So, quick aside: My therapist recommended I use Headspace’s competitor, Calm, but I believe both apps are much-of-a-muchness and work wonders for your well-being! Headspace prides itself on making meditation and sleep simple. Now you may think sleep is for the weak and that you’d rather party over meditate. And while a little party never hurt noboday, you need to make sure you’re getting a good amount of sleep in and practising self-care to help reduce the stress associated with studying and life in general.
The Headspace App: What’s All the Fuss About?
You’ve probably seen adverts (hopefully not pesky ones!) for this app or heard about it from family or friends. I Googled their home page, and their current slogan is ‘Be kind to your mind’, which is pretty catchy, don’t you think?!
So the app is designed to relieve stress, help you get a good night’s sleep, and practice mindfulness (such as how to form a habit, be more grateful and present, and improve your self-esteem).
One of Headspace’s main draws is its use of celebrities. If you don’t want to listen to any of the Headspace teachers (who are all experts in their respective fields), you can have the likes of John Legend (Headspace’s Chief Musical Officer) or Kevin Hart give you calming playlists and quick, motivational videos.
As a student, you are incredibly busy, and it’s not just academic pressure that can get to you. As you’re growing up, you have to navigate all the challenges that come with life: relationships, life at home, finances, jobs … the list is endless. Being a human can be hard, right?! That’s why we all need a little help – and we should capitalise on the technology we have in the form of smartphones and apps.
You may not think meditation is for you. But maybe that’s because you think meditation has to be this really looong exercise where you sit cross-legged for hours. But this is not true. Headspace offers bite-sized meditations (as short as one minute) that you can use whenever, wherever to help you calm down, refocus, and get into a better headspace (I had to use this pun, right?). We take a look at some of these meditations below.
Get Your Head Back in the Game: Headspace for Students
One of the cool things about Headspace is that it’s for all ages. So whether you’re still in high school, navigating university life, or just starting with your career, Headspace has something tailored to you (maybe you even have a much younger sibling – primary schoolers can use this app, too!).
Below are some examples of meditations and videos Headspace offers specifically for students.
- ‘Breathing Through Exams’. This meditation is only ten minutes long and helps you learn how to use your breath to focus better and calm down when you need it.
- The ‘Burned Out’ three-minute meditation makes you stop for a few minutes to figuratively (and literally) catch your breath, centre yourself, and release any tension you have. Self-care, mindfulness, and meditation are all important in preventing burnout, and they don’t need to take a huge chunk of time. Simply spending a few minutes with a meditation like this one can make a positive difference to your day. (PS We recently did a post on burnout in your studies, so go check that out!)
- In our post on burnout, we mentioned that you need to take time out for yourself each day. And by taking time out, we mean self-care activities (not scrolling mindlessly on Facebook and Instagram (#guilty)). Headspace offers ten-minute videos that match your mood to give yourself a healthy mental break. These videos include ‘Playful Savanna’ (I loved this one because it reminds me of home, South Africa) and ‘Inspiring Land and Sea’ (watch baby turtles hatch or salmon swim upstream).
- John Legend’s Playlist and Steady Stream. John’s playlist is described as an ‘eclectic jazz mix’ curated by the legend himself (lame pun, I know). The Steady Stream playlist comes with some inspirational beats to boost your focus. John Legend also teams up with a cognitive neuroscientist to discuss topics like ‘Does Music Help You Focus?’ and ‘Can Music Help You Sleep?’ We’ve also got an article on Top Study Playlists to get you through studying, so you can add these playlists from Headspace to that list.
- ‘Mindful Tech’. This is a good one for all of us! Social media and smartphones can often be more of a curse than a blessing, and it’s so important to develop a healthier relationship with all the tech around us. As this meditation highlights, you can determine how you interact with your devices (like me playing Wordle, Quordle, Octordle, Taylordle (a Taylor Swift Wordle) as a form of procrastination!).
- Self-care and dealing with anxious thoughts. Headspace offers what it calls Meditations for Sunday Scaries. So meditations under this category are ideal if you’re like me and start getting a bit panicky about the school/work week ahead. ‘Self Care’ gives you some valuable tips on how to take time out for yourself, and ‘Identifying Anxious Thoughts’ helps with breathing and dealing with anxious thoughts in a helpful way.
There are so many categories to choose from, so you won’t have a shortage of options. If you’re into yoga, the app offers videos from ten to 45 minutes. There are also meditations to help you deal with grief and injustice and courses dedicated to handling sadness if you’re going through challenging times.
Ready to Hit the Hay? Using Headspace’s Guides to Sleep
I don’t think I need to state how crucial sleep is. I know that pulling study all-nighters are part-and-parcel of student life – but please try to avoid this as much as possible. It’s just not healthy for you.
But even if you aren’t pulling all-nighters, getting some good sleep is a slippery slope (that was some good alliteration, right?!). I’ve had times where I’ve been so exhausted, but I still couldn’t fall asleep. Cue tossing and turning, bloodshot eyes, and just all-around grumpiness and being snappy and unproductive the next day.
Taking sleeping pills isn’t the way to go (unless recommended by your doctor because you have a condition), and Headspace is here to help. Here’s what the app offers when it comes to getting a good dose of ZZZZZs.
- Sleepcasts like ‘Desert Campfire’. This particular sleepcast uses a technique called noting. It helps you create the ideal state of mind for gentle, restful sleep. You have a narrator guiding you through the process with ambient sounds of a crackling fire and a chorus of crickets to create the feeling that you’re in the middle of nowhere under a vast, starry-nighty sky. You can also use it when you wake up in the middle of the night to help you get back to sleep.
- Another sleepcast called ‘Compass Gardens’ helps you get ready for rest with an exercise called visualisation. You’re guided to letting go of the day by focusing on different parts of your body and switching your muscles off. I use visualisation myself from time to time, and it helps. (I also like the sleepcast called ‘Beachcomber’ that offers a breathing exercise and ambient sounds of ocean waves and seagulls – pure bliss!).
- Sleep radio and sleep music. Headspace offers sleep radios like ‘Rain Radio’, ‘Night Sound’, and ‘Ocean Time’. These radios offer up to eight hours of relaxing music, sleepcasts, and soundscapes that you can leave on through the night if you’d like (you can download them, so you don’t have to worry about burning through that data). I like the ‘Ocean Time’ radio because it reminds me of being at my favourite place in the world (the East coast of South Africa).
- Expert guidance videos from professionals on various topics, including ‘How to Eat for Better Sleep’ and ‘Sleep and Anxiety’. These videos are quick and to the point so that you won’t feel bombarded by information.
I won’t go through everything Headspace offers on sleep because no one has time to wade through a blog post these days 😉. But in Headspace’s sleep library, you’ll also find meditations specifically for sleep and courses and exercises from sleep scientists. There’s even a guide you can follow for five days to get you started on your journey to slumber-ville.
OK, but … Is Headspace Free?
So here’s the only downside – the app isn’t free. You can download it for free, but it will cost you (currently) around £10 a month (be careful, it’s an automatic renewal, so if you want to cancel at any point, you have to do it yourself). If you take the annual payment option, it’s about £50. There’s also a free trial, so you can take it for a test drive and see if you’d like a subscription.
We know that often, being a student means having a limited budget. But if you have the means, £10 is worth it because you are investing in your long-term health. If you’re working for a company, perhaps you can get them to pay for this subscription as an added benefit.
If you’re still on the fence about whether to get Headspace, here are some pros of the app:
- You can download your guides and videos to watch/listen to them anytime, anywhere.
- It’s disability-friendly (it offers closed captions and haptic assistance).
- You can activate push notifications to keep you on track.
- You can create goals, monitor your progress, and set your intentions.
- It’s fun to use and easy to navigate.
- The co-founder is a former Buddhist monk, so this app is the real deal.
- If you’re just starting out in meditation, Headspace is fantastic for beginners.
- Some meditations allow you to choose your teachers.
- There are guided yoga classes.
- It’s available in other languages (French, German, Spanish, and Portuguese).
However, if Headspace just isn’t within your budget right now, there are plenty of free resources online and other apps to help you.
Battle of the Best: Headspace vs Calm
OK, so remember how we said at the beginning that one of Headspace’s main draws was getting celebrities on board? Well, Calm is kicking some major meditation butt in this arena too. If you’re a fan of Bridgerton (seriously, who isn’t?!), you can have the Duke himself, Regé-Jean Page, narrate a sleep story with his soothing voice and beautiful British accent. Other celebs who’ve collaborated with Calm include Harry Styles (to give you some direction, ha!), Idris Elba, and the iconic LeBron James (he helps you with your mental fitness).
But overall, Headspace and Calm are much-of-a-muchness. It will come down to personal preference (for example, I enjoy Calm’s user interface a bit more than Headspace’s, and you can customise your dashboard). Both have content specifically for students, so you won’t be losing out if you opt for one over the other.
This table shows some differences between the meditation gladiators.
|Play Store ratings: 4.2 stars, over ten million downloads, number 7 top-grossing in health and fitness.||Play Store ratings: 4.2 stars, over ten million downloads.|
|Cost: around £10 per month or £50 per year if you opt for the annual plan. There’s also a family plan option.||Cost: it starts at just over £30 (limited time offer) but can be about £60 a year. You can also choose Calm for Life for just over £300. This is billed once, and you’ll have access to Calm forever.|
|Free trial: 7 or 14 days, depending on the plan you choose.||Free trial: 7 days.|
|Meditation: ideal for beginners. It offers more structure when practising your meditations.||Meditation: perhaps a better option if you’re more experienced in meditation.|
|Exercise: great if you’re looking for fitness/physical exercises like yoga, stretching, and core work.||Exercise: Calm offers quite a few movement options, too. Lots of stretching exercises, back care, movements you can do daily, and even some sweat seshes!|
|Check-ins: you can track your stress over time and even invite some buddies for accountability. Headspace also has SOS meditations to help you deal with intense emotions.||Check-ins: Calm offers valuable mood and sleep check-ins along with a motivating quote and recommended content. It also offers a gratitude journal (we mentioned how good mood trackers and gratitude journaling are in preventing burnout in our other post!).|
|Languages: available in English, French, German, Spanish, and Portuguese.||Languages: Calm offers more languages, including English, German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Korean, and Japanese.|
I’d suggest using the free trial period for both apps to see which one you like best. Both have excellent features, and the apps are consistently updated with new things. Go with your gut feel on this, but just know that both apps are valuable and will help you with your overall well-being. However, it seemed like Headspace was the overall winner from my research!
The Benefits of Meditation with or without Headspace
Whether you choose to subscribe to Headspace or not, we thought we’d add a little info on why meditation, mindfulness, and getting sleep is so essential for you. I make sure that I get at least eight hours of sleep per night, and I practise deep breathing and mindfulness when and where I can, especially in my high-panic moments. Breathing is so powerful when you’re panicking – never underestimate it.
Here’s why meditation is so powerful:
- It will help you calm down, refocus, and regain a sense of peace that will last you throughout the day.
- It helps you learn essential skills to deal with anxiety and high-stress moments.
- It increases self-awareness, grounds you, and brings you back to the present. So often, our minds are racing a million miles ahead of us into the future we can’t control. Meditation helps you come back to the present moment where you CAN control how you react to the day.
- It enhances productivity (great for studying and assignments!).
- It helps you practise patience and tolerance.
We could continue to list the benefits of meditation and looking after yourself, but it’s time to end this post so you can try out your free trial with Headspace. Look after yourself!