and paved the way for important changes in the ways the NHS works in relation to this assessment.  I researched sleep cycles of the ASD individual, developing sleep programmes and petitioning for local sleep services. I really thought I understood. 

My Understanding Changed

Two years ago my youngest son was born. At 11 months old he was diagnosed with Global Development Delay, at 13 months a sleep disorder and non epileptic absences, at 18 months old Sensory Processing Disorder was added to the list and now at two and half we’re assessing for ASD. 
NOW I understand. I understand the pure exhaustion of a child that will not sleep more than a few hours a night.  I understand the sadness you feel as a mother when you see other children the same age as yours doing activities that your child just cannot do. 

I understand the way you feel when strangers look at you funny in the street because you have to stop every few moments to cuddle your son so he can get the sensory seeking sensation for which he is desperate, or when you have to stop and let him touch every tree on the street.  I understand that feeling of hopelessness when your child meltdowns and you cannot comfort them no matter what you try. 

Not only does this experience give me insight I never had (although I thought I did) into the lives of the parents , it also makes me a better therapist working with these children. I have a passion towards helping these children that inspires me to do more, to research more, to develop more strategies. I understand the anxiety, the meltdowns and the anger. 

When I travel into London three  times a year to train school staff, childminders and TA’s on working with ASD, I have a passion to help these adults understand our kids and the best way to support them. I understand the questions , the what if’s and the desperation the parents feel in a way that no amount of training and work experience could give me. 

One of you

I’m one of you.  I write this whilst my oldest child is at school; my sister had to take him as my youngest is still asleep and I can’t wake him. Why? Because he didn’t fall asleep until 8am this morning. I’m right there with you with the trials and tribulations of raising a child with complex needs. 

I’m fighting it with you. 

For support I offer contact Hertfordshire Therapy Centre on 07969 315591.

  • 1:1 therapy for your child on a range of issues such as social communication, anxiety, anger and other forms of challenging behaviour.
  • Social skills groups
  • Sleep advice and programmes for ASD children based upon my published research within the NHS
  • Parenting support
  • School intervention
  • Charity funding and DLA application support.

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Spread a little love

Red Heart

I always think of February as the month of love, the ups and downs of January are over, its the mid point between winter and spring, the frost and ice are hopefully melting. We have Valentines day to look forward to, or not! I'm not a big fan of Valentines day, as a young teenager I would wait in anxiety to see if I got any cards, flowers, chocolates from the boys at school, I was never the most popular girl so if I did it was generally not from the heart class throb! I met my husband young and Valentines became a thing, a plastic thing that we had to do. I'm not one for following the rules so as an adult I have found the forced romance of Valentines day a but plasticky and cringy. There's a big Ahhh there for my poor husband who loves Valentines.

Yesterday I was reading about the loneliness project set up in the murdered MP Jo Cox's name and it got me thinking, so this year I am dedicating the month of February to love, love of the self and others. This month I am going to pledge every day to do something kind for myself, and kind for someone else. Not the usual kindness I show as a Mum and a Therapist, but an act of kindness over and above that. I have a theory that if I keep this up for the next 28 days then something amazing is going to happen to me. I am hoping that at the very least it will improve my own happiness, I hypothesize that it will have a direct positive impact on my family and friends, and hope that it will have an impact on my community, either that or I will become known as the local crazy woman! Either way I'm going to give it a go.

If something about this resonates with you, please please join me. Its very simple - every day do something kind for yourself, and kind for someone else. I will be posting on the Hertfordshire Therapy Centre facebook page and Twitter about my experiences, please share yours with us too.

For more information about the services we offer at Hertfordshire Therapy Centre, or to book a complimentory clarity call to find out if our services can support you, please get in touch by calling or texting 07969 315591.

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