Between 5:14 and 6:00, when I’m not being delayed by Thameslink rail, I meditate.

I used to be an “eye-roller” whenever someone mentioned the “m” word as all I could envisage was a group of people wearing soft shoes, humming and sitting round a tree half asleep. “That ain’t me” I thought to my macho boxer City-boy self.

However, over the last few years every video, article or book that I read about exercise, physical and mental performance recommends meditation. Along with this, several of my close friends, people I thought would never meditate, in fact do and these people don’t wear soft shoes, avoid red meat, read the Guardian or object to washing.

When I tried meditation in the past I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t seem to clear my head and the more I tried the more thoughts came, almost overwhelmingly so. I put this down to ADD which I was diagnosed with over six years ago. Following the diagnosis I worked with an NHS psychologist for six months at the Polyclinic in Hove to find the right type and dose of medication. ADD medication stimulates the prefrontal cortex so it was for this reason I believed I couldn’t meditate. A symptom of the ADD is anxiety and panic attacks which I have suffered from on a daily basis. Packing my bag, getting my children ready for school, cooking breakfast and shopping in supermarkets all triggered attacks.

I didn’t try meditating in the morning before medicating because I take the first train into the City at 5:00am and I thought meditating on a train “wasn’t allowed”. I was always under the assumption you had to be in a dark quiet room listing to whale song.

Then I read a book called “First, we make the beast beautiful” by Sarah Wilson, a high achieving Australian journalist and blogger who lives with anxiety and bipolar. It is a fantastic book and I highly recommend reading if you resonate with these conditions. In the book she talks about meditation and explains that it is actually the ability to keep bringing your focus back from mind wandering that is the important thing, not to stop it from wandering in the first place.

Following this revelation I gave it another go. I made a promise to myself to do it every week day at least on the train in the morning before my meds kicked in. I’d like to do it on the weekends too but with the children and also wanting to sleep past 4:15am I haven’t yet made weekend meditation routine.

I’d used Headspace in the past but when I searched for another App I came across Balance. This is an App designed by the people that made Elevate, a brain training application that has won multiple App Store awards. The reason I chose Balance is because it claimed to be excellent for beginners which I considered myself as it had been at least five years since I had last tried Headspace and even then I’d only done the 10 day trial and not subscribed. The Balance app is simply brilliant. It starts by asking you a few questions about why you want to meditate. I told the App I wanted to mainly decrease stress and anxiety and improve my sleep which I struggle with. Then you partake in another 10 day trial where either a man or woman take you through the basics of how to shut down and breathe. This is the “Foundations” course. From there you progress on to Foundations course 2 where “labelling” is introduced where you simply label thoughts that pop into your head which helps prevent you losing track and delving deeper into them. You also focus on “feelings” which allow you to acknowledge feelings in your body. On course 3 you begin with becoming more aware of your body.

There are also loads of other programmes, some of which I have used. There is a sleep programme but my wife and I have a rule that we don’t have phones, iPads or laptops in the bedroom but there is a sleep prep programme which you can do one hour before bed. There are also short recharge programmes that can be done during the day.

So what have I gained from it?

Fucking loads! Seriously fucking loads. My anxiety and panic attacks have reduced significantly. I’d say I’ve only had three or four since staring this on January 6th. My concentration has improved. With regards to my ADD, although my concentration has improved I can still concentrate on the wrong thing for hours but it would be then that I would have a panic attack. Now I just make a note of what I need to work on the next day. I just have to remember to check the note and do it…

My sleep has improved a bit but this is not necessarily down to the meditation not working but more about my routine, when I take my meds, drink my last cup of coffee and what time I turn my laptop off. If my last med is at 12:00pm, my last coffee before 14:00 and I don’t work at all when I get in (between 19:00 and 20:00, I try to be in bed for 21:00 as I get up at 4:15) my sleep is much better but more often than not this is all just unavoidable, especially the working bit.

All in all, I think I’d be at a distinct disadvantage during my day if I didn’t meditate. I feel more motivated, I work harder, I’m more chilled but most importantly my panic attacks have reduced.

I couldn’t recommend meditation more highly. If you are a novice the Balance App would be a good place to start. I can’t comment on Headspace purely because I only did the 10 day free trial but feel free to comment if you are able to sing its praises and why.

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