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In this post I will introduce you to the Headspace App and its purpose so that you can decide whether it is worth a download and or purchase. Further, if, after reading this Headspace App Review, you decide that the Headspace App is not right for you then I encourage you to check out some of the available alternatives.

What is Meditation and Why do it?

Meditation is the practice of picking an object of focus and honing in on that one thing for a period of time. The most common object of focus is the breath. There are several different ways to meditate. Most of them involve sitting in a comfortable position and intentionally practicing awareness. Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years as a way to improve focus, cultivate inner peace, and gain perspective.

Today, meditation is used in many circles to combat the effects of stress. Between the pull of cell phones and the push of busy schedules, it is safe to say that cortisol levels are through the roof and relief is a necessity! Fortunately, meditation offers a way to become more aware of the factors that cause stress so that you can control your response. (Check out the link below to learn more about the stress relieving effects of meditation):

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/04/180423135048.htm

Headspace App Focus Photo by Paul Skorupskas on Unsplash
Headspace App Focus Photo by Paul Skorupskas on Unsplash

So, if meditation is the answer to stress and we want to be less stressed then let’s start meditating. This seems simple enough. However, if you are just starting to meditate then you should know that meditation comes with some of its own challenges. These include a busy mind, distraction, discomfort, maintaining a disciplined practice, and finding good information on technique to name a few. I think that anyone you ask would love to find a way to feel more at peace. If meditation is the answer then how do we fit this practice in to our already packed daily schedule and do it in a way that will have positive lasting effects?  The creators of the Headspace App are on a mission to help with some of these challenges.  

The Headspace App Story

Headspace originated as a book written by Andy Puddicombe. He began as a Buddhist monk studying across the East with various masters of meditation. After his time with the masters, Andy decided to bring meditation to the West. This was a challenging task because of the way that most westerners view mediation. Americans, for example, view meditation as an unusual practice. The mere concept of intentionally doing nothing goes against the very fabric of our cultural values. Additionally, meditation carries a very deep religious connotation. The Headspace book and app are a part of his goal to make meditation more accessible and less spiritual so that westerners can enjoy the benefits without feeling like they are committing to an unusual ritual. 

  Buddhist Monk Study Headspace Photo by Bundo Kim on Unsplash
Buddhist Monk Study Headspace Photo by Bundo Kim on Unsplash

In this article I will share my experience with the Headspace app so that you can decide whether it is worth a download and or paying for a subscription. Clink on the link below to find the Headspace website and try for yourself:

https://www.headspace.com/

Who Should try the Headspace App?

Whether or not the the Headspace app is for you depends on where you are in your practice. Some people may be just beginning to try meditation while others may be well practiced and are ready to take their meditation sessions to the next level. Overall, I would recommend Headspace to beginners or people who are just starting to make meditation a part of their daily routine. Hopefully, my experience with the app will help you to understand why. 

My Experience with the Headspace App

How I got Started

When I started with the Headspace app, I had been meditating for several years and had tried many different types of guided meditations. Like all things worthwhile, to get results from meditation you must be disciplined and stick to it. Sticking to a strict schedule has always been my biggest problem. Life is often too busy to fit in 10 minutes of intentionally doing nothing. If you can relate to this then meditation must be scheduled for it to become a habit. Otherwise, you will stick with it for a few weeks and then it gradually drops lower and lower on your priority list. 

  Headspace Scheduling Photo by STIL on Unsplash
Headspace Scheduling Photo by STIL on Unsplash

The Problem that Headspace Solves

Up until listening to the Headspace audio-book, my meditation habits followed a similar pattern. I would  stay consistent for 2 weeks; meditating 20 minutes per day. Then, after the 2 weeks was over, I would lose interest as I started pushing my meditation time later and later into the night. Eventually, other “more important things” took the place of meditation until I was only doing it once a week or not at all. I was at the end of one of these procrastination cycles when I came across the Headspace book. After reading it, I was once again motivated to meditate for another two weeks at least; but how would I stick with it? The author recommended downloading the app; so I did. 

Viola

The app was just what I needed to stay on schedule. I found it easy to make meditation a part of my everyday routine. However, since I had been meditating for so long, the guided sessions felt overly simplified. The meditations focus on solving problems that you face in your life. For example, one session is called motivation and has a meditation that teaches you how to have a healthy perspective while pursuing your goals. This type of content is perfect for those just beginning their practice but I was hoping for more depth.

Nonetheless, the app fulfilled its purpose. It kept me to a daily regiment. Once I had finished the basics course and used some of the sleep casts, I was ready to find out what else the app had to offer. It was then that I realized; in order to access the rest of the library, you have to pay a large subscription fee. Below is what you gain access to if you pay that fee:

  • About 50 meditation classes that have a particular focus like anxiety or restlessness
  • Several routines that you can do throughout your day to practice mindfulness
  • Various short meditations that you can do at work for a few minutes
  • A large library of meditations to ease your mind before bed 
  • Music to listen to while you sleep

Keep reading if you want to know more about the ups and downs of this app and some alternatives that may be a better option for you. 

The Ups & Downs of the Headspace App

Positives – The Good Stuff

 Positives of Heaspace App Photo by MARK ADRIANE on Unsplash
Positives of Heaspace App Photo by MARK ADRIANE on Unsplash

Visually Appealing/ Entertaining

  • The App has a cartoon that features a cute novice meditator who illustrates the goal for each session
  • Andy (the founder and voice for the meditations) has a soothing voice

Keeps you on track

  • My favorite part of the app is that it has options to do a 2 minute, 5 minute, or 10 minute meditation for each session
  • Sends a notification to your phone when it is time to meditate and or listen to the sleep recording
  • Keeps track of how many days in a row you have consistently meditated

Makes Meditation Simple and easy to start

  • The free version has a ten session basics class that walks you through every step. 
    • It illustrates how to sit
    • Tells you when to inhale and exhale
    • Tells you when to focus on what aspect of each moment
    • Talks about what you may be feeling at each stage of your practice
    • Allows you to decide between 2, 5, and 10 minute sessions depending on how much time you have that day

Good Variety

  • The subscription has a library full of meditations for every situation
    • Depending on where your mind is on a particular day, you can choose which class will be right for you
  • Has recordings to help you sleep
    • these recordings help you visualize a peaceful atmosphere like a butterfly garden or train car while drifting off to sleep.
    • Of course, the subscription allows you access to a more extensive library of sleep aids like sleep music and wind downs
  • A fair amount of content is available for free

Quick to load

  • I had no issue with the load time or function of this app. The videos and guided meditation recordings work without any problems. 

The Negatives- the Bad Stuff

  Negatives of Headspace App Photo by Caleb Minear on Unsplash
Negatives of Headspace App Photo by Caleb Minear on Unsplash

Cost

  • Have to pay a significant amount for the advanced version 
    • Headspace asks for $7.92 per month if you subscribe for the whole year and $12.99 per month if you only want to commit to one month. This is a lot of money!
    • The app is constantly reminding you to subscribe. It allows you to see part of the library that you do not have access to as a non-subscriber.

Notifications

  • The app sends a ton of notifications to your phone
    • Sometimes these notifications are nice because they remind you to meditate or to be mindful throughout the day but they got to be overwhelming after a month of having the app.

Malfunctions

  • Some users report that the app crashes on occasion
    • This is not something I ever experienced personally but it happened to many people who left a review on Google Play. 

Alternatives to the Headspace App

  Options Photo by Robert Anasch on Unsplash
Options Photo by Robert Anasch on Unsplash

There are many alternatives to the Headspace App. I have listed some of these alternatives below along with ways in which they compare and contrast with Headspace. 

Let’s Meditate

  • Includes 30 meditation sessions available to download for free.
  • Some of these meditations go deep in to traditional meditation practices like focusing on chakras for example
  • Does not include animations
  • Most of the meditations are 10 minutes or more however some are a short 5 minutes long
  • Does not send as many notifications as Headspace but does remind you to meditate 
  • Keeps track of total time meditated
  • Many of the sessions focus on dealing with a particular problem or situation

Calm

  • Access to full library during free 7 day trial and then you can decide if you want to continue paying $59.99 per year after the trial ends (still less expensive than Headspace)
  • Does not give you the option of trying month by month
  • Tailors meditation practice to your goals
  • Upon downloading the app, you enter your goals. For example: reduce anxiety, improve focus, sleep better.
  • Includes an enormous library of meditations; has 42 courses. Each course includes anywhere from 5 to over 20 guided sessions. (this is much larger than Headspace)
  • Includes a series on mindful eating
  • Has sections for kids ages 5-17
  • Has bedtime stories of all kinds to listen to before bed. Matthew Mcconaughey reads one of these stories
  • Includes a very large library of relaxing music
  • Courses are long and are focused on achieving a specific goal every couple of days. 
  • Most of the content features a female narrator
  • Has animated scenes like a forest or beach setting that put you in the mood to meditate. 
  • Will remind you when to sleep and when to meditate
  • Links to google fit
  • Meditations are written by Tamara Levvit who is also a professional in mindfulness, yoga, and meditation
  • Calm offers many tools to help you stay on track such as mindfulness journals, mindfulness calendars, and gratitude tool kits.

Insight Timer App

  • The free version offers more than most other meditation apps but there is also an optional premium version upgrade.
  • Several different voices to choose from
  • Some users have complained that it does not work well on all devices and some of the updates have caused technical issues.
  • Reviews state that some of the meditations are perfect from practicing with kids before bedtime.
  • The free version includes 28,000 guided meditations.
  • Insight timer allows you to customize your meditation experience by choosing sounds and session duration.
  • This app is equipped with detailed statistics on your meditation progress.

In Conclusion

The Headspace app is designed to make meditation accessible to those who want to start their practice in a practical and scheduled way. It accomplishes this goal with guided meditations that focus on a problem you may be facing. If you are just starting out and want to learn how to use meditation to do things like reduce stress but aren’t ready to commit to a full year then this app might be perfect for you. 

However, If the Headspace content that I have described sounds like it would be up your alley and you are looking for something that is more cost effective then I would recommend using the Calm App or Insight Timer. Calm has more content for the money you pay (it costs $59 for the year as opposed to $95.04 with Headspace while Insight Timer has the same yearly cost and also a monthly option of $9.99). The only reason that I could see someone who is ready to commit for one year, choosing Headspace over Calm, is if you prefer a male narrator over a female narrator. Fortunately, Insight Timer offers the best of both worlds by having several different narrators for you to choose from.  

The Search Continues

I was looking for a meditation app that could help me set a strict routine, learn more about the concepts behind traditional meditation techniques, and keep me motivated to meditate everyday. The Headspace app helped me to keep a routine and motivated me to meditate but I did not learn as much about the culture of meditation as I hoped. Calm and Insight Timer achieved the same functions in a much better way. Overall, Calm and Insight Timer had much more content than Headspace. Also, Its user friendly nature and featured classes helped keep me motivated over a longer period of time than Headspace. Unfortunately, Calm was still lacking in lessons on the culture and concepts behind meditation. However, Insight Timer offers meditation classes from many traditional practices if you are looking for more authenticity. 

I am still in search of a meditation app that has everything that I want but I hope that this article helped you decide whether the Headspace app is right for you. Please share your experience with any of the apps mentioned in the comments below. 

   Perspective Photo by Drew Graham on Unsplash
Perspective Photo by Drew Graham on Unsplash

References