My Month with Headspace
Headspace is a mindfulness meditation app with a mission statement to “make the world a happier place.” Headspace accomplishes this through a deep and varied library of content. This includes branded meditation content with pieces from likes of Kevin Hart and John Legend, to name a few. (I’m not saying that meditation from a celebrity is more effective, but you might be more inclined to listen to them. Sometimes it’s not the message but the messenger.) This helps distinguish Headspace content from a random Youtube meditation (and for me, helps justify the cost).
In addition to meditations, Headspace has a learning series focused on teaching you ways to deal with your self-talk and beliefs. To help navigate this content they have a recommended daily list to help you navigate.
I used Headspace for one month and this blog post is about my experience.
As some context, I have overcome depression and work/performance anxiety with years of therapy. Now, I self-manage with meditation, journaling, and healthy physical and social activities. My key mental health pain points after therapy were managing moments of crisis and anxiety attacks, and so I look for meditation content that can help alleviate a storm of voices in my head that overload my cognitive functions. I have used meditation apps like Calm for in-moment crises or big presentation anxieties, sleep, and growth and learning, so I was curious to try Headspace and see what all the fuss is about.
Appealing to cognition. A chunk of the meditation content appeals to rational cognition – the opening of many meditations focus on how to think, take note of, and narrate your thoughts. Many meditations begin with instructions on how to guide your thoughts or to engage in body scans to notice physical stress and ground yourself in the physical world. There are also glimpses of emotional cognition i.e. “we are not defined by our performance” throughout meditations, so there’s a balance. If you’re a heavy, logical thinker, this may be good for you, but I wanted emotional encouragement and affirmations.
Cultural competency. In the premium (paid) section of the app, there is an option to select different teachers, with options for gender and race. I found being directed by someone that had a similar cultural identity to me added credibility and relatability to what they were saying. Additionally, there’s a learning series on “Navigating Injustice” with cultural identity content to help us walk through racial identity struggles. As a note, Headspace partnered with Asian Mental Health Collective (AMHC), of which I am a member, for mindful identity, fear / trauma, grief/injustice/privilege, and intergenerational trauma content.
Seasonal content. Around Thanksgiving, I found some of the seasonal content around “Holiday Loneliness” very timely. Everybody knows family and holidays can be a mixed bag, especially for people that are without family, so it felt like someone cared for me and walked with me through my struggle.
Sleep content. Sleep content is a big component of the app with a library of sleep casts (mood and scenic sounds, i.e., Holiday Chalet) and sleep music (ambient nature sounds, i.e., beach keys) with various lengths of time ranging from 10-45+ minutes. I found sleep content helping me clear my head as I went to sleep, but knowing myself, I need absolute silence to completely fall asleep.
Morning meditation. Many meditators, and indeed the Headspace app itself, encourage meditation at the start of the day. Somedays, I would start my day with a cup of coffee and the recommended playlist of breathing exercises for some stress reduction in anticipation of big meetings. Through my month with Headspace, I built a pretty steady routine with this which allowed me to focus and plan out my day and week.
Taking time out of my day. Throughout the day, the app provided support in moments of crises. I had several big interviews where meditation helped clear my head and gave me a confidence boost. Meditation mid-day has been huge for me especially after either a big meal/food coma or a heavy work session. Simply taking myself out of my constant productivity mode and just pausing has done wonders for my mental health.
Bedtime meditation. As I prepared for bed, I would turn on a sleep sound for 10-20 minutes to drown out the noise in my head and slow down. I would focus on breathing easily without forcing my eyes to close or my body to immediately sleep. I allow myself to drift into sleep as I turn off the app.
In summary, Headspace is a great starter meditation app. I think it has a bit of something for everyone and eases your way into its deep content library. Recommendations start with anxiety and eventually introduce you to specific coping strategies and knowledge that can empower and grow you. Headspace as a company is very inclusive and it shows throughout their content.
Everybody’s mental health journey and needs are different. Before you sink yourself into any app or therapy, I encourage you to have a sense of what you’re looking for and how your brain and body function. This is about what’s best for you, not what’s best for everyone.