No one really likes the word “responsibilities”—and not just because it’s the sort of word that’d trip you up at a third-grade spelling bee; it’s because most of the time, responsibilities mean you have to do things that you don’t really like. More and more people are turning to meditation in hopes of alleviating these everyday stressors—work, chores, the daily grind. I discovered—or rather, was introduced to—meditation by an unlikely source: Jerry Seinfeld. I thought, if one of the most successful comedians of all time found this beneficial, then dammit, why can’t I?
As someone who is stressed out a lot, and who is caffeine-sensitive (too much caffeine feels like someone strapped a car battery to me), I’m prone to feeling anxious from time to time (read: daily). This is why, some time ago, I stopped with the coffee (finding the right coffee alternative is just as hard as you can imagine), started a new daily ritual of drinking jitter-freeMUD\WTR instead, and decided to give the meditation app Headspace a try.
Scientific studies back a lot of what you’ve likely heard about meditation and its potential benefits, such as reducing stress and lowering anxiety. In fact, a study that focused on the benefits of meditation on reducing workspace stress using the Headspace app concluded that those who meditated saw a reduction in anxiety, blood pressure, sleeping problems, and an overall improvement in wellbeing.
I’ve used a number of mindfulness platforms over the years in an attempt to find the best meditation app that worked for me. I decided that an app was the way to go, since I could bring it with me and set reminders and notifications to keep up my practice. And from what I’ve found, the best meditation app is Headspace. Here’s what I’ve learned as an avid user.
What is Headspace?
Headspace is an app that offers guided meditation with an emphasis on mindfulness. Founded by Andy Puddicombe (a former Buddhist monk) and Richard Pierson (a marketing professional), Headspace originally offered in-person meditation sessions. Due to demand, it transitioned to an app in 2012. Since then, Headspace has expanded its library of content and now offers guided meditations for sleep, exercise videos, and focus music. Its bread and butter, though, is its guided meditations library. Each meditation can range from one minute to over two hours, based on your preferences. The sessions are designed to not only give you a few minutes of rest, but to help you recharge and reassess, using varying meditation courses designed to help ease your mind, refocus your thoughts, and give you a little peace of mind.
Headspace’s library of content is designed to work around real-life experiences. For example, I chose the “Fear of Flying” meditation on a recent trip I took, since I’m always afraid that the plane I’m on might suddenly drop out of the sky because of something called gravity. This meditation helps you focus on your body, instead of focusing on thoughts such as, “Why is the wing bending like that?” or “I’d probably be OK if I rolled when I hit the ground, right?” I found that focusing on breathing and letting thoughts come and go really did help to settle my mind. As someone who hates flying, this was a game-changer, and the feeling of impending doom that cloaks me like a cloud of mist when I’m on a Boeing 737 dissipated. (That and this episode of Stuff You Should Know on Turbulence really helps.)
In addition to educational videos on how to meditate, Headspace has music by film composer Hans Zimmer, a library of focus jazz curated by John Legend, and even exercise motivation featuring comedian Kevin Hart. In my opinion, it’s these little features that make it one of the best meditation apps on the market.
How Headspace Works
Signing up for Headspace is pretty easy: First off, Headspace offers a seven- to 14-day free trial, so if it’s not for you, you’re not stuck with the bill. Making an account only takes a few minutes, and if entering personal and financial details makes you feel anxious, don’t sweat—Headspace has a meditation for that. After your account is squared away, you can get meditating, and according to the website, in just 10 days, you’ll already feel up to 14% less stressed with regular use of the app.
When you log onto the Headspace app, you’re greeted with the “Today” section, which features favorites, recent listens, as well as the main section titled “Start Your Day,” which has a one-minute breathing exercise, a daily meditation, and whatever course you’ve done or are working on.
One of my favorite Headspace features is The Wake Up—a new motivational video sent to your main feed each morning that focuses on a slew of topics including how to create a weekly cord-cutting ritual, nature documentaries, and how-tos on meditation narrated by co-founder Andy Puddicombe. I usually start my meditations in the morning, to create a sort of ritual, since I find it a little harder to meditate in the middle of the day. Each meditation instructs you to sit or lie down. Then, you go through a number of exercises, focusing on breathing to help you become more mindful.
When meditating, it can be hard to stop your mind from wandering, which can be frustrating at first. But, once you lay down and listen, you realize that the point of meditation isn’t to shut things down and try to focus, but rather to understand that the mind is always going to do what the mind does best—overthink. What Headspace does is make it easier for you to not only be guided into the meditation, but understand that when thoughts interrupt your peace, it’s normal, and doesn’t “ruin” your meditation.
Sitting down and doing nothing for a few minutes doesn’t sound like much of a task, and the idea that it can be beneficial to your health seems at odds with everything I thought I knew about health. But it appears to be beneficial, and helps me a lot—especially as someone who needs to de-stress and requires a jolt of energy to start the day.
Not all meditation sessions are created equal. Some sessions, I felt light afterward, the sort of feeling you get when you step out of a pool after you swam a few laps. In other sessions, I left feeling relatively the same, though a little more at-peace. This is where the library of educational videos are helpful, as they guide you (much like the guided meditations) to help you understand that some days are good, and some days, not so good—and other days, the mind races despite how much you try to focus (or unfocus).
I’m gonna be honest: I was, and am, impressed with Headspace, and I definitely enjoy using the app. I am not usually one to purchase subscription services, but I found Headspace worth it. I actually notice the difference on days where I miss a meditation—I’m a lot more coarse (which, if you know me, is saying a lot). Overall, I’d recommend Headspace to anyone who wants to try to improve their wellbeing and de-stress. Because lord knows, we all need to find a way to help reduce the anxieties of this modern world—and to stop doomscrolling on Twitter. (Or is that just me?)
You can sign up for a seven- to 14-day free trial of Headspace at headspace.com.