A friend sent me a Buddy Box as a ‘boost’ after I’d been off sick for a couple of months and the Calm Book came as part of it (£9.99 on Amazon). I don’t have anxiety or depression, but the book wasn’t just designed for people with a mental illness, it was aimed at anyone wanting a pause for calm in their day. It has different categories, like sleep or commuting, and you can pick pages based on what you feel you need, rather than having to work through it in order. It’s also got different elements to it, so sometimes there’s a space to draw, sometimes you write a list, sometimes you just read what’s there. It appealed to me because it wasn’t prescriptive, it didn’t say you had to convert fully to its mantra like some mindfulness apps and books do, and there literally was something to suit every mood.
The book talked about an app, which I downloaded out of curiosity. You get some free components to try, and, depending on what you want from it, you could just stick with the free aspects. The full version has different types of guided meditations lasting usually from 2 minutes- 30 minutes in length, including sessions like positivity, emergency calm, deep sleep and commuting. The thing I like most about the app is the fact that it’s pretty realistic- the emphasis is on getting you to change your response to what happens in the session, not how good you are at meditating. You’re regularly told that if you’re distracted, that’s ok, just try to bring your attention back to your breath. I sometimes hate meditation apps because they feel a bit patronising or they don’t fit what I need, but I’m yet to find a day where I can’t find a session to suit my mood. You can also change the background sounds and start up image.
There are specific guided day meditations where you are taken through techniques in more depth, lasting about 15 minutes each. I’ve done the 7 days of calm, 7 days of sleep and am part way through the 21 days of calm. I find they’re about the right length to get ‘settled’ into the practice and also help stretch my concentration. I find the 10 minute deep sleep one really good for getting to sleep if I’m struggling to drift off. A couple of the sessions give you specific breathing instructions (breathe in, hold and breathe out for different lengths), some encourage a natural pattern and others suggest counting breaths.
The downside is definitely the price. It costs $39.99 (£29.99) from iTunes for the year or €9.99 for a month if you want more than the trial options. I signed up for a year and have used it every day for 100 days, so I would say it has been value for money and cheaper than attending a class. There have been a couple of additions to the app with updates, which maybe will justify the renewal fee every year, but I can’t be sure yet. I wouldn’t say my life has radically changed for having downloaded it or I’m suddenly more mindful in my every day life, but it’s something that I now do every day as a matter of course and I enjoy doing it.