Did anyone else have a New Year’s resolution to start meditating? Us, too. But considering that we’re just now telling you about it, we clearly didn’t get off to a strong start. Entrepreneurs and celebrities we admire, like Arianna Huffington, Jeff Weiner, Lena Dunham, and Kristen Bell, swear by meditation’s ability to calm and quiet their busy minds. The Mayo Clinic says that meditation can help you focus on the present, reduce negative emotions, and increase patience and creativity. It can even improve anxiety, stress, high blood pressure, depression, sleep issues, chronic pain, headaches, and conditions like cancer and heart disease.
Despite our best efforts to sit cross-legged in stillness for five minutes back in January, LIFE just seemed to get in the way. When faced with the option of more sleep or a guided meditation, sleep tends to win out. Determined to get our meditation goals and habits back on track, we tried and tested three of the most popular meditation apps in hopes that you can find some inner peace a bit faster than we did.
Our favorite thing about Headspace is getting to listen to Andy Puddicombe, the founder and CEO. Andy leads listeners through the app’s meditations in his adorable British accent. We appreciate that Headspace has a free 10-day basic series, which caters to newbies like us. Many of the meditations include animations that give us something to focus on other than what we want for dinner. We also love reward systems (it goes back to the days of getting gold stars in first grade). Now that we’ve we subscribed and started paying, we can unlock additional content as we use the app more.
Three words: Adult bedtime stories. OK—so this isn’t technically meditation, but Calm’s short narratives lull us to sleep each night. Calm offers meditations at various lengths and for many topics, making meditation customizable to our unique schedules and lives. For example, on a jam-packed day, we only had five minutes to squeeze in meditation between meetings. We also liked that you can select recordings based on specific intentions, such as forgiveness. Our main piece of feedback for Calm is that some of the meditations can get repetitive. During a 15-minute meditation, we don’t need to constantly be instructed to inhale and exhale—a few reminders will suffice.
First, we appreciate the straightforward name. In addition to taking us through meditations that can be catered to different levels and time intervals, the app sends frequent reminders to be more mindful. While we were in a Lyft during rush hour, a notification asked us to “Notice any areas of tension in the body.” I immediately released my clenched fists—which I didn’t even realize were clenched. The coolest part? The app lets you create our own personalized meditation. We select the background music, instruments, and introduction. Our only critique is the homepage, which can be confusing and frustrating to navigate. After all, the last thing you want to feel is frustrated when using a meditation app.
We think we’ve found a new workout (ahem, meditation) buddy in Headspace’s Andy Puddicombe. The fact that Headspace is so accommodating to beginners won us over from the start. The animations are especially useful since we still have trouble closing our eyes without having our mind wander. Plus, they’re pretty darn cute (but not in a childish way), which makes the overall user experience a pleasure.
Who knows, maybe we’ll get to the point where we’re watching Headspace animations more often than Instagram stories. For the time being, we’re just glad this resolution has resurfaced with some help from technology. Meditation makes us feel like we’re more successful at managing stressful moments and difficult emotions, whether it’s a tough relationship, a new problem that arises at Siren Snacks, or simply San Francisco traffic.