By Dan Moren
August 13, 2020 8:34 AM PT
Service Station: Headspace
It’s kind of tough out there right now, so if you’ve been finding it challenging to get through the days and weeks with some semblance of normalcy, you’re not alone. For my part, I’ve been trying to find a way to disconnect from the endless stresses and anxieties of the modern world, just to make sure I’ve got enough energy to take care of myself. One tool I’ve started using that’s actually been pretty helpful in this regard is the meditation app and service Headspace.
Meditation isn’t something that I ever thought I would be into, but I’ve found that doing even a tiny bit has been useful in dealing with what’s going on. In the past, I’ve often turned to the Apple Watch’s built in Breathe app for moments where I needed to step back from something particularly stressful—as someone with little to no experience in meditation, it was handy to have a framework to adhere to, and I appreciated that the results often seemed tangible. (The Breathe app, for example, shows you your heart rate after you finish your breathing session.) Honestly, I only ever set it for 1 or 2 minutes max, but even that little bit made a difference.
So when I saw Headspace mentioned as a good resource for dealing with stress and anxiety, I promptly downloaded the app to my iPhone… and then just as promptly forgot about it. But recently, I’d found myself looking for something more substantive than the Breathe app, and I remembered that it was installed on my phone. So I fired it up and tried out a few of the introductory classes.
What I like about Headspace is that it’s geared toward people like me who have rarely, if ever, meditated. It makes the idea approachable: the app’s interface is friendly and welcoming and it provides a bunch of resources for free, including those aforementioned introductory meditation sessions. Most of the meditation sessions have adjustable times on them, so you can spend as little as a couple minutes. Others go up to 40 minutes or so if you’re looking for a longer experience.
I might have stopped at the basics if I hadn’t glanced at the regular newsletter from one of my local libraries and seen that I could go through them to get a month’s subscription to the service for free. That intrigued me enough to try it out, and I have to say, I’m glad I did.
My personal favorite element of Headspace are what it calls Sleepcasts. These are 45-minute audio pieces that actually contain these little peaceful narratives. For example, the Rainday Antiques is a guided trip through an antique shop on a rainy day, told in the soothing voice of a British man. They’re mixed with sound effects to help you drift off to sleep, and I find them a big help to get my mind to stop whirling away about whatever it was working on before I went to bed. There’s even a slider to adjust the amount of ambiance vs. the amount of narration, so you can tweak it to whatever works for you.
I’ve barely scratched the surface of the other aspects of the app, including its options for workouts and focusing, which include things like playlists of ambient music to help you concentrate on the task at hand. And there’s way way more, including categories like meditating with kids or dealing with certain emotions, or even a partnership with the NBA and WNBA to help improve your mental fitness.
Some of the features of Headspace are available for free, but most of it requires a subscription, which is either $13 per month or a much more cost-efficient $70 per year. You can also get a one- or two-week free trial when you sign up, just in case you want to see whether it works for you first. And hey, maybe check out your local library and see if they have a subscription available.
Perhaps Headspace or meditation isn’t for you—that’s fine. But if you’ve been trying to figure out a way to de-stress, I heartily recommend giving it a try.
[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Mastodon at @email@example.com or reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. His latest novel, the supernatural detective story All Souls Lost, is now available for pre-order.]