Is Headspace legit? A review from one month of guided meditations

Let’s be honest, you are busy. And adding one more thing to do is not going to help. Even if that one thing is meditation.

Headspace has a lot of guided meditations that address this concern. They try to highlight that mediation should not be viewed as a thing to do on a checklist. This framing is hard, but getting over it is the easiest way to make meditation a habit. Without that it is very hard to make a daily routine stick.

Thankfully there are dozens of options for ways to help with meditation. Many employers in the US as well as insurance companies even go so far as to offer their members free access to some of these tools. This includes major providers like Blue Shield of California, or Anthem, making Headspace an included part of their coverage. So is Headspace really that beneficial? As early as 2018 the company was making news with their plans to get FDA approval, and coverage to that effect continued into 2020 (a year where many likely needed the help of something like headspace).

There are FDA guidelines on device software and apps but there is a line between those that offer general care and “software functions that are medical devices and whose functionality could pose a risk to a patient’s safety if the device were to not function as intended” (FDA Guidance).  To date, in 2022, the FDA has still not approved Headspace as a digital therapeutic. That does not mean that there is no benefit to the app, there are plenty of studies that show correlation with daily meditation habits to other wellness markers. The overall goal though is finding a habit that helps reduce day to day stressors and improve your ability to deal with them.

Once you are able to find a meditation habit the benefits begin to stack. For this reason it is important not to over estimate how much you should do. Especially for people who are busy and competitive it can be easy to say, 5 minutes is not enough. I can do 15 minutes of meditation a day! But there is no long term benefit to over reaching only to give it up by the end of the week. 
Is headspace legit, start your day meditation

This struggle is one of the reasons why getting into headspace App is hard. Even just the “Start Your Day” list of activities appears like it could be 40 minutes of checking off things to do.  

Must You Do ALL Headspace Courses?

Over the course of 4 weeks trying out headspace it became easier to realize that the tasks were not there to show completion. As they say, it is not the destination but the journey. Realizing that one minute of deep breaths is useful for establish a calmer outlook, and arguably lower blood pressure and heart rate, makes finding 60 seconds to do a Headspace guided session easier.

The downside of headspace is that much of it is screen and video based. This is an issue if one of your stressors is being too connected to phones, especially coupled with a desire to have completeness or deal with notifications. Luckily many of their options also include podcast style audio, and even some of the videos are fine with just audio. Audio allows you to just slap in some headphones and listen to the guided information without staring at a screen.

In addition there is also a companion Headspace Apple Watch App which provides access to many of the core features of the phone app. Of course there is no way to watch videos on the watch, but you can still use the breathe sessions or listen to the Everyday Headspace guided audio.