iPhone 5s on white background with Headspace app
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App review: Headspace

Confession time: I didn’t give you the whole and complete truth back when I wrote On Depression: One Year Later. You see, there is one more thing I have done to slow things down and create some extra calm in my day-to-day life: I have taken up meditation.

Yup, I’m going to let that one sit there for a while.

Come on now, picture it. Me in the lotus position, in a meadow, surrounded by whale song and crystals and Enya, completely and blissfully free of thought. Pretty good, huh? Can’t you just picture it? Well, now you can erase that image from your mind because that is not what this is about at all. Nope. No whale song, no Enya, no crystals. Just me and my iPhone. Sorry to disappoint you.

Why I tried Headspace

I have known I should give meditation a shot for years. I’m a prime candidate for it. However, every time I have done research I have been met by pictures of people in tie-dye clothes who look like they reek of patchouli, and that’s just not me at all. I let go of the idea, thinking that this was something I just couldn’t do without going completely New Age on everyone. I forgot about it. Then one day, completely by accident, I opened up the App Store app on my iPhone and saw an app called “Headspace” in the Best New Apps section. The short description read like this:

“Headspace is meditation made simple, a way of treating your head right. Using proven meditation and mindfulness techniques we’ll show you how to train your mind for a healthier, happier, more enjoyable life”.

First impressions

I was intrigued enough to download the app, still kind of expecting whale song, and discovered that you got 10 sessions of guided meditation for free. The rest you had to pay for, either monthly or yearly. “Fine”, I thought, “I’ll do the 10 free sessions. Can’t hurt”. So I did. And let me tell you, it’s completely free of whale song, and there’s no Enya in sight. The app is beautifully designed, and very easy to understand. Each session is narrated by Andy Puddicombe, who is the guy behind Headspace. He is also a former buddhist monk with the most wonderful voice this side of Stephen Fry. The first 10 sessions are all 10 minutes long, which is very appealing. Everyone can make an effort for 10 minutes every day, right?

Here is a short animation (also narrated by Andy) that explains the basic concept of meditation and also gives you a feel for the vibe of the app:

Sounds easy enough? That’s what I though anyway, and after finishing those 10 free sessions I discovered that I was really enjoying this new activity. Once you get into it the app really helps you clear your mind, breathe a bit deeper, and relax those shoulders. I actually liked it enough to go online and check out the different subscription options. This is when I discovered that the yearly subscription option is $7.99/month billed in one payment, which means that you pay for the whole year upfront. This put me off a bit: was I really going to pay that kind of money for an app? Nearly $100 for one year?! The idea alone seemed ridiculous, so I let it simmer for a few weeks. During these weeks two things happened:

1. I started to miss those daily sessions, and

2. I read a book called 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works–A True Story. In the book “Nightline anchor Dan Harris embarks on an unexpected, hilarious, and deeply skeptical odyssey through the strange worlds of spirituality and self-help, and discovers a way to get happier that is truly achievable.” (blurb from Amazon.com). Spoiler alert: his discovery is meditation. Seriously, even if you’re not into the idea of meditation I will happily recommend this book, because it is hilarious. 

I took the plunge

So finally I felt convinced, sucked it up and signed up for a whole year, and I have currently completed 53 sessions. I love it, I really do. Forget the seemingly high cost, because if you stick with it Headspace will be an investment in your health. I have noticed myself slowly growing calmer and more relaxed, and I can physically feel myself tensing up and getting jittery (not to mention crankier) if I skip my sessions for more than a day or two. It has made me a bit more focused, a bit more positive, and a little bit less likely to get hung up on in the stupid and petty stuff that we all have to deal with in our day-to-day lives. When you have completed the 10 minute sessions you advance on to 15 minute sessions, and after that the rest of the sessions are 20 minutes long. 20 minutes is manageable. If I can find the time to watch 20 minute long “what’s in my bag”-videos on YouTube then I sure as hell can find the time to meditate.

I love Headspace!

All in all I can’t recommend Headspace enough. I never thought meditation would have such a huge impact on my wellbeing, but it has. I read a quote somewhere claiming that Andy Puddicombe and Headspace has done for meditation what Jamie Oliver did for cooking (i.e making it fun and accessible) and I completely agree. If you are curious, download the app and give the 10 free sessions a try. You never know, you might love it as much as I did. And if not, then all you really lost is 1 hour and 40 minutes of your life. That is one movie, two episodes of Game of Thrones, or two and a half episodes of Keeping Up With The Kardashians. Wouldn’t you rather spend that time trying out something new and possibly great?

Headspace is available in Apple’s App Store, on Google Play, and at Amazon Appstore.

 So, what do you think? Is this something you would be willing to try? 


22 thoughts on “App review: Headspace

  1. Well you already know that I am a huge Headspace fan, and I agree with you wholeheartedly on every single one of these points. Funnily enough, I also stumbled into both the app and the 10% Happier book at the same time, and those two paired together really worked their magic on me and got me hooked. After a few months of meditating I started to think, hey, no more anxiety, I’m totally cured! And then I would start skipping days, but it’s totally true what you say, if I go more than 2 or 3 days without meditating I definitely feel it, I get jumpy and grumpy and it’s no fun for me or my husband. I recommend it to everyone I care about, and yes, absolutely, everyone should just bite the bullet and pay for the year, it is so worth it!

    • I really really wish there had been something like this available when I was still a student, or maybe even just a teenager. It was such a stressful time, and meditation could have made such a huge difference! Oh well, better late than never I suppose :)

  2. Ah that’s interesting indeed. I’ve been using another meditation app called “Calm” which is based exactly on the same principle (a free introductory “course” of about 10 sessions, then monthly or yearly fees). I have to admit I haven’t jumped into paying because I’m uncomfortable with adding another monthly fee to my obligations (I’d probably be more keen on purchasing each extra session one by one as a one off purchase if it was possible – but let’s not discuss app’s business models :) )

    I do remember Andy Puddicombe’s TED talk about meditation though, and I remember he was the guy who made me tip from “not for me” to “maybe I should give it a try after all”. For me it wasn’t the new age thing the problem, but rather the fact that I just can’t stop thinking. Ever. And in his TED talk he basically explains that meditation isn’t about stopping thinking, but rather to witness the thoughts as they come and go, which seemed much more realistic for me.

    Anyway I could use some meditation these days so I may try at least the free version of this app too, still looking into how to make it a daily habit, it’s so easy to skip. I’ll check out that book too, thanks for the recommendations :)

    • I tried Calm for a little bit but it wasn’t for me. Andy’s voice completely sold Headspace for me :)

      When it comes to forming a habit I would suggest setting an alarm on your phone and just doing it at that same time every day. That’s what I had to do in the end, and it works a charm. I still skip a day every once in a while, but thanks to the alarm it will never slip my mind, so if I don’t do it then at least it is a conscious decision on my part.

  3. I have been trying to find some good meditation apps! After reading this post I went straight onto google play and downloaded headspace (once I got rid of some of the apps I never use so that I have room on my phone). I’m really glad you found a way to make meditation a part of your day to day life, and I am hoping that this will work for me too :)

    • I hope so too, Bonnie! Man, if I had that app in my early twenties like you it would have saved me from so much anxiety. Take advantage of it all you can, you lucky youngin! ;)

  4. I just wanted to tell you about Smiling Mind. It’s almost the same thing, just without the monthly fee, and more mindfulness-focused than meditation. I love it, and used it a lot with my therapist (not the app, but the same exercises), right before i quit therapy (because i didn’t need it anymore), and i make sure to put on a few 20 minute sessions every now and then, it really helps you relax and focus more. Love it, and I’m happy you do too!

    • Thank you so much for the tip Kine! I’m sure some people will read my post and be reluctant to pay a yearly fee, so it is great to know that there are free alternatives out there. And how wonderful it is to hear that it worked so well for you!

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  7. jay says:

    beat apps on my phone. its 8 days i am on it & i regret why i always went for shitty game apps earlier. gonna pay for sure. Andy’s voice is better than anything i have listened yet. every time at the end when he says ‘open your eyes’ i m always like- i dont want to open my eyes. invest in yourself if you dont want to just go through free session & repeat untill you decide.
    happy meditation

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  9. vi says:

    Headspace is the best app I have. I have always tried meditation on YouTube, free meditation apps, and even in groups but never got into it. It’s weird when I started Headspace I couldn’t stop and really noticed benefits finally. I didn’t want to pay the yearly subscription but after doing the free 10 days and trying it out for a month I don’t think I want to do without it so I’m going to keep it. Love it!

  10. Don says:

    Love Andy and the program, Done 2 years, just wondering why the censorship on reviews and public comment and why their support and admin system is so bad e.g. can’t even be bothered to let you know that your subscription is about to expire, so you get locked out for days while they supposedly “process” it!
    I’m sure they would have a whole lot more customers if they paid attention to detail.

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