Is Headspace Worth The Hype? 

Here’s the deal with the meditation app's 7-day free trial.

Is the meditation app Headspace really worth it?

Meditation app Headspace has been around since 2010 and is used by over 30 million people worldwide. That’s a lot of folks tuning in for guided meditations and exercises designed to boost relaxation and mindfulness. It’s also one of the top-ranked Health & Fitness apps on iTunes and Google Play Store. But is it really worth all the hype?

Clearly, the app is intriguing enough to garner millions of downloads, but I wanted to test how useful it actually is. I’m someone who likes the idea of meditating but never makes the time. I’ve tried meditating in the past and found that I was easily distracted.

As Dr. Suzanna Wong, a health expert and co-founder of Twin Waves Wellness Center tells me, it’s common to feel this way about meditating. Lots of people feel frustrated, can’t focus, or simply don’t know where to start, which is why it’s extra nice that Headspace addresses this issue from the jump. Sign into the app and you’re instantly met with a 10-part Basics course that repeats, time and again, how very OK it is for the mind to wander during meditation. “It isn’t about getting rid of thoughts,” a sleek graphic assures me. “It’s about learning how to be at ease with them.”

While there are other meditation apps, like Calm and Breethe, Wong recommends Headspace, particularly to those who are new to meditation. “For me, it really helped in my own practice, enabling me to relax into it more,” she says. “There are other apps available, but for me, Headspace is the easiest and most user-friendly. It almost doesn't feel like you are meditating at all.”

The Benefits Of Guided Meditation


Learning to notice your thoughts as they arise, and also being willing to let them go, is one of the main tenets of Headspace. The app aims to help you stress less, focus more, and even sleep better.

While there are lots of different ways to meditate, guided meditation, in particular, talks you through the process so that your chatty, easily-distracted brain isn’t left to its own devices. “It works by focusing your mind on one thing, whether that is breathing, visualization, or calming your emotions,” she explains, which is why meditation has the potential to ease anxiety and help you cope with tough emotions, too.

If you’re like me and feel like you “can’t meditate,” a guided meditation may be worth a try.

Getting Started With Headspace

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I downloaded Headspace and tried the 7-day free trial, which gives you access to everything the app has to offer. One of the first things I tried was the 10-day Basics series, where a teacher guides you through a sort of Meditation 101-style class. (I did a few courses per day, due to the 7-day time constraint). You can go with Eve Lewis Prieto, a mindfulness teacher; Dora Kamau, a meditation teacher; Kessonga Giscombe, a meditation teacher; or Andy Puddicombe, a former Buddhist monk and the app’s co-founder. I chose Andy, the OG.

My first Basics session was a breezy, four-minute intro to meditation. Andy instructed me to kick back in a chair, tune into my breath, and appreciate how nice it feels to take a moment to unwind. Immediately my inner voice chimed in. “Yea yea yea, that all sounds great,” it told me, “but what about that thing you have to do later, or that crazy thing that happened 10 years ago? Remember that?” As if he knew, Andy’s voice popped in to remind me to bring my focus back to my breath.

And so the 10-part series went. Even though the courses were only a few minutes along, and super simple, I felt like I learned a lot. The example Andy gave in Session 3 was particularly helpful. He described thoughts as cars passing by on a highway. “Rather than trying to stop the thoughts, we’re going to allow the thoughts to come and go,” he said. Sometimes there are lots of cars, sometimes there aren’t as many. Once you notice that you’re distracted by this thought-highway, that’s when you “bring your focus back to the breath.” Basically, meditation in a nutshell.

What It’s Like To Do A Headspace Meditation

With my newfound but basic knowledge, I dove into the Meditations tab where I found options like daily meditations, guided breathwork, meditations for challenging times, and even a live group meditation. I clicked on “Courses and singles” and went with an 8-minute audio titled “Managing Anxious Moments” by Kessonga.

The meditations all start the same way. You’re supposed to sit comfortably in a chair or on the floor, take a few deep breaths, settle your hands onto your lap or knees, and let your eyes gaze softly at nothing or close completely. After doing the Basics classes, I felt myself falling into this groove. Just by sitting down, my mind knew it was time to chill — if only for a few minutes — which quickly became my go-to way to start or end the day.

I tuned into “Managing Anxious Moments” one particularly stressful evening and listened to Kessonga talk about stress versus anxiety, before starting a meditation meant to focus on tension in the body. He instructed me to start at my feet, then my legs, lower back, upper back, arms, throat, and face, picturing the stress melting away from each part. Then, Kessonga wished me a good rest of the day and, as I opened my eyes, I noticed that I did feel a lot better.

What Else Does Headspace Offer?


Beyond guided meditations, Headspace also offers monthly check-ins where you can log how you feel and write notes to yourself. There are Sleepcasts, aka narrated stories meant to help you drift off to sleep. And also Daily Mindfulness Moments, which you can set to pop up on your home screen. Today mine said: “We don’t need to change the mind, we just need to be at ease with it. When we do, we find all the things we wanted are already here.”

There’s a lot to explore on the Today and Meditation tabs, but you can also check out the Sleep tab, Move tab, or Focus tab. On Sleep, you’ll find Sleepcast videos, wind-downs, sleep music, and an 8-hour sleep radio. Move offers morning warm-ups, feel-good yoga, mindful cardio workout videos, and rest day meditations. On Focus, you’ll find Quick Focus Resets, focus music, and Soundscapes to listen to as you work or study. My fave? The one-minute breathing exercises that instruct you to take five deep breaths along with a cute animation.

Oh, you can also check your stats to see your total time meditated, set goals, and check in with friends. As of this writing, I’ve logged over 40 minutes and have completed 12 sessions. And yes, I feel like I’m actually getting the hang of it! So much so that I plan on keeping my streak going.

So, Is Headspace Worth The Hype?

My short answer is “yes.” Headspace’s guided meditations make it easy for beginners to slip into the cool waters of mindfulness. The app is free to download, and you get a 7- or 14-day free trial before you’re asked to pay $12.99 a month, or $69.99 a year, to gain access to all of its features.

If you don’t want to pay, you can check out their YouTube channel or listen to Radio Headspace. But I’d say, if you really want to get into meditating, the subscription seems worth it.

Studies referenced:

Rusch, HL. 2018. The effect of mindfulness meditation on sleep quality: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Ann N Y Acad Sci. doi: 10.1111/nyas.13996.

Turakitwanakan, W. 2013. Effects of mindfulness meditation on serum cortisol of medical students. J Med Assoc Thai. Suppl 1:S90-5. PMID: 23724462.

Wu, R. 2019. Brief Mindfulness Meditation Improves Emotion Processing. Frontiers in neuroscience. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2019.01074.


Dr. Suzanna Wong, a health expert and co-founder of Twin Waves Wellness Center