Calm is an app that focuses on “improving sleep quality, reducing stress or anxiety, improving focus, and self-improvement”. Calm’s main content is guided meditations and sleep stories. Calm has gained considerable popularity in recent years, including being Apple’s App of the Year in 2017. We used the full (paid) version of Calm for a week. Throughout our week with Calm we tested its different exercises, explored the effects of meditation in our own lives, discovered our favorite parts of the app, and also the parts that bugged us a little. 

iTunes store screenshots of Calm App

Paul’s Week with Calm 

I’ve seen many ads online for Calm through YouTube, including claims that it is the “most relaxing” mental health app in the app store. Before I used it, I was somewhat skeptical and viewed it as some expensive subscription service for better mental health. Despite being skeptical, the claims on advertisements of Calm being the “best” mental health app and the expensive membership had me entering this week with high standards. 

When I began my subscription with Calm, it happened to be when I tested positive for COVID-19. I was bedridden for about a week and was struck with headaches, but I was still able to enjoy the content from Calm. I really enjoyed the guided meditations and the wide variety of narrators. Using Calm while sick turned out to be a good combination, as the app did help me clear my mind a bit from all the headaches and stress I was having throughout that week. 

I really enjoyed how there is a wide selection of narrators. Calm goes above and beyond in having guest speakers and celebrities narrate meditation exercises and sleep stories.  I’ve noticed while using the app, I was more likely to pick a narrator whom I was familiar with. The feature I was satisfied with the most were the sleep stories. I typically have issues with sleep, where I tend to keep myself up longer because of how fixated I am on what needs to be done the next day. 

Calm provides a starting point for those who have never practiced meditation before. It is very simple to use and has all the features I expected. The company claims to be for everyone, and I have to say I agree with this claim. With Calm’s partnership with Amazon, students who are subscribed to Amazon Prime Student are able to get 3 months of Calm for free, and an $8.99 yearly subscription. Calm also has a  Calm Kids section, to help kids learn meditation skills. So, it really feels like there’s something for young people of a range of ages. Given it is targeted toward youth, I would love to see more meditations or exercises that relate more directly to student life.


Hutton’s Week with Calm

I kept hearing about Calm from my mom, sister, and friends — it appeared everybody was using the app. With so much hype around Calm, its soaring valuation, and frequent news stories, my expectations for Calm were very high. 

This was my first time using a meditation app, so I did not know what to expect or what it would do for me. I think first impressions are really important, especially with an app; if I open an app and find the user interface or experience clunky, I am unlikely to continue with the app. Calm went above and beyond the user experience, I hope to see in an app. 

Calm was easy to set up and I quickly began exploring the many different options for my first meditation. The same week I began using Calm I started a new, more demanding position at my internship, so I chose the Mindfulness at Work meditation. Mindfulness at Work was a great introduction to the app and had me feeling more confident about my new position after the 15-minute meditation.

While Calm offers many features, arguably too many (more on this later), my favorite feature was the collection of quick meditations that I was able to squeeze in during my busy day. For me, five to ten-minute meditations are the sweet spot of being helpful without feeling like a burden or interruption to my schedule. 

Choosing which meditation or exercise to do was the most challenging part — I think I Calm could do a much better job helping a user choose an activity or meditation. Calm has too many exercises and meditations, so I had to waste a bit of time just picking an activity. The way I see this being improved is with better search methods or a regular trimming of app content to only include the most recent and relevant content.

That aside, my overall experience with Calm was positive. I enjoyed the exercises and found my mood heightened after each meditation. Calm does a great job of making meditation not feel intimidating and opened the door for me into the world of digital mental health. 


Our week with Calm 

From hearing multiple great claims about Calm, our expectations for the application were high. After using the paid version for a week we found that Calm surprisingly exceeded our expectations. It provides meditations for a wide variety of topics with a sleek, navigable design. It reaches a wide range of audiences and is a great starting point for younger meditators given the availability of student subscriptions and Calm kids. From our experience, Calm does its job and helps with mental health to some degree and can be easily used by anyone in any age group. It should be noted that mental health apps, like Calm, are not meant to treat psychological disorders or to replace seeing an actual psychotherapist.