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I Tested Headspace and the Calm App So You Don't Have To

Whether you want to sleep better, be more focused, more productive at work, experience less stress, or fight super villains (okay, maybe not the last one), it seems that meditation might be the trick for you. Many of us today want to meditate, but have no idea where, how, or even why, we should get started. 

Luckily, with the rise in popularity around meditation, many new phone apps have started to pop up, like Headspace and Calm. And when you're short on time (hello pre-work meetings and late-evening emails), you might think meditation won't work. 

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Guess what–it's likely that you're part of the many that REALLY need meditation. 

My first takeaway from both: you probably want the paid versions. They offer more guided meditations, longer timed meditations, more themes, etc. 

Here are some of the pros and cons Headspace and Calm: 

I Tested Headspace and the Calm App So You Don't Have To


  • It's fun, and the animations are engaging
  • It's quick and easy-to-use
  • This is perfect for meditation beginners
  • It tracks your daily meditation happen to show your success


  • The meditation times are quite short on the free version (ranging from 3-10 minutes) 
  • Once you've finished your first basics pack (10 sessions) you need to subscribe

I Tested Headspace and the Calm App So You Don't Have To



  • It helps you learn new forms of meditation
  • You can pick your goals: 7-day, 21-day, etc. 
  • The design of the app itself is calming, with background noises and visuals like waterfalls and a crackling fireplace
  • It gives you insightful guidance, like why focus can be hard
  • The meditations are named so you know what you're listening to


  • Like Headspace, the free version is fairly limited
  • There is too much guidance/talking for my taste, which cut into my full meditation time

I Tested Headspace and the Calm App So You Don't Have To

My choice?

Honestly, neither. I find both of the voices a little too perky, and there is too much guidance. I have taken a few meditation classes before and have learned that focusing on my breathing, or creating a mantra for each in vs. out breath works best for me. 

Here are some tips: 

  • Count your breath for each inhale and exhale. Create a number goal that you think is attainable (mine started at 20 consecutive breaths). If you lose count and your mind wanders, start again. 
  • Choose 2 mantras, something you want to bring into your life (like patience), and something you want to get rid of (like judgement). As you breathe in, think or say "inhale patience," and as you breathe out, think or say "exhale judgement". 

Still think meditation isn't for you? Think again.

Here are a 4 common complaints, and why you should ignore them:

  1. It takes too long. People have this idea that you need to spend 20+ minutes each day meditating. Really, even if you just take 5, you'll see benefits.
  2. I can't settle my mind, so there's no point. It's natural, your mind will wander. But it only gets more focused with practices 
  3. Chanting a mantra is weird. Guess what: you don't need to repeat "Om" in order to meditate. You can just breathe, hum, maybe have a mantra that you repeat in your mind like "I am patient" or "I am present". 
  4. I need a quiet space to meditate. Meditation can actually be done anywhere–it can be on a walk in nature, on the bus, it can be 5 minutes locked away in a bathroom from screaming children.... 

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