Headspace app allows senior to unwind and retain focus

October 14, 2019 — by Anna Novoselov

While the advice featured in the wellness app lacks uniqueness and helpfulness, the medications result in a reduction of stress.

I took a deep breath as I lay with my back flat against my carpet, facing the ceiling. For a few minutes, I remained completely still and my mind cleared.

Suddenly, the prerecorded voice from the app Headspace brought me back to reality. I opened my eyes, got up and resumed my homework, much calmer and relaxed than when I started my meditation. 

According to the Headspace website, 16 peer-reviewed journals back the app’s effectiveness and conclude that it significantly improves overall mental health. The app teaches people to meditate — a practice that has been shown to decrease stress and anxiety, promote better sleep patterns and increase overall focus. 

As a stressed senior navigating college apps, I decided to test out the effects for myself and downloaded the app, which has a 4.9 star rating on the app store and is ranked No. 14 in the Health and Fitness category. 

At first, I was overwhelmed by the number of options the app has available. It provides a plethora of different courses to choose from that allow users to focus on stress and anxiety, sleep habits, productivity, physical health, personal growth and developing a performance mindset amidst a few other topics. Headspace bases its lessons on a technique called noting, which includes acknowledging the sources of certain feelings and learning to manage them effectively without getting overwhelmed. 

I decided to try out the free trial sessions from a few of the categories. While the tips in each video were encouraging, I did not find them particularly helpful or unique.

For instance, the first lesson of the anxiety course emphasized that anxiety is normal and that it only becomes harmful when applied negatively. It hoped to encourage people to accept anxiety rather than try to overcome it completely, while never providing techniques for doing so.

Perhaps, the app goes more in-depth on the topic in the premium version. Either way, I find TedTalks on the same subject areas to be much more inspiring, helpful and entertaining. I don’t want to pay $12.99 per month or $95 annually for an app, when I can find similar content at no cost through other platforms.

The lessons all followed the same basic format: a short talk, a meditation session and then closing advice. After a little bit, it became harder to distinguish the different lessons from each other. 

Another thing I found frustrating was the occasional voiceovers during the meditations, which disrupted my focus, telling me to breathe in and out slowly when I was already doing so.

The app also includes day-to-day exercises, or 3-10 minute talks with titles such as “Add Some Joy,” “Connect with the World” and “Alone Time,” that are all basically the same. Furthermore, there are short animations that offer advice such as how to overcome harmful habits and ensure that feelings don’t become all-consuming. But the information is obvious and basic.  

One aspect that I really liked, however, were the characters, which are blobs in a variety of shapes and colors, and simple but well-designed graphics.

Even though the individual lessons weren't particularly helpful, the meditations served as relaxing breaks from homework, allowing me to relax and retain my focus. As someone who always has mental to-do lists running through her head, I found it nice to simply focus on being present.

I would encourage people struggling with stress to take a couple minutes out of their day to meditate, or simply sit still, but not necessarily with this app. The clearer head and calmness are certainly worth it.

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