More and more people are turning to meditation to help reduce feelings of stress and anxiety, but can as little as three minutes a day really change how you feel? We invite three super-busy people to find out for us…
When we’re busy juggling work, life, relationships and families, there’s often not enough time to clear our minds and let our brains rest. As a result, levels of stress and anxiety are a real issue for UK adults – with 74% admitting to feeling so stressed in the past year that they have felt overwhelmed.
Taking time out to actively relax our brains through mindfulness meditation has been proven to help, so it’s no wonder 31 million people around the world are incorporating the practice into their daily lives via Headspace, an app that provides guided meditations from 1 to 60 minutes (Vitality members can get discount on a 12-month subscription and earn points for mindful activities).
According to Headspace’s research, medical students who used Headspace for just 10 days had a 12% decrease in stress; and a separate study found that people who used Headspace for 30 days reduced stress by a third.
This all sounds brilliant, but when you’re short on time, can setting aside as little 180 seconds a day for guided meditation really have an impact on how you feel?
We invited three super-busy people – James Rodwell (Vitality Performance Champion), Vitality Ambassador Jessica Ennis-Hill (Olympic gold medallist) and Helen Renshaw (Editor of Vitality magazine) – to find out for us. In the experiment, we asked each participant to do a three-minute Headspace guided meditation every day for seven days.
Here’s how it went…
Vitality volunteer 1: James Rodwell
Job: I am the England Rugby 7’s Assistant Coach and Vitality Performance Champion
Daily stresses: Because I’m planning, coaching and reviewing training sessions for both the men’s and women’s teams, I have a lot going on day to day, plus I have a busy family life and two young boys (five and two).
My main stresses come from general workload throughout the day; constantly switching between the men’s and women’s team and general fatigue. I definitely feel more stressed when I am tired.
How do you usually de-stress: I usually try to de-stress on my drive home from work. That’s where I usually think and reflect on my day.
The 3-minute Headspace challenge
How easy was it to introduce to your life? It was initially quite difficult to find a regular time to introduce Headspace, but after a few days I found what worked for me.
I tried a few different time slots – in the morning when I woke up and once I got into work – but eventually found that the best time for me was at the end of the day before I went to bed.
What did you notice? When I was doing the guided meditations before bed, I found it completely relaxed me and I fell asleep really quickly. I slept well and woke up really refreshed the next day.
Would you recommend it to other people? Yes, I would definitely recommend it. For me, just three minutes of daily headspace allowed me time away from my busy life and gave my mind time to recharge.
Will you keep it up? Yes, I plan to keep using the app.
Vitality volunteer 2: Vitality Ambassador Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill
Job: I am a busy mum of two, I regularly commentate for the BBC and I am the founder of a fitness app, Jennis, which is all about helping busy people take time out to exercise when they struggle to find the time..
Daily stresses: I think the really big challenge for me is that I have such a busy schedule. No two days are the same and I often need to be in 3 or 4 different places in one week, plus I have two young children.
Because of everything that’s going on, I often find it hard to completely switch off and stop my brain from running through the day and what needs to be done tomorrow – especially when I’m just about to go to sleep.
How do you usually de-stress: I find the best way to de-stress is to exercise, whether that be a short 20-minute Jennis circuit or a hill or HIIT run.
The 3-minute Headspace challenge
How easy was it to introduce to your life? It was really easy once I got into the routine of doing it. I did it just before I went to sleep to help me switch off and clear my head and found that doing it at the same time every evening really helped me commit to sticking with it.
What did you notice? I felt like I drifted off to sleep a lot easier and quicker, as I found I wasn’t ruminating over silly things. It definitely helped me feel more relaxed and, as a consequence, I felt like a had a more solid sleep.
Would you recommend it to other people? Yes, definitely. I think we often think we don’t have the time, but this is really simple and easy to fit in and the benefits can be huge.
Will you keep it up? Yes, absolutely.
Vitality volunteer 3: Helen Renshaw
Job: Editor-in-Chief, Vitality magazine
Daily stresses: Like many people with a very busy life (work, family, the usual), I never really allow my brain the time to fully wind down. It’s always on the go, and that’s become worse because of my increasing use of screens – Googling, tweeting, scrolling.
How do you usually de-stress: I usually walk the dogs, ride horses, watch telly or lounge about in the bath.
The 3-minute Headspace challenge
How easy was it to introduce to your life? It wasn’t difficult to do at all. I chose basic meditation, the man’s voice, 3 or 5 minutes each time, then stuck my headphones on, plonked myself down and listened as I was talked through a session
The hard thing was remembering to do it. They recommend that you connect the sessions with a daytime routine (cleaning your teeth or brushing your hair), but I didn’t manage to do that.
I think if I started doing it for longer, I’d definitely be able to make it a habit.
What did you notice? I wouldn’t say that my behaviour has changed dramatically. Where I think the process has really helped is in making me more aware of what I’m thinking and why – challenging thoughts running in unproductive cycles and questioning how I’m using my valuable headspace.
Would you recommend it to other people? Yes, definitely. Controlling thoughts was by far the hardest part, but I felt that my ability to focus had definitely improved by session 3 and was clearly better by session 5.
Will you keep it up? I don’t think meditation is a skill that can be mastered in seven days, but I definitely feel motivated to continue trying because of the benefits I’ve seen so far. So, yes, I will continue using Headspace.
Want to try Headspace for yourself? Vitality members can get 30% off an annual subscription.