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Calm claims it can make the world happier and healthier with mindful relaxation. We put that to the test.

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By: Karen Yontz Center Staff

App Review: Calm

If you are like this reviewer, falling asleep each night can be a challenge. You might even find your brain caught in a spin in the middle of your day. You’ve probably heard that mindfulness and meditation can make your life better by calming you down, lowering your stress levels, and helping you sleep better. And now, like so many other facets of heart-healthy living, there’s an app for that. This reviewer tried one of those apps—Calm—and I’m here to tell you that it’s good, but it might not be life-changing.

Right away, I will mention the price. At $69.99/year, the Calm app is an investment. It comes out to just shy of $6 a month, but you are charged in one lump sum. There is a 7-day free trial of the Calm Premium service which allows you access to all that Calm has to offer. It is a great way to test out the app and decide if you want to invest. Now on to the good stuff.

This a beautifully designed app and very user-friendly. When you first sign on, you are asked a few simple questions about your goals for using the app. You are then brought to your home page where a relaxing (and changeable) scene awaits you. For me, it’s a tropical beach with softly lapping waves, but you might enjoy a sun-dappled meadow with crickets chirping or even softly-falling snow. You are also given your tasks for the day, which typically consist of a daily meditation based on your goals and any new content that is on the app such as music or a bedtime story (yes, you read that right). I did the daily meditation each day. These are simple meditations that last about 10 minutes tops. It was sometimes difficult to still my body and brain, but they were easy to follow. If you want to calm down quickly, there are several short breathing exercises. I found those to be more successful than a full meditation. For those who keep tension in their bodies, there is a section of guided stretches to help you wind down at night or rev up during the day. There are also video masterclasses on topics that range from breaking bad habits to reframing depression and everything in between. And for those who need music to relax, Calm offers a wide variety of tunes to help you focus or fall asleep as well as soundscapes and nature sounds.

By far, my favorite feature of the app was Sleep Stories. I was skeptical that listening to someone read to me would do anything but keep me awake. However, as I listened to Matthew McConaughey tell me the story of a little girl’s late night talk in the backyard with her grandpa, I found myself nodding off faster than if I’d just left the TV on. Having that slight bit of soothing distraction was very helpful. But is it enough to get me to hand over $70 a year?

Overall, I really like the Calm app, but I don’t see myself using it as much as I should in order to get all the benefits and get my money’s worth. Even with the reminders I allow Calm to send me, I still find myself silencing them if I’m too busy. I should also mention that while I was meditating, I got several texts and there was no way to silence them through the app. It seemed like a big oversight for a relaxation app. Calm is good for people who are just getting started with meditation and mindfulness and need a little more guidance. It also offers some nice features to reduce stress on your own. However, its price is a bit high, especially considering there are free relaxation apps out there as well.

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