By: Karen Yontz Center Staff
Mindfulness seems to be on everyone’s mind these days. We’ve been told that mindfulness can have many health benefits—from lowering stress and anxiety levels to improving sleep and supporting weight loss goals. But how many of us know exactly what mindfulness is and, more importantly, how to practice it? That’s where the Headspace app comes in.
First, the basics. You can download Headspace for free, but the free version of the app is very limited in what you can do. The app offers 3 sessions for free in categories that range from work & productivity to self-esteem and handling grief. The free version also allows users to access 2 Sleepcasts and one Wind Down meditation. If you would like to try all of the different facets of the app without the commitment of the full subscription, Headspace offers a 2 week free trial if you then opt in to the annual subscription (which will run you $69.99 a year—about $6 a month). They will also let you try a week for free if you purchase the $12.99 per month subscription. Headspace maintains you can cancel at any time.
Newcomers to Headspace in particular and/or mindfulness meditation in general are advised to start with the app’s “Basics” course which is a course consisting of 10 basic meditations. Users can choose the length of these meditations: 3, 5 or 10 minutes. You can also choose if you’d prefer a male or female voice; both are soothing with British accents. The basics start at the beginning with noticing your breath and move through everything from body scanning to focusing your attention. Because this is an introduction to mindfulness, you can’t move to the next meditation without completing the one before it. The Sleepcasts are designed to be soothing enough for you to drift off to sleep while listening. They begin with a wind down exercise and continue with a story—one that is focused on the sights, sounds, smells, etc. of the place rather than a plot. There is also ambient noise included, whether rain, waves crashing, or rustling leaves. Listeners can adjust the sound to enhance the ambiance or the voice reading. For those wanting a quicker practice, there are Wind Downs that are like the basic meditations in that the user can choose 3, 5, or 10-minute practices and a male or female voice.
For those who only want to use the free version of the app, although there is not a lot on the app itself that can be accessed, the Headspace website offers quite a bit of information. Users can try different meditations for specific issues like anxiety, anger or even cooking. These sections also offer a variety of information on each topic and how to make mindfulness work for you in these diverse pieces of your life.
Overall, for newcomers to mindfulness, Headspace is a good resource for getting the basics of meditation down and putting a practice in place. For people who have already developed a practice, Headspace might be a little oversimplified. The Sleepcasts are one area where Headspace excels, but probably not enough to justify the price. Headspace is a good app with many good resources. But like pretty much everything else, you alone will have to decide if it’s worth the money.