7 mindfulness apps to help you stay calm during the holidays

Nov 24, 2018, 6:44 AM

SALT LAKE CITY — The holidays are officially here. Are you feeling stressed?

With activities, end-of-year tests, family time, shopping and the near constant presence of screen and tech, anxiety and stress are common side effects of the holiday season. Practicing mindfulness can help.

Mindfulness means paying purposeful and nonjudgmental attention to the present. Practicing mindfulness can have emotional and physical benefits including reduced anxiety, improved focus and lower blood pressure, according to studies published by the American Psychological Association.

“Developing a mindfulness practice as a child can have great long-term benefits,” said Anna Smyth, managing director at Mindfulness Utah. “Establishing the habit at an early age may increase the likelihood of maintaining the practice as they grow into adulthood. A personal mindfulness practice can act as a protective health factor for youth to cope with stress and related issues like anxiety insomnia, eating disorders and so on.”

Technology can be both a help and a hinderance when it comes to your family’s day-to-day stress. Phone apps can both distract you and help you focus.

These seven easy-to-use mindfulness apps may help you maintain some calm during the holidays, and beyond.

Calm: Calm was named Apple’s 2017 “App of the Year.” The app provides daily meditation guides and inspiration for those practicing mindfulness. It also has “sleep stories” and breathing exercises to help the user relax and prepare their brain for sleep.

Smiling Mind: This free mindfulness app out of Australia has specific goals and programs for kids, adults, classrooms and workspaces, as well as a wealth of research resources about the benefits of mindfulness. You can also set reminders for yourself throughout the day to walk yourself through a 10-minute mindfulness or meditation guide.

Forest: Forest gamifies mindfulness and focus. If you want to put down your phone for a time, you set a goal for how long you won’t use your device, and Forest will plant a tree seed. The longer you stay away, the more your tree will grow. If you pick your phone up during the time you’ve set, your tree will wither.

You can also “plant trees” with your friends and compete to see who can grow the lushest forest. Nonprofit organization Trees for the Future will also plant real trees throughout the world as people successfully grow their trees on the app.

Headspace: Meditation: This extremely popular app has guided meditations and basic mindfulness techniques for reducing stress and helping you sleep. It also includes resources and guides to help you be less distracted and reactive and more focused.

Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame: This app from Sesame Street is targeted to the preschooler crowd to help teach skills like persistence and self-control. Your kids can laugh, learn and practice deep breathing as they help the Sesame Street monster calm down and solve challenges.

DreamyKid: This app, aimed at elementary and junior high ages, has calming music, guided meditations, inspirational quotes and is available to accredited schools for free. It can be especially helpful for both young student-athletes and children with ADD or ADHD, according to reviews of the app.

Buddhify: Smyth recommends the Buddhify app for all ages. It offers over 200 guided meditations for traveling, falling asleep and handling intense emotions like grief. There are sessions ranging in lengths from 3 to 40 minutes for complete beginners and those with more experience.

Carrie Rogers-Whitehead is the CEO of Digital Respons-Ability and her company trains on digital citizenship to parents, educators and students. She is also a college instructor, mother and author of the forthcoming book Digital Citizenship in Schools

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7 mindfulness apps to help you stay calm during the holidays