Easy to navigate • Flexible program length • Broad range of instructors and themes • Bilingual
No desktop or AppleTV option • The price may not encourage new mindfulness practitioners
MyLife offers a great range of mindful meditations for beginners and more experienced practitioners. The app makes it easy to find the time for self-care.
Sometimes I forget to breathe. It’s an embarrassing confession, but I know I’m not alone. A friend once even took me to a breathing class — and I failed! There we were spread across the room following the instructions of the teacher, but even when breathing was the only thing I needed to focus on, I forgot to do that. The teacher was impatient, planting himself in front of me to announce, as often as needed, “You aren’t breathing.”
Breath work is a foundation of yoga, and for people like me who know the benefits but still can’t find the time and focus to do it, the good news is: There’s an app for that. In fact, there are a lot of apps for that. But if you’re stressed out about your life and goals already, how can you trust your mental state to an algorithm-driven phone app? I was surprised to find how effective (and accessible) these apps can be.
The , which is available for iPhone and Android, is a remarkably effective personal guide. I’m a skeptic, because in my experience with wellness and fitness programs, I do best when there is someone standing over me. This app has won me over. It’s easy to set up with your profile, which includes basic information that is used to begin prescribing various guided meditations. You can also program it to remind you each day to check in — although this proved tricky for me, because no matter what time I set up, when the check-in occurred, my first response was always, “Now???” But I needed that tap on the shoulder.
Last spring, at the start of the pandemic, I had taken a workshop on dealing with stress and mindfulness was at the center of the skills that were introduced. Mindfulness is achieved by focusing on the present moment, on your current surroundings, emotions, and physical presence non-judgmentally. The benefits, according to , include improved mental focus and strengthening your ability to handle stress. The MyLife app really did help me keep myself in check, and with each day that I did use it, my general mindfulness habits improved.
Each meditation session with MyLife begins with a prompt to just breathe for 10 seconds. Then you are asked how you are feeling, physically and emotionally. Then you tap various buttons that represent each emotion you are feeling and the MyLife app goes to work, offering a menu of personalized meditations for the day. Some are as short as three minutes, others are much longer. Most come with a choice of duration and are available in both English and Spanish.
My first day began something like this:
After a few days, I decided to mix things up a bit. Instead of picking emotions that ran the gamut from apprehension to distraction, I picked slightly more positive emotions. The MyLife app and its guidance became even better (which made me wonder if my own conscious brain defaults to stress emotions even when my core is doing much better).
One of the striking changes in this new group of meditations was the direction to explore empathy toward others. Instead of prompting me to find release by focusing entirely through self-reflection, the instructors suggested thinking of someone else, maybe even someone with whom I had a disagreement. It was an epiphany for me (a novice) to realize that meditation can include thinking of others, even those who might appear to be in opposition to me. I hate to sound woo-woo, but these meditations left me feeling particularly energized and at peace.
What if I already felt great, or wanted to pretend I did? There were tailored meditations for that too.
Selecting the meditation on joy, the initial prompt was so direct it took me aback: “Take a moment to think about joy.” In the midst of this pandemic, these directions undid me. When was the last time I had thought about joy, of all things? Now, more than ever, it’s easy to get caught in feelings of despair or inertia without even realizing it. Simply being told to think differently can actually help in the climb out of the hole.
By now I was so in tune with the app, or vice versa, that I almost didn’t explore everything else it has to offer. But there is more. In Journeys, you can check out a themed sequence of meditations and instructive talks to guide you through issues with achieving better sleep, a Trauma Response Toolkit, being mindful parents, and other lifestyle goals. It’s a bit like attending a series of workshops but from the safety of your own home, on your own schedule, and each track here includes conversations with credentialed experts, like the Surgeon General of California on how to find your “Safe Zone.” (Caution: , especially those who’ve experienced trauma. Those who have may want to make adjustments, such as taking breaks, finding practices that incorporate movement, or focusing on something other than their breath like nearby sounds.)
Under the Explore tab, you can also find collections of specific tracks dealing with themes as specific as Calm Covid-19 Anxiety, For Youth of Color, For Latinx Youth, and just simply Getting Started
But I’m still just blown away by MyLife’s seemingly intuitive algorithm, which today suggested doing a meditation alongside pets and animals. As I sat among my houseful of former street dogs, I wondered, had I told the app I was a dog guy? I don’t think so. Now I’m relaxed enough to avoid freaking out about the app’s mind-reading skills. I dove right into the meditation, with my dogs at my side, and allowed myself to just be present with them, to wish them happiness, and to think about other animals we may or may not ever personally know.
Gasp! What’s become of me!? It still feels a bit hokey, but I may be hooked.
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