7 Benefits of Mindfulness

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If you’re curious to try meditation, or looking for motivation to stick with it, it might help to understand the full scope of how meditation can change your life.

This list of 7 benefits can be a point of reference when you need that extra jolt of motivation. Use it to cajole yourself to carve out time for a daily practice.

Benefit #1 - Reduced Stress

Mindfulness meditation has been scientifically shown to get at the root of the problem of stress: our brain’s over-active tendency to see potential disaster everywhere we look. When we sit mindfully, we become aware of the constant sense of urgency and discontent in our mind.

What’s revolutionary about meditation is that instead of feeding this stress by doing more or speeding up, we do the opposite. We slow down, and focus on something simple and unproblematic like our breath. After we’ve started to calm down a little, we can observe those stressful feelings and thoughts without getting swept up in them.

Over weeks and months of regular practice, our brains actually change. We react less strongly to difficult situations and when we do get triggered, we recover faster. We still live in a stressful world, but with meditation we learn to face it all a lot better.

 
 

Benefit #2 - Better Focus

As an easily distracted kid, my teachers often shouted, “Pay attention!” But nobody ever taught me how to do this. Imagine if teachers taught 5th grade math by repeatedly shouting, “Add fractions!”

The good news is, concentration can be learned just like any other skill. All it takes is practice and good instruction. In meditation, we cultivate concentration by repeatedly bringing our attention back to a chosen point of focus, often our breath or some other sensation in the body. What we choose to focus on is less important than the fact that we pick something and stick with it. Over time, our attention begins to go where we tell it rather than being drawn every which way by random impulses.

 
 

Benefit #3 – Improved Flow

Meditation lets us slip into the groove of a task with more ease. The key to entering into flow is to be relaxed but alert, focused but not uptight. Non-meditative concentration tends to use a lot of brow-furrowing effort, which creates tension and discomfort, and actually prevents us from getting into a state of flow.

In meditation, rather than tightening up around our point of focus, we relax into it. This allows the mind to settle down, and let’s us really sink into what we’re doing. The same principle applies when we’re writing computer code or playing the saxophone. We enter flow when we’re vibrantly engaged with what we’re doing while at the same time we relaxing into it.

 
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Benefit #4 - Increased Happiness

More and more research is showing that real happiness doesn’t come from possessions or success. It comes from the quality of our experiences. Meditation leads to more happiness by improving our ability to notice and appreciate pleasurable experiences, while cushioning some of life’s hard edges.

Technology has brought us all kinds of comforts and luxuries. Yet even with all this progress and innovation, we still face face pain, illness, and everyday annoyances. These can sabotage our ability to enjoy life. Mindfulness teaches us how to be more fully aware and accepting of painful experiences as they happen. Studies of the brain have shown that this has a counter-intuitive effect: increased awareness of pain results in less activation in brain areas associated with suffering.

With pleasurable experiences, the effect of mindfulness is the opposite. By allowing us to be vividly present to the joy and goodness of these experiences, we magnify the positive impact they have on our happiness.

 
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Benefit #5 - Stronger resilience in the face of life’s challenges

Life’s big challenges inevitably visit us as unwanted guests, whether a loss, a layoff, or a trauma. When we get hit hard, meditation can help us recover faster and grow from adversity.

When something awful has just happened, the most counter-intuitive thing in the world is to focus on something that has nothing to do with what we’re facing. Mindfulness gets us in the habit of doing just that, noticing things like the sunlight reflecting off the leaves outside our window, or the quiet purr of the ceiling fan.

We notice that the present moment is filled with a bunch of very ordinary things that aren’t contaminated by fear, pain, anger, or loss. Focusing on something emotionally neutral in a time of distress is like a secret ninja move that lets us slip sideways past our gnawing awareness of the terrible event.

That doesn’t make the bad stuff go away. But it does give us a break from our suffering. It gives us a starting point in the here and now to collect ourselves so we can courageously face the future.

 
 

Benefit #6 – Better Relationships

The hidden emotional forces within a single person are complicated enough, but put two people together and you’ve got a real tangle.

In our important relationships, the stakes are often very high, and we can see our ugliest side come out. We want so badly for things to work out that we become flooded with emotion when things go wrong. The problem isn’t the fact that we’re emotional creatures. Emotions are what allow us to form and strengthen relationships in the first place. The problem is that these emotional forces can get out of control, driving us to say or do things we regret.

Meditation teaches us the be more aware of our own feelings and the feelings of those we care about. Emotional awareness is just the first step. We also learn how to step back, take a breath, and choose our response with clarity and compassion. Our usual feelings still arise —fear of abandonment, rage at a perceived slight, and many others. But instead of shutting down or screaming or running away, we learn to notice and name these feelings while maintaining a calm stable center.

 
 

Benefit #7 – Health

Scientists are starting to uncover many ways that meditation can improve our physical health, addressing problems like high blood pressure, diabetes, and chronic pain.

For decades, doctors have known that stress is one of the biggest contributors to problems with our health. When we’re under chronic stress, it’s not just a mind thing. Stress affects the whole body, leading to inflammation, pain, trouble with digestion, and lowered immunity. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that meditation, which lowers our overall stress level, also improves our basic physical functioning.

If you’re interested in learning more about the amazing physical health benefits of meditation, we’ve got a whole article on that here

 
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Start Meditating

You can use the Calm app from your phone or your computer to develop a meditation practice, breathe deeper, invite a moment of relaxation into your busy day, and soothe your way into dreamland when you're ready for bed.

Calm is beginner friendly and offers programs for all levels of mindfulness experience.

 

6 Health Benefits of Meditation

You may know that meditation helps reduce stress and anxiety, improve focus, and increase happiness. What many people don’t know is that meditation can improve your physical health as well. Here are 6 ways meditation can help you live a longer and healthier life.

1. Lowers High Blood Pressure

Hypertension is one of the leading risk factors for heart disease and stroke, and it can be difficult to treat. Since 2013, The American Heart Association listed meditation as a clinically proven complementary treatment. In a review of the science, they found strong evidence that practicing meditation can reduce high blood pressure. We still aren’t sure exactly how this works, or whether some forms of meditation are better than others, but if you have hypertension (or want to prevent it), meditation can be an important part of your treatment strategy.

2.  Slows Cellular Aging

Amazingly, cutting edge science is starting to find that meditation may slow down the biological ageing process. When our cells divide, the DNA is protected by long proteins called telomeres. As we age, our telomeres get shorter, which increases the chance of cell damage. As cell damage accumulates over the years, our overall health suffers.  

If only we could find a way to stop the telomeres from shortening, it would be like discovering an elixir of eternal youth. Now, let’s be real, meditation isn’t going to stop you from getting older, but scientists are finding evidence that meditation does slow the shortening of telomeres. Several studies have found that meditation activates genes that produce telomerase, a natural enzyme that helps prevent telomere from shortening. That means meditation can protect us from age-related health decline at the cellular level.

 
 

3. Helps Prevent Diabetes

When we eat sugars, our body uses insulin to break them down. Type-II diabetes is caused by insulin resistance—the body still makes insulin, but it stops working as effectively. Eventually, the pancreas just can’t make enough insulin to break down sugar in the blood, and this results in diabetes.

Research shows that meditation actually helps the body regulate blood sugar by using insulin more efficiently. The stress hormone cortisol is a major contributor to insulin resistance, and meditation leads to lower cortisol levels, which in turn allows insulin to do its job properly.

If you already have diabetes, meditation won’t be a cure, but it can help you manage the effects of the disease. If you are at risk of developing diabetes, meditation can be a key part of your prevention plan.

4. Helps Fight Alzheimer’s  

From the time we are about 30 years old our brains start to naturally lose neurons over the rest of our lifetime. This process of gradual degeneration in the brain puts older people at risk of cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s, and other forms of dementia. Brain imaging studies have shown that long-term meditators lose less brain matter with age. One study found that cortical thickness in the brain of mediators aged 40-50 years was the same as non-meditators aged 20 to 30.

But what if you’re already older and you haven’t been meditating all your life? Mediation can still help, especially in the crucial period when there are early signs of cognitive decline but full-blown dementia hasn’t set it. When we meditate, we exercise the brain in a new way. Learning a new skill, improving concentration, and building more conscious awareness all stimulate the growth of new neurons. In addition, reducing stress protects our existing brain structures from further damage.

 
 

5. Reduces Chronic Pain

Chronic pain and the often related problem of opioid addiction are some of the biggest public health crises facing society today. For thousands of years, meditation traditions have known about the incredible pain-reducing effects of meditation. Over the last few decades an impressive amount of scientific research has accumulated to back up these claims.

Meditation helps manage chronic pain by increasing activation in several brain areas that regulate pain perception, and by diminishing the negative emotional response connected with the experience of pain. In addition, stress is known to make chronic pain worse, so by reducing stress, meditation dampens pain intensity.

Encouragingly, one study showed that even beginner mediators could see a significant reduction in pain severity after just a few weeks of practicing mindfulness.

 
 

6. Improves Immune System Function

The immune system has been called our body’s “floating brain.” It’s an incredibly sophisticated system for identifying and destroying pathogens that threaten our health, and it is intimately linked with our nervous system. When we have weakened immunity, we are sitting ducks for infections.

Practicing mindfulness meditation has been linked with reduced markers for inflammation, a major signal of reduced immune function. Several studies have also found that meditation leads to an increase in CD-4 cells, crucial immune cells that stave off disease. It isn’t yet known exactly how meditation works to benefit the immune system, but it’s likely that decreased stress and improved self-regulation play a major role.

 
 
 

 

Start Meditating

You can use the Calm app from your phone or your computer to develop a meditation practice, breathe deeper, invite a moment of relaxation into your busy day, and soothe your way into dreamland when you're ready for bed.

Calm is beginner friendly and offers programs for all levels of mindfulness experience.

 

The World Premiere Of Baa Baa Land

"The premiere was a shear delight”, says producer Peter Freedman. “We hope  Baa Baa Land will be this year’s sleeper hit.”

 

The world premiere of Baa Baa Land, the eight-hour slow-motion film entirely starring sheep that made global headlines when it unveiled its trailer and poster in July, just took place at the Prince Charles Cinema in London’s West End.. 

The film’s sheep stars walked the red carpet, wearing tuxedos and evening dress – and secured a place in movie immortality by planting their hoof-prints in “cement” [mud] outside the cinema – on the same day that Calm released the movie online.

 
 
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Fans who attended in pyjamas + bathrobes, also brought comforters/duvets & pillows to watch film called “ultimate insomnia cure”
 

For those who lack the time to sit through an eight-hour epic, the world premiere event started with the premiere of a five-minute, condensed version of the full-length film. 

 
 

In case anyone attending the premiere had trouble sleeping during the screening, the cinema was sprayed with Sleep Mist, Calm’s new lavender-based spray and natural sleep aid – to create a new type of multi-sensory, immersive cinema experience and insomnia cure.   

 
Sheep stars on the red carpet were Ram Gosling, Emmmmmaaaaaa Stone and Ewe Grant … but Baa-Baabara Streisand couldn’t make it.
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September is a month when many Oscar hopefuls hold their premieres. “The only Oscar that Baa Baa Land has a chance of would be one for dullest movie”, says Michael Acton Smith, its co-executive producer and co-founder of Calm.

 

Baa Baa Land is described as “a contemplative epic”, with no plot, dialogue or human actors. It also has no car-chases, explosions or star names. All it does have is sheep and fields.   

 

It won global attention when it was first announced in the summer, generating a swell of anticipation for its forthcoming premiere and webcast. “One critic hailed it a ‘shear delight’”, says Freedman. 

 
 

 

Its makers were hoping, at least, for that its premiere will get a better reception than the one which greeted the premiere in 1964 of Empire, another slow-paced, eight-hour film – made in its case by Andy Warhol, the late American avant-garde artist and film-maker, and featuring eight hours and five minutes of static, silent footage of the Empire State Building. 

 

“At the premiere of Empire”, recalls one biography of Warhol, “people walked out, booed and threw paper cups at the screen. Another account recalls a crowd of 30 or 40 audience members storming out of the premiere after 10 minutes, surrounding the box office and threatening to destroy the cinema unless their money was returned. 

 

“Not everyone loved Empire at the time”, says Acton Smith. “But it’s now considered a classic.” 

 
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The American-financed, British made film is an example of “Slow Cinema”, a genre of art films known for long takes, slow pace and lack of action or narrative. 

 

We believe Baa Baa Land “is itself a meditation, a dream, an enchantment ... a tonic for the soul”. 

 

“It’s better than any sleeping pill – the ultimate insomnia cure”, says Alex Tew, the film’s co-executive producer and co-founder of Calm. “We’re hoping it will be a sleeper hit.” 

 

Is it also the dullest movie ever made? “We think so”, says producer Peter Freedman. “We hope that audiences will too.” 

 
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“I slept like a baby”, says one fan, who woke after six hours.
 

Like Star Wars, Harry Potter and Indiana Jones movies before it, Baa Baa Land is financed with American money but made in the UK by mainly British talent (and entirely British sheep). It was shot totally on location on a sheep farm in Essex, a few miles from London.  

 

For those who lack the time to watch even the five-minute version of the film an 87-second trailer blog gives a taste, while a voiceover explains its rationale: 

 

“In a world of constant stress and information overload, of anxious days and restless nights ... comes the chance at last ... to pause ... to breathe ... to calm our racing minds and fretful souls... to sit and stare ... at sheep.

 

“Baa Baa Land is the first screen epic entirely starring sheep. A cast of hundreds... all of them sheep. Count them if you can – but don’t stress if you can’t. Sit back, wind down, drift off ... to sheep.”

 
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Long, loving takes – some up to an hour long – show the sheep in question, standing around in fields, doing very little.  

 

“Nothing happens ... for eight hours”, says Acton Smith. “Glorious!” 

 

While the average camera shot in Hollywood action movies like The Bourne Supremacy lasts two seconds, the average shot in Baa Baa Land last over 30 minutes. 

 

Apart from some music over the film’s credits, the only soundtrack is the sound of sheep making ... the sort of noises that lend the film its name.  

 

Baa Baa Land is no relation to La La Land, the recent Hollywood hit with Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. Its poster, however, does pay an affectionate tribute to La La Land’s and to a line associated with the latter, declaring, “Here’s to the ones who dream ... of sheep”.  

 
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It is, say its makers, more of a hommage to the films of Andy Warhol, and Empire in particular. 

 

Baa Baa Land was conceived by its producer, Peter Freedman and directed, shot and edited on a “modest budget” by Garth Thomas, a British director of arts films. 

 

It is both the first feature film produced by Calm – or any app – and also part of Calm’s broader strategy to diversify offline. “Our ambition is to be much more than just a meditation app”, says Alex Tew of Calm, which has also just launched its first offline product, in the form of Sleep Mist, a lavender-based pillow spray and natural sleep aid. 

 

Baa Baa Land features the Welsh Half-Breed sheep of Layer Marney Lamb near Tiptree in Essex. 

 

“No sheep were harmed – or consulted – in the making of this film”, state its credits. 

 

“We’re in discussion about U.S. and wider distribution”, says Acton Smith. “We don’t expect Baa Baa Land to break box-office records but feel there is at least a niche audience for it – and a future for it on TV, as part of the growing Slow TV movement.” 

 

Baa Baa Land’s length of eight hours makes it only the nineteenth longest film of all time – five minutes shorter than Empire, Warhol’s 1964 film. The longest movie ever made is Logistics, a Swedish experiential art film made in 2012, and lasting 857 hours or 35 days and 17 hours. 

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Baa Baa Land’s rivals for the title of the dullest film ever made include Paint Drying, a 10.5 hour movie about drying paint, rated last year by the British Board of Film Censors as “suitable for all”. 


 

Looking for more ZZZ's?

We created a natural sleep aid, in the form of bedtime stories for grown-ups called Sleep Stories. These sleep-inducing tales mix soothing words, music, and sound-effects to help you wind down and drift off to dreamland. We're recording new Sleep Stories every week so be sure to explore our library regularly. Try one tonight! 🌙💤

 

The Trail to Machu Picchu

 
 

“In the variety of its charms and the power of its spell, I know of no place in the world which can compare with it.”

 

So wrote American explorer Hiram Bingham, describing the ancient wonder he’s famous for discovering in 1911 — or rather, for re-introducing to the world: the sacred Incan citadel of Machu Picchu, perched high above the cloud forests of southern Peru.

 

I first read Bingham’s words when I myself journeyed to Machu Picchu exactly this time three years ago. Although more than a century had passed since his rediscovery — and Machu Picchu itself had been transformed from a lost city into the most visited site in all of Peru — I could still feel the “power of its spell,” just as Bingham had written.

 

But it was only when I sat down to write a Sleep Story about my time in Peru for Calm that I was inspired to revisit the above quote by Bingham. Not only did I learn that it is from his 1922 book, Inca Land: Explorations in the Highlands of Peru, but I was even more delighted to read the complete passage the quote is taken from:

 

“Not only has [Peru] great snow peaks looming above the clouds more than two miles overhead… it has also, in striking contrast, orchids and tree ferns, the delectable beauty of luxurious vegetation, and the mysterious witchery of the jungle…One is drawn irresistibly onward by ever-recurring surprises through a deep, winding gorge, turning and twisting past overhanging cliffs of incredible height.”

 

Ever-recurring surprises — can you imagine a more beautiful phrase for evoking the magic of Machu Picchu?

 
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In my latest Sleep Story for Calm, “The Trail to Machu Picchu,” I loved including a few surprises from my own journey as I walked to the ancient ruins on the Salkantay Trek.

 

There was the striking beauty of a yellow lady’s slipper orchid growing along the path — one of hundreds of species of orchids that grow in Peru. There was the sound of running water as I walked beside an original Incan irrigation channel on our first day of the trek and tried to fully comprehend the incredible layers of history around me. And there was the dramatic shift in landscapes on our second day, as we descended from the highest point of the trail — the windblown Salkantay Pass, at 15,200 feet — and entered the humid, jungled paths of cloud forests and Amazonian rainforests.

 

Never before had I seen — or felt — the world change so swiftly.

 

While I shared these moments in my Sleep Story with words, today I’d like to share a few more surprises from Peru with you — moments I captured not with words but watercolors, in the sketchbook I carried with me on my journey.

 

The first chance I had to sketch on the Salkantay trail was on our very first afternoon, once we had reached our stopping point of the day — the campsite of Soraypampa. We were told the campsite was at the base of the Humantay Glacier, though heavy cloud cover had kept the glacier concealed from us all morning. Finally, after we’d finished our lunch and an afternoon rain shower had passed, the sun came out and the clouds parted to reveal patches of a brilliant blue sky — and the steep, snowy slopes of Humantay.

 

It wasn’t just the glacier’s sudden appearance that surprised me that first afternoon — I didn’t expect to feel so humbled and awed by its presence, as though the glacier were a living, breathing guardian watching over us.

 
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This feeling of awe and humility stayed with me through the next several days, as we journeyed from the base of the glacier to the Salkantay Pass, and from the steamy air of the cloud forests to the bustling tourist town of Aguas Calientes, where we finally arrived at Machu Picchu — and I finally had the chance to get out my sketchbook again.

 

From the moment we walked through the main gate, rounded the path beneath the guardhouse, and glimpsed the sweeping complex of Machu Picchu for the first time, I was overwhelmed by all there was to process — so much history and significance, still shrouded in questions and mystery. And so as each hour of my day at Machu Picchu went by, I became more and more grateful for the time to sketch the ancient ruins, slowly processing the sacred city for myself — stone by stone, terrace by terrace.

 
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But the greatest surprise Machu Picchu held for me that day was still to come.

 

Even more overwhelming than the vastness of the site was the sheer number of other people I was there with — who can measure up to 2,500 visitors a day during the high season. For the first few hours, it felt like every ancient pathway was simply a conduit for the teeming crowds, as they made their way from the main gate to the ritual stone of Intiwatana (Quechua for “hitching post of the sun”) to the Plaza Principal.

 

And yet it was then, right after I left the Plaza Principal and began wandering through the western residential sector, that something truly unexpected happened. I turned left and right, weaving in and out of open-air rooms that had once served as homes, until I reached a part of the sector known as the Three Doorways, or Tres Portadas in Spanish.

 

I looked around me and realized I was completely, blissfully alone. For the first time all day, it was just me and the sacred stones of Machu Picchu.

 
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The surprising solitude I found while sketching the Three Doorways at Machu Picchu was an echo of the very same peace I’d felt on my first afternoon of the trek, as I sat humbled beneath the Humantay Glacier, in awe of its power and presence.

 

It seems Hiram Bingham put it perfectly nearly 100 years ago — Peru’s surprises truly are “ever-recurring,” and always full of eternal echoes.

 

 

About the Author

 

 
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Candace Rose Rardon is a sketch artist and storyteller with a passion for connecting with the world through art. She is also the founder of Moment Sketchers, an art and travel blog and global community of artists. Originally from the state of Virginia, she is now based in Montevideo, Uruguay.

 

To connect with Candace or join the next Moment Sketchers monthly sketching challenge, you can visit her website or follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

 

 

 

 

 

 

BEDTIME CHALLENGE

Invite more health and energy into your life.

October 1st - 7th, 2017

#bedtimechallenge

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Have you been meaning to get to bed at a certain time, but instead find yourself mindlessly scrolling on your phone or watching TV. Perhaps you ignore cues of fatigue until you find yourself with a second wind, unable to fall asleep? Do you wake up each morning wishing you'd hit the hay a little earlier? Do you miss half of the day because you procrastinated turning the lights out? Is coffee your best friend?

It's one thing to know that getting to bed on time could enrich your tomorrow and it's another to actually do it.  

💤💤💤

Maybe you’ve already tried with enthusiasm and good intention, but your efforts fizzled out? There’s always a good reason to put off shifting your habits including holidays, birthdays, weekends, hard days and a general lack of time. We get it. The thing is, there will always be a handful of reasons not to try, but we’re more excited about the benefits on the other side of committing to yourself. That’s where new possibilities live. 

Breaking or making a habit is not easy, but it’s possible with three essential ingredients: commitment, mindfulness, and community.

A commitment increases the likelihood of doing something and builds inner trust. It also invites us to sort out the logistics and get clear on the why, what, when, where and how of the challenge.

Mindfulness is a powerful tool. The awareness that is gained from paying attention offers unique and critical information needed to empower change. You’ll also notice the qualities you build through your mindfulness practice like compassion, non-judgement, acceptance, awareness, and curiosity are invaluable supports in the process of creating sustainable shifts and exploring why you go to bed when you do.

Community is a reminder that you are not in this alone and provides support to help you keep your commitment.

Let’s try this together. We can share our stories, offer solidarity, cheer each other on, and tap into the strength of collectively working towards positive change in our lives.

Let's get serious about bedtime!

Check out this article if you want to learn more about why it's so important to prioritize getting enough zzz's!   

 
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#BedtimeChallenge by Calm 💤💤💤

Step One:

Decide how many hours of sleep a night you'd like to get. 

Step Two:

Make note of any days of the week that you need (or would like) to get up by a certain time.  

Step Three:

Based on steps 1 and 2 calculate what time your bed time needs to be each night. For example, if you want eight hours of sleep and you need to be up by 7am, then your bedtime needs to be no later than 11pm.

*Many people value consistently going to bed and waking up at the same time. That's great if your life will allow of this sort of routine, if not, plan for each night based on what's possible for you.  

Step Four:

Reflect on any challenges that might come up for you and create some strategies to help support your challenge.

Step Five:

Create a bedtime ritual to help cue your body that it's time to transition from the day, settle and fall asleep. Some ideas include, dimming lights or shifting to candle light, no screens within an hour or two before bed, checking in with your partner or family. meditating, listening to a Sleep Story, doing a body scan for sleep, going to bed a half-hour early to read and then turning the lights out at a set time, taking a bath, journalling, coloring, knitting, or spraying Sleep Mist on your pillow ...

Step Six: 

Write it down and hang it up somewhere you can see, Perhaps on the fridge, the back of your phone or your bathroom mirror. Here's a template to get you started. 

Step Seven:

Join the Daily Calm Community and introduce yourself. In your post, tell us about your bedtime challenge and any hopes or fears that you might have. Include the hashtag #bedtimechallenge so that your post is easy to find and we can cheer for you! *Please note that the group is closed so only members of the community will be able to see when you post in the Daily Calm Community. That said, if you want to let your friends and family know what you're doing feel free to use the #bedtimechallenge hashtag on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook! 

Step Eight:

Start your challenge and reflect on what comes up for you. Check in regularly with the Daily Calm Community. This is where you can connect with other challengers, share your reflections, ask questions, and find daily tips, articles, and inspiration.

💤💤💤

Heads up!

Shifting habits and changing behaviour can bring up some things that may be more challenging than going to bed at a certain time. When you begin to look deeper into why you do the things you do, it’s not uncommon to find a complex and tangled root system beneath seeming simple habits. It’s for this very reason that compassion and gentleness are required. Start simple and remember that teh most important thing is to build awareness.

We're cheering for you!

Don't forget to check out the Calm app for inspiration & support. 

The Temples of Shodoshima

 

Candace Rose Rardon shares the journey behind her latest Sleep Story. 

 

A little over four years ago, the opportunity arose for me to visit Japan for the first time, and I couldn’t have been more thrilled about it. While I was growing up, my uncle was stationed in Japan with the U.S. Navy for several years and I loved being pen pals with my aunt, whose letters always arrived on colorful Sanrio stationery. Sometimes, there were even gilded sheets of origami paper tucked between the pages.

 

My aunt’s descriptive stories of their life in Japan filled my mind with its first real images of the wider world beyond my childhood home, and they played an instrumental role in stoking the wanderlust I already felt as a child.

 

Finally getting to plan my own visit to Japan thus felt like I was preparing for a fitting full-circle journey — a trip that would honor one of the first countries that had inspired me to become a traveler. Key cities such as Tokyo and Kyoto were natural stops on my itinerary, but there were also about ten days in my journey that I didn’t immediately know how to fill or where to spend them.

 

And so I decided to dig deeper in my research and look for a Japanese version of the places I have always been drawn to in my travels: Islands.

 
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One of my favorite things to do when looking for an island to explore in a new country is to open Google Maps, find a stretch of coastline or body of water nearby to where I’m already planning to be, and zoom in until I can see the names of any islands that might have popped up on the map. Then it’s just a matter of researching the islands and figuring out how to get to them — and, of course, what I’ll do when I’m there.

As I began this process for my trip to Japan, I narrowed my focus on the Seto Inland Sea, the 9,000-square mile body of water separating three of the four principal islands of Japan. The sea also serves as a waterway connecting the Sea of Japan to the Pacific Ocean, and is home to almost 3,000 islands, many of which are uninhabited. To an island-lover such as myself, this sounded pretty much idyllic.

 

The first island I saw on the map, Awajishima, is also the largest in the Inland Sea, but then I read on Wikitravel what the island is primarily known for: Onions. This didn’t exactly fit with what I was hoping to experience in Japan — especially after so many years of dreaming about the country from afar — so I decided to keep searching.

 

Next, just a little to the west of Awajishima, I spotted the second largest island in the sea, known as Shodoshima. Again, I visited the Wikitravel page for the island and read that what onions are to Awajishima, olives are to Shodoshima, even giving the island the occasional nickname of “Olive Island.” But as I kept reading, something else caught my attention — that in addition to olives, Shodoshima is also home to a smaller version of the 88 Temple Pilgrimage also found on neighboring Shikoku Island.

 

As my heart begin to race with anticipation, it was then that I knew — I’d found the island for me in Japan at last.

 

 
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As I recently shared in my newest Sleep Story for Calm, “The Temples of Shodoshima," the history of pilgrimage in Japan reaches back centuries into the past — more than a millennium, in fact. And arguably one of the most well-known Buddhist pilgrimages in the country is the 88 Temple Pilgrimage on Shikoku Island, which spans around 750 miles and can take up to two months to complete on foot.

 

While I would have loved to complete such a storied pilgrimage, I sadly wouldn’t be in Japan long enough — and so to discover Shodoshima and realize a smaller version of the pilgrimage existed on the island seemed like the perfect alternative.

 

Instead of taking two months like the Shikoku circuit, the shorter 88 Temple Pilgrimage on Shodoshima takes only about a week to complete its 100-mile route. But despite the great difference in their lengths, the two journeys still have much in common — and they offer those who travel their sacred paths many of the same rewards.

 

Throughout the eight days I spent walking the pilgrimage, slowly circling my way around Shodoshima, I felt these rewards on every level. First, there was simply the reward of pushing myself physically, moving at my own momentum through a foreign country and witnessing so many stunning natural landscapes I never would have seen had I not been traveling Shodoshima on foot. There were mountains and bamboo forests and incredible vistas when the trees parted to reveal the Inland Sea glittering below.

 
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There were also cultural rewards, as my knowledge of Japan grew deeper with each day I spent on the trail. Visiting up to a dozen temples a day, not only did I get to know more about the country’s rich traditions and history of pilgrimages, but I especially enjoyed seeing local life unfold around me. At times, the path led me directly through someone’s back garden, and I loved waving hello to islanders as they looked up from their work.

 
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But the greatest rewards I discovered on Shodoshima were those I felt on an emotional and spiritual level. As soon as I crossed the threshold of each temple, I felt the strongest sense of rest and repose wash over me, as though I were deep in meditation.

 

Every temple slowed my breath, focused my attention, and calmed my busy mind. There was a singular beauty in the bell that always hung at each temple; in the scent of incense and the gentle curl of its smoke as the fragrant sticks burned; and in the smile of each priest and temple volunteer, who always greeted me with warmth and kindness.

 
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More than realizing my childhood dreams of traveling to Japan, and even more than exploring a beautiful island in the Inland Sea, peace was the true gift that my time on the pilgrimage gave me — and as you listen to my new Sleep Story about Shodoshima, I hope it brings you some of the island’s serenity as well.

 
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About the Author

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Candace Rose Rardon is a sketch artist and storyteller with a passion for connecting with the world through art. She is also the founder of Moment Catchers, an art and travel blog and global community of artists. Originally from the state of Virginia, she is now based in Montevideo, Uruguay.

To connect with Candace or join the next Moment Catchers monthly sketching challenge, you can visit her website or follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

Calm College

Move over, Snapchat. There’s a new app taking over the college scene, and the only filter is a warm and radiant smile.

 
 

The name is Calm College, and our big, audacious goal is to introduce every college student in America to mindfulness meditation.

 

Here’s a thought exercise: how would college campuses look different if every student practiced meditation? How would classrooms change if professors incorporated mindfulness into their teaching? And how would the world be different if cultural leaders all embraced the virtues of purpose, presence, and compassion?

 

So far, over 100 colleges are currently involved in the onboarding process to participate in Calm College, with seven schools (Harvard, Princeton, Northwestern, Cornell, Johns Hopkins, NYU and UPenn) leading the initial launch this Fall semester. By starting our beta-program with these universities, we’ll learn what it’ll take to ultimately get mindfulness #trending on campuses across the country.

 

 
 

Students, faculty and staff at Calm College partner schools will have free access to all of the app's features, including 100+ guided meditations, 60+ Sleep Stories, Calm Music, breathing exercises, and our brand-new College Collection: an inspiring series focusing on how to practically apply mindfulness into the college lifestyle. These meditations are designed to help students manage test anxiety, stay focused in class, and find more restful zzz’s. The topics of these sessions include:

 
  • Introduction to Meditation
  • Stress
  • Concentration
  • Balance
  • Sleep
  • Self compassion
  • Purpose
  • Study Break
 

Throughout the year, these colleges will be sharing Calm all around campus: freshman dorms, counseling and wellness centers, classrooms, libraries, athletic departments, and anywhere else students can benefit from a mindful moment. In company with our partner universities, Calm College is also collaborating with national collegiate mental health organizations such as Active Minds and The JED Foundation to make Calm affordable and accessible to students around the country. For those not affiliated with our partners, a Calm Student Discount is also available.

 
 

Science departments have not to worry. There are 3,000+ clinical studies on mindfulness, with over 75 proven benefits! Meditation can enhance focus, reduce stress and anxiety, improve sleep, and augment working memory — all pretty important for the modern day scholar.  Better yet, Calm is coordinating scientific studies at Ohio State University and Arizona State University to provide empirical evidence for just how life-changing a Calm mind can be.

 

So, why are we doing this? In recent years, mental health has become a growing concern, especially for students at the collegiate level. Approximately 95% of college counseling centers say that student psychological problems are on the rise, while half of college freshman today rate their own mental health as poor. And for the first time ever, depression and anxiety are now recognized as the top impediments to student academic performance.

 
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The fact of the matter is, college stress isn’t going anywhere. There will always be exams, weird roommates, and half-off wings that just don’t live up to their Yelp review. Through developing mental habits of balance and non-judgement, we hope to promote a culture of resiliency for generations of college students to come, while covering new ground in the emerging intersection of mental health and technology. By introducing mindfulness to students around the nation, we're hoping to re-define what it means to get a college education.

 

Who knows? In years to come, we may just hear students talking about the Daily Calm on the campus quad, or practicing deep breathing during a stressful test. A mindfulness journey lasts a lifetime, and this one starts right here.

 

 

If you have questions, comments, or would like to get your campus involved in Calm College, send us an email at college@calm.com.

 

 
 

Start Meditating

Use the Calm app from your phone or your computer to develop a meditation practice, breathe deeper, invite a moment of relaxation into your busy day, and soothe your way into dreamland when you're ready for bed.

Calm is beginner friendly and offers programs for all levels of mindfulness experience.

 

The World's Happiest App

 
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According to a study of 200,000 iPhone Users, Calm is the World's Happiest App! 

We're blushing! It's such an honor and in perfect alignment with our vision to make the world a happier and healthier place!

It turns out that Calm landed just ahead of Google Calendar, but well ahead of such other happy apps as Amazon Music, Kindle & Spotify! Meanwhile, the new study ranks Facebook, Tinder, and Instagram among the apps found to make users most unhappy.

Perhaps it is not surprising that the apps that help us to organize our lives, educate us, and provide a soundtrack for our daily activities provide the most nourishment.

Interestingly, the study noted that our feelings about apps depend on how much time we spend using the app. Apparently, the apps that we spend less time on left us with more positive feelings towards the app.

Be aware! Notice when you're allowing an app to steal time from you. Instead, be intentional about what apps you use and how you want to invest your time.

Here are three nutritious ways to use the Calm app ...

1. The Daily Calm 

Time investment: 10 minutes a day!

We serve a fresh new 10-minute guided meditation every day in the app called The Daily Calm. Each session is unique and includes a different theme to help you develop your meditation practice and invite mindfulness into your life. Many Calm subscribers credit the Daily Calm as the essential ingredient to maintaining a regular meditation practice. 10 minutes a day can change your life.

 
 
 

2. Sleep Stories

Time investment: 2-20 minutes a day! The exact timing depends on how fast you fall asleep.

We created a natural sleep aid, in the form of bedtime stories for grown-ups called Sleep Stories. These sleep-inducing tales mix soothing words, music, and sound-effects to help you wind down and drift off to dreamland. Most people never hear the end of the story as they have fallen asleep far before the narrator gently speaks his or her final words. We're recording new Sleep Stories every week so be sure to explore our library regularly. 

 
 
 

3. Breathe Bubble

Time investment: 30 seconds!

This simple breathing exercise is designed to settle your nerves and help you to reconnect with your body. It's kind of like a reset button. A short pause to focus on your breath has the power to leave you feeling calmer and recharged. All you have to do is watch the Breathe Bubble and the breath will follow.