I've always struggled to meditate. Carving out 10 minutes to simply sit and breathe always feels like time that might be better used for another purpose—even if that means I inevitably end up scrolling through my phone. When I do make the attempt, suddenly, I feel like I just can't sit still. It's for these reasons I know that I should develop a meditation practice, but it always seems like attempting the impossible.
Still, I'm very familiar with all the proven benefits of meditation. I know that it's a psychological tool that can ease my anxiety and stress, boost my productivity, and help me to fall asleep. This is why, when I do happen upon a new-to-me meditation app, I am likely to try it out, on the off chance that I can finally get the habit to stick. And when I tried the MyLife app, for once I felt like I finally found something different. (For full transparency, the app is owned by the same company as Health, but my feelings towards it are completely genuine).
When you first open the app, you're encouraged to "check-in" by taking a few guided breaths, noting how you feel physically and mentally, and sharing any emotions you might be experiencing. From there, the app suggests a few different activities you can try: Meditations of different lengths, breathing exercises, and even yoga sequences. This diagnostic component was already different from what I was used to. Normally, I might open a meditation app because I knew I was experiencing stress and having a hard time falling asleep, and I would pick whichever guided meditation was geared towards those struggles. It felt novel to have my self-care regimen algorithmically suggested to me, though it wasn't an unwanted experience. But I decided I wanted to see what else the app had to offer before immediately going with my recommendations.
Scrolling through the app's themed activities, I found guided meditations with strict time limits, options pegged to specific reasons for stress (the meditations about climate anxiety piqued my interest), and even some yoga videos. But the option that stood out to me the most was something I hadn't considered before: Acupressure.
I had vaguely heard about the power of pressure points, but was not entirely familiar. I clicked in the category and found a few videos, each instructing on how self-administered acupressure could help you ease stress, soothe anxiety, cope with depression, practice self-compassion, and fall asleep. I watched the first and was guided through a series of movements: squeezing the part of my hand between my thumb and index finger, then pressing a spot on my rib cage, all while breathing deeply. While no pressure point was a magic button suddenly making me forget all my worries, I felt, with each breath, a bit more calm: I could focus on 1 part of my body, so my mind seemed to wander less and less.
Stefanie DiLibero, L.Ac, founder of Gotham Wellness, an acupuncture clinic in New York City, explains that applying pressure to certain locations on your body can help relieve stress by restoring homeostasis—basically, correcting any imbalances that might be making you feel off. "Changes in pressure on the skin are noted by your sensory nerves, which send signals to your brain, which then responds by releasing endorphins," she says. Acupressure can be used similarly to acupuncture, to help with stress, insomnia, and anxiety, DiLibero adds, but it requires far less technical skill (read: no needles involved).
You can get a professional acupressure treatment, which is more targeted than a massage, during which an expert can also personally diagnose the best pressure points for you to focus on. But you can also try out the technique yourself. DiLibero recommends taking 3 to 6 slow, deep breaths as you do so. "Feel free to add another round or 3 if you find you want to keep going," she says.
I started incorporating this kind of acupressure into my day—taking a few moments for myself when I feel my thoughts start to spiral—and soon enough, I started to have a different attitude towards meditation in general. I began to explore more of MyLife's options, using the app's short meditations as a complement to the pressure point practice I was developing. This helped me to feel more connected to my body, and less likely to grow increasingly frustrated as I sat through a full meditation session.
While I don't think this attitude will blossom into a regular, 30-minute meditation practice—my level of concentration and devotion isn't quite there yet—I feel calm knowing that now, I have another practice in my toolkit that can help me to feel my best. Sometimes, all I need is a good squeeze, and the MyLife app taught me that.
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