Meditating with Headspace

The Headspace home screen.

The Headspace home screen.

Meditation has become popular these days, as a way to destress and become mindful of the present (check out this post on for an introduction to mindfulness meditation). There are many free or nearly free recordings, apps, and resources to learn how to meditate. So should you pay for the popular meditation app Headspace? At $12.99 a month, it’s expensive for an app, although cheaper than going to a yoga class (at least that’s how I justify it to myself).

Headspace, created by former Buddhist monk Andy Puddicombe, consists of guided meditations packaged as “series” or “singles”. You begin with the Foundation series, the first ten days of which are free. There are a growing number of series, including Foundation, Sport, Health, Happiness, and Work and Performance, among others. Each series includes different “packs” to complete; for example, the Health series includes packs for cancer, depression, stress, anxiety, sleep, pregnancy, and pain management. Each pack consists of ten to thirty sessions; the original version of Headspace allowed you to progress through only one pack at a time, but now you can use multiple packs at once. Sessions are generally ten minutes long, although there are options to choose longer sessions.

Choose your next pack.

Choose your next pack.

In addition to the series, there are singles, which can be completed at any time. In addition to classic guided and classic unguided singles, there are ones for fear of flying, sleeping, and commuting, among many others. There are short two- to three-minute SOS singles, if you need a quick meditation break, as well as short “minis” and a daily meditation. There is also a section of the app specifically for kids.

As with other meditation apps, you can see your statistics: your current run streak and the total amount of time you’ve spent meditating. “My Journey” tracks your progress completing each of the packs. For those who find this motivating or simply like data, it’s a useful feature.

It's never too late to start over...

It's never too late to start over...

I tried the first free ten days during a particularly difficult time, and it was enough to get me to pay for a monthly subscription. The unique setup of progressing daily through a pack was successful in motivating me to meditate each day, more so than other apps I’ve tried. Once I subscribed, I was excited to start a different pack; however, the app strongly recommends that you finish the Foundation series (thirty days total) before moving on to a different topic. After twenty more days that were more or less the same as the free ten days, I found myself wondering what I had paid for.

However, having since completed many of the packs, I am happy with it. It has been more successful at reducing my stress than other meditation apps I’ve tried, and perhaps more importantly, its structure keeps me on track so that I rarely miss a day. In addition, the singles I’ve tried have been good as well – the sleeping one helped me fall asleep, more so than other sleep meditations I’ve tried, and the fear of flying one even kept me calm before a flight. If you find yourself missing the basic Foundation meditation, the ten-minute classic guided single is for you. The SOS meditations, minis, and daily meditation provide a nice quick meditation break.

Puddicombe’s British voice is soothing, and there are fun and useful animations before some of the sessions. The app visually appealing, although less so than the Buddhify app (which I still use), and despite its seemingly complex structure it is straightforward to use.

So is it worth the $12.99 a month? It depends what you want to use it for. If you are committed to meditating and plan to use it as your only or main meditation app, it is great at keeping you on track without sacrificing variety. If you tend to bounce around between different meditations or only meditate occasionally, there are other cheaper options out there.