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Making mental health a priority is a challenge this year as we continue to navigate through a global pandemic and the stressors that accompany it.

However, meditation, a group of techniques that originated around 1500 BCE as an Eastern religious and spiritual tradition, is shown to lower anxiety and enhance overall well-being. Thanks to the digital age, it’s easier than ever to get started.

Headspace is a meditation app available for iOS and Android that’s great for beginners. With guided meditations, mindful workouts, and sleep techniques, there’s something on the app for everyone.

Keep reading for more on what it has to offer.

Headspace is a mindfulness app with an easy-to-use interface that takes the seriousness and intimidation out of meditation.

According to TechCrunch, Headspace is one of the most frequently downloaded mindfulness apps in the world, only second after Calm, garnering millions of downloads.

The app was co-founded by Andy Puddicombe, a former Buddhist monk who narrates a majority of the guided meditations. Although meditation itself is rooted in Eastern Buddhist tradition, Headspace isn’t tied to any singular religious identity.

Pros

  • Yearly subscriptions and family plans provide significant savings.
  • The app works for all iOS and Android users.
  • The content on their website is accessible and free for everyone.
  • The app can give you daily nudges or reminders to practice.
  • You can track your progress through the stats feature.
  • You can include others in your journey through the buddies feature.
  • The workout classes are taught by Olympians.
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Cons

  • The monthly subscription is higher than other mediation apps.
  • Some users report finding the app repetitive at times.
  • The free trial requires putting a credit card in and committing to an auto-renewal subscription.
  • Headspace places a greater focus on introductory courses, which may be a con for advanced meditators.
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After creating an account, you’re taken to the homepage where you’re greeted by “Wake Up,” a short series of videos that explain concepts like letting go or stepping away from mental stressors (sometimes, there’s even a celebrity leading the video).

The menu bar at the bottom of the screen has four categories you can toggle between: Meditate, Sleep, Move, and Focus.

Here are some of the most popular features.

Free vs. paid

Users who sign up for the free trial have access to one of three guided foundation courses, titled “Basics.” There are 10 free sessions in each “Basics” course. After the first “Basics” pack, you need to become a paying subscriber in order to unlock the second and third series in the course.

The free trial also includes access to three sessions of “Today’s Meditation,” the “Stress Release” and “Reframing Anxiety” workouts under the Move section, and one of the app’s most popular Sleepcasts, “Rainday Antiques.”

With a paid subscription, you have access to the full library of content, including more than 400 meditations.

Memberships to Headspace Plus are $12.99 per month or $69.99 per year. If you qualify for their student plan, it’s $9.99 per year. There’s also a family plan that grants six accounts access for only $99.99 per year.

Headspace also grants free memberships to all K-12 teachers, school administrators, and supporting staff in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia.

Meditate

There are both meditation courses and single programs. Courses are clusters of guided meditations that center around different topics, like dealing with grief, sparking creativity, boosting confidence, and finding focus. Single programs are one-off meditations for stressful moments, like gearing up for a presentation or conquering pre-flight anxiety.

Many meditations are customizable. You can usually choose between Puddicombe, the app’s co-founder, or a female narrator. You can also choose how long you want the session to last, anywhere from 3 to 20 minutes. The app tracks how long you’ve meditated and updates you on your “minutes meditated” after each session.

Headspace also tracks how many days in a row you meditate and then shares a positive quote centered around mindfulness.

Sleep

Trouble sleeping is one of the reasons people turn to meditation. An estimated 50 percent of people 55 years and older have some form of sleep problem, including initiating and maintaining sleep, according to a 2015 study.

Headspace’s sleep content includes relaxing guided sessions and Sleepcasts, which are 45–55 minutes and feature audio tours of fictional realms paired with white noise.

There are also nighttime guided meditations with short breathing exercises and relaxing visualizations to help you let go of your worries. Lastly, there’s a sleep radio with more than 8 hours of rain, ocean, or music sounds to help you doze off.

Move

Move is one of the app’s newest offerings. It has a myriad of low-to-medium impact workouts that are 10–30 minutes long and focus on the mind-body connection.

Olympians Kim Glass and Leon Taylor coach you through the sessions and encourage you to pay special attention to your breath work.

None of the classes focus on intensity. Instead, the classes focus on modules, like reframing anxiety through yoga or mindfulness while doing cardio.

Focus

The Focus tab offers curated music and meditation playlists designed to help you focus on the work in front of you.

Some playlists feature ambient music and lo-fi beats while other playlists contain soundscapes or 3D recordings from all over the world (like forest streams, Dehli thunderstorms, monastery bird songs, or a midnight jungle).

There are also focus playlists curated by Grammy Award-winning artists, like John Legend’s which showcases his favorite jazz hits.

Social connection

The app allows you to add friends and family from your contact book as buddies. Adding buddies allows you to see how many minutes your friends have meditated, and send them cheerful messages like “keep it up” or “thinking of you!” This feature can help you hold each other accountable.

Headspace for kids

Headspace also has an array of courses for children to teach them about meditation early on in life. There are simple breathing exercises, relaxing mindful activities, and short lessons on the importance of kindness and generosity.

Headspace recently partnered up with Sesame Street to encourage children to join.

For example: Elmo is having trouble sleeping because he wants to play. Puddicombe then teaches Elmo a wind down activity to help him relax and fall asleep.

Headspace’s kids content is broken down into digestible animated videos to teach kids how to better manage relatable, everyday scenarios.

Headspace is a great choice for anyone looking to try meditation for the first time. It’s affordable, simple, and easy to use.

Seasoned meditation users, on the other hand, can take their practice to the next level by meditating with untimed sessions or wandering through fictional lands during Sleepcast.

The app teaches eight helpful techniques derived from Burmese and Tibetan Buddhist traditions:

  • Noting: Labeling experiences as they arise into “thinking” or “feeling”
  • Visualization: Picturing something or someone in your mind
  • Resting awareness: Letting your mind roam free during meditation rather than focusing on the breath or a visualization
  • Focused attention: Focusing your attention on a single object, goal, or mantra
  • Loving kindness: Mentally sending goodwill, kindness, and warmth toward others
  • Reflection: Asking yourself questions
  • Body scan: Performing a mental scan, from the top of your head to the end of your toes to sync the body and mind
  • Skillful compassion: Focusing on a person you know or love and paying attention to the sensations that arise from the heart

Each of these techniques has been contextualized throughout the different meditations and are accompanied by helpful animations to provide clarity.

You may enjoy Headspace if you experience symptoms of:

  • depression
  • pain
  • anxiety
  • trouble focusing
  • sleep difficulties

According to some studies, mindfulness meditation can lead to small-to-moderate reduction of psychological stress, like anxiety, depression, trouble falling asleep, and pain.

A 2018 study shows that a single session can cut mind wandering by 22 percent. Another 2017 study shows that, after 4 weeks of using Headspace, users demonstrated a significant increase in cognitive focus.

Headspace takes the seriousness out of meditation with its graphics and easy-to-navigate interface. Just like the tagline suggests, Headspace tries to foster a space where meditation is made simple.


Iman Balagam is a writer based in Houston, Texas. When she’s not laughing at her own jokes, or buying overpriced chia pudding, she can be found reading fiction novels, catching a spin class, doomscrolling through TikTok, or waiting for her delayed Spirit flight to board.You can see more of her work on her website.