There are so many reasons (both totally obvious and completely unexpected) as to why you’re feeling anxious on the regular (politics, anyone?), even if you’re already eating all the right foods to manage your stress and you’ve learned how to leave work stress at the office. Which is why we are major proponents of meditation. It can help you achieve your fitness goals and sleep better — even strengthen your relationship. And that’s to say nothing of the calming effects meditation can have on your mind.
To get the scoop on all the good meditation stuff, we chatted with tech entrepreneur and Simple Habit meditation app founder Yunha Kim about her personal meditation journey and easy ways even the most meditation-adverse among us can use mindfulness to create zen wherever we go. (And don’t forget to check out the app for free on iOS and Android!)
Brit + Co: We recently read a study from the University of Waterloo that just 10 minutes of meditation can significantly increase focus for anxious people, in part because it promotes mindfulness. You’ve mentioned before how being present is key to maintaining calm. What does that mean, exactly?
Yunha Kim: Stress has the ability to consume our minds with negative thoughts and affect our mood, physical health, and relationships. Simply being aware of your own stress can help prevent you from “reacting” to things instead of “responding.” (Photo via Yunha Kim)
B+C: What made you decide to create a meditation app? Was it a response to something going on in your life, or have you always been a zen chaser?
YK: I was so stressed at my previous startup and went through a period of burnout that inspired me to try meditating. At the time, I was working 24/7 and often found it hard to relax, step away from work, or sometimes fall asleep at night. Short, daily meditation worked for me, and I actually became a power user of some of the meditation apps out there. I found myself meditating periodically throughout my day, like during my commutes and before meetings, and it allowed me to be more productive and stress less.
B+C: Can you explain how the Simple Habit app works and what makes it stand apart from the meditation app crowd?
YK: Simple Habit is a freemium on-demand meditation platform that specializes in five-minute meditations for busy people. Our meditations are designed around your situations and moods. It has over a thousand topics — from meditation specifically designed for engineers, meditations before work, or even going on a date. The meditations are guided by the world’s leading mindfulness teachers.
A feature that we have on the app is the On-the-Go wheel, which allows new meditators to select what they’re feeling or doing (walking, eating, feeling frustrated) and listen to a meditation corresponding to that — like Spotify for meditation.
B+C: Ironically, meditation can be intimidating for newbies — often, we feel like we’ve “failed” if we can’t completely rid our minds of all thoughts on the first go. Can you give us three beginner tips to make meditation easier?
YK: Start with five minutes. It’s a common misconception that to meditate, you need to sit for long periods of time in the morning, but that’s not true. You can meditate anytime and anywhere, even while commuting, while eating, or before giving a presentation.
Try meditating in different situations or stressful moments throughout your day (e.g., before a presentation or before an exam). You can try some of our On-the-Go meditations.
Try doing it at the same time every day. I like to meditate first thing in the morning and right before bed. Putting five minutes of mindfulness every day into your calendar or setting a daily reminder for yourself really works — and you can do both through the Simple Habit app, and it will remind you on daily basis.
B+C: So basically you’re telling us we have no excuse not to meditate! To play devil’s advocate here — let’s say, somehow, you’re still strapped for time and can’t use the app or one of the techniques listed above but want to get in some mindfulness. Do you have any on-the-go mantras you like to use in stressful situations?
YK: Focusing on breathing is one of the simplest ways to bring a sense of attention to yourself and slow down your thoughts. (This is a great breath meditation to start with.) Taking a few deep breaths with long exhales can immediately create a sense of calm in your physical body and emotional state and bring clarity in your mental thoughts. A simple exercise I do when I’m in a middle of something (for instance, on stage, right before giving a talk) is repeating inside my head, “Breathing in… breathing out…” I usually do it 3-5 times.