According to the American Psychological Association’s Stress in America Survey, millennials are the most stressed-out generation. Whether it is student debts, increasing competition in the professional sphere, the alienation between individuals and families, this generation has a lot to deal with and they are finding an unlikely ally in their quest for de-stressing: Their mobile phones.
“I started Vipassana meditation around three years ago and have followed it quite seriously. About a year and half ago, a friend introduced me to the Vipassana app—Dhamma—saying that it will let me keep track of my practice," says 27-year-old Bhargavi Raman. Delhi-based Raman, a facilitator and coach in the organizational development field, has since been using the Dhamma app to meditate, de-stress and focus.
In an environment where deliverables often need to be completed on an immediate basis, there is immense pressure on professionals to perform. According to S.V. Nathan, chief talent officer, Deloitte India, this can impact performance, increase absenteeism, and more importantly, adversely affect the physical and mental health of these young professionals. “Since work will continue to get increasingly dynamic, organizations should invest in mechanisms that will help professionals manage the resultant stress."
Andy Puddicombe, co-founder of Headspace (a digital health company) in new his book The Headspace Guide to Meditation and Mindfulness says meditation could be the key since it not only helps to improve performance under stress, but also helps improve sleep, and time management.
THE MOBILE CONNECTION
While excess access to digital gadgets is often cited as the root cause of distraction and ensuing stress, Raman, like many other millennials, is using her phone and computer to increase focus and concentration. For many who are trying it out to control their stress levels, apps such as Headspace, Buddhify, Calm are useful options. These apps allow users to take guided sessions, follow a preset time, log their details of practice and keep track.
The apps are designed for different user levels. For example, Raman feels that “Headspace would be great for beginners and those who want to meditate in short spurts—maybe a 10 minute metro ride or during an office break. For people who do ‘serious meditation’, apps such as Dhamma make more sense."
Amlan Mohanty, public policy counsel for Google India, meanwhile, has been meditating by himself for over five years now. “I feel that meditation helps me to be more present and not be distracted. The increase in focus and concentration leads to an increase in efficiency and productivity," he says.
Three years ago Mohanty, 29, decided to look for Vipassana retreats to attend. But lacking the confidence, he first wanted to try it out with a guide. He looked online and found The Mindfulness app which let him download the first guided session for free (post which there was a nominal charge). The voice-over guided him to understand how to meditate, when to breathe in and out, when to take a break, etc. But a year on, the guided aspect had become redundant for him, so he switched to using only ambient sounds while he practised his own meditation.
“In the beginning, my friends made fun of the fact that I was meditating through an app. But it is so convenient—I always carry my phone, so even while travelling I can take a 15 minute break. I usually put it on airplane mode and therefore, do not get disturbed during a session," adds Mohanty, who has made meditation a daily practice. When he is especially stressed at work, he logs on to a website like calm.com or donothingfortwominutes.com, and catches a quick 15 minutes meditation session.
“Guided meditations are a great way to start meditating. A lot of people struggle with their thoughts when they sit down to meditate on their own. If there are instructions to go along, it is much easier," says Nakul Dhawan, faculty at Art of Living.
A self-confessed over-thinker, Sahil Chaddha, 31, has been meditating since 2013. The manager at auction house Osian’s Connoisseurs of Art, picked it up on a friend’s recommendation to calm his anxiety. He used the Calm app to begin with, but realized it would stop in between sessions and ask for a payment of around ₹3,000. “This seemed unreasonable to me. I can use YouTube for a calming rain sound. For meditation, I sometimes listen to Bach, Mozart and Indian classical music," he adds.
Chaddha now uses discourses by the Sivananda school to meditate. He usually listens to them on his daily commute. But if he gets too stressed at work, he stays away from his phone and instead takes a walk in the office garden. Chaddha believes that meditation, even though he uses it from his phone, brought more clarity to his mind about how things work and helps him to stay calm.
Raman meanwhile, uses the app’s guided meditation features when she is distracted and cannot concentrate enough to meditate on her own. The gong or alarm feature means she can keep the phone away and continue her meditation till the time is up. She explains that with Headspace, people can also choose the kind of meditation they would want to do—be it Vipassana, or relaxation, or focused on anxiety relief, etc. The app also sends out regular notification for healthier and more mindful living—for example, reminders to drink water, to put the phone away, to eat food slowly. “I always read these notifications seriously, and could see my quality of living changing. But all said and done—there is no one formula for it. You have to try and see what works for you. Meditation is never dependent on the phone or app or even the teacher—these are only devices that help you to slowly get used to it," adds Raman.