When I started writing this blog, I wasn’t expecting to write about gamification. I was expecting to write about something a bit more personal and fulfilling! But when I considered the two things I wanted to write about the most – running and meditation I realised that actually some of my drive to do both comes about at least in part because of gamification. Let me explain.
This year is the year I finally got the Headspace habit. I’ve always been drawn to the idea of meditation but thought that actually there’s no way I could empty my brain, or sit still. So although I read a few books on mindfulness I never really did anything about it. Then earlier this year, a good friend of mine mentioned Headspace. It came about because of a conversation about the founder of Headspace, Andy Puddicombe. She knew Andy very well, and I knew him a little bit (he used to live in Bedford before he became super famous, and once I even helped him with a marketing proposal he’d written!).
She recommended Headspace and I gave it a try – you can sign up for 10 days for free. I loved it. And more importantly, it instantly dispelled a few myths for me about meditation – mainly that you have to clear your mind! Andy’s voice is very reassuring and he explains that it’s to be expected that thoughts keep popping back into your head. But he helps you focus on the moment by focusing on your breath, or a visualization exercise. I’m now a fully paid up meditation bunny. I’m up to almost 300 sessions, and over 66 hours of meditation. And I feel much better for it. It helps me feel calmer, more focused and less stressed. I really do notice that if I skip it for a few days that these feelings can creep back in. I’ve also discovered that sitting down didn’t work for me, so in fact, I do my meditation sessions while walking.
Which leads me nicely onto the next thing…in my case running. I ran the London Marathon a couple of years ago. This does not in any way indicate I am a great runner – very much the opposite in fact! But I did and it was honestly one of the best experiences of my life. The same cannot be said of the training. I’m not a natural runner (I like to think I’m built for comfort, not speed!) and once the marathon was done and dusted I didn’t run again until this year. This year I started again, doing Parkrun when I got fed up of pumping iron at the gym. I like being outside and in the fresh air and I know that running is a real challenge for me. I’ve got no aims to go any long distances anymore, but have signed up for a 10k just after Christmas to give me something to aim for. (In fact, my little brother signed me up. He can do a 10K in about 40 minutes. I can do it in about an hour and 10 minutes…sigh.)
So how has gamification affected these two things? Well of course, I use apps on my phone for both. Headspace has a nice neat app that helps you keep track of how many sessions you’ve done. It lets you pick from a series library so you can do a series of sessions around creativity, anxiety, relationships, even sleep! You can add friends and most addictive of all it shows you how many days on the trot you’ve meditated. (I was gutted when I missed a session after 87 days and didn’t get my 90 day badge!) It seems silly but it does really help my motivation to keep track. The great thing about Headspace too is their #getsomegivesome approach. If you complete 30 days in a row, you can gift a month of meditation to a friend to try for free.
On the running side I know there’s a whole bunch of apps available. I’ve got a Fitbit so I count my runs towards my daily step count and aim for 100,000 steps a week in total. I don’t often get there, but I’m usually around the 90,000 mark. I also have a TomTom running watch which comes with an app. I really like this over and above some of the MapMyRun type apps because it shows me not only the route, distance and time but what my heart rate was and makes me work harder! Plus it’s really really simple to use. Always a bonus! And knowing that you’ve got a target to hit in steps, distance or heart rate I really find does help me get there. It makes me go for a walk when I could so easily stay on the sofa or in the office.
So what’s my point? Well perhaps I’m a more competitive creature than most, or perhaps I like to challenge myself just against myself, but I find having an app, and sharing the process with friends really helps me keep motivated and enjoy the things I want to do, just that little bit more. It can be hard to carve out a space in your day for things that seem self-indulgent. But actually fitness – for your body and your brain should be a key focus for all of us. We know we all work better when we feel better. Feeling good, mentally and physically helps us get more done and enjoy life more. Plus…I know that pretty soon I’m going to have a whole load of mince pies to burn off!
I’d love to hear which apps you’re using in your downtime or to help you relax, so please feel free to share below!