In reality, the promise of a relaxing festive period doesn’t always turn out as planned. Baking cookies, hanging up fairy lights and listening to “Last Christmas” on the radio are all lovely ideas, but the crowded streets, last-minute shopping and end-of-year chores can put a strain on anybody’s nerves. Panic breaks out and you desperately write to-do lists to try and manage your load.
Thankfully amongst the Christmas chaos, rescue awaits you in the form of an app. Because as an Urban Sports Club member, you’re entitled to 3 months free access to the award-winning meditation app Headspace! With this meditation guide in your pocket, the Christmas stress will transform into cosy, contemplative, and anxiety-free time.
And just so you know what to expect, we’ve tested it out for you…
All beginnings are difficult
As a total meditation newbie, I felt highly motivated when I downloaded the app on my smartphone and signed up with Headspace. I was immediately greeted by small meditation animations that have big, relaxed grins on their faces. As soon as I see them, I know that’s exactly how I want to feel! So let’s get going!
But how does it actually work? I was curious to find out and was looking forward to my first guided meditation. I started with the proposed basic course. You can choose between 3 and 10-minute sessions and I decided on the longer version — after all, the longer I meditate, the more effective the exercise.
The pleasant voice of Andy fills my headphones. He explains how meditation works and how to keep my focus. But the problem is, Andy’s voice fascinates me so much, I can’t help imagining what this deeply relaxed person looks like. But Andy keeps me focussed. He tells me to pay attention to how my body feels, to scan it from head to toe. Which parts feel good? Which feel less comfortable? My thoughts wander regularly, which frustrates me, but Andy calms me down and tells me that this is quite normal and with time and regular practice, I will learn to focus and concentrate for longer periods.
I do a few more guided breathing exercises and then my ten minutes are over. It went pretty fast and I felt calm and relaxed when I opened my eyes. Wow, that felt good! I’m already looking forward to the next session!
Get into the flow
I am not the sort of person who jumps out of bed as soon as the alarm clock rings. I’d rather lie under the warm blanket and scroll my way through Instagram and Facebook. That morning my feed was full of pictures of perfectly wrapped presents, tips for Christmas decorations and lots of Advent calendar competitions. Which reminds me: I haven’t bought any Christmas presents yet. I need to think of something! (Give the gift of sports!) My stress level immediately increases from 0 to 100 — and all before I’ve even got out of bed. So my new plan was as follows: I’ll use Headspace before I get up, so I can start the day more relaxed and have a moment for myself in the morning.
I manage to establish this routine after just a few days. I notice my performance increases and I can concentrate better and stay focused longer during the sessions, without my thoughts wandering. Some days are a little harder for me, but overall it works really well.
I’m glad I kept at it, because it’s worth it
As Christmas draws closer I don’t feel stressed — I feel serene. Here are some of the benefits I felt as a result of mindfulness and meditation:
This became noticeable relatively quickly. After I started meditating, I just didn’t get as stressed and I felt more confident. Meditating helps you concentrate on yourself and evaluate situations better. We tend to overreact quickly, but through breathing and mindfulness exercises, we can learn to breathe deeply and take a different perspective. Through these exercises I found an inner peace, which made me a much nicer person to be around!
Improved interpersonal relationships
This inner serenity also affects my mood and radiates outwards, positively impacting the people around me. By reducing stress, I am more empathetic — so my compassion is increased and aggression is reduced.
This in turn improves the relationship you have with yourself. Keyword: self-love.
By practicing meditation regularly, I managed to concentrate completely on myself for longer and longer, without my thoughts wandering off. This is especially good for you during everyday life, at work or at university.
Regular meditation also offers numerous other advantages:
- You are more content
- You’re happier at work
- You’re less sick
- You increase your creativity
- You can sleep better
Meditation also has a positive effect on your sports routine.
Christmas: bring it on!
Meditating is good! It helps you concentrate, sleep, stay positive and keep motivated. There were some occasions when I wanted to drop my session because I couldn’t focus, but I stayed on the ball and it was worth it. I’m approaching Christmas time more relaxed — I’m enjoying the bustling Christmas markets and I’m not panicking about Christmas presents — because I know everything is under control.