With set courses and new sessions dropping daily, this app is ideal for people who like structure — but it’s pricey.
Explore this app if you’re a beginner, or interested in moving meditations.
Choose something else if you’re looking for a cheap meditation app.
How does Headspace work?
Headspace is one of the most popular meditation and mindfulness apps on the market, with more than 60 million users worldwide.
The app has a free and premium version. Both versions are made up of meditation sessions lasting three, five or ten minutes, as well as other features like sleep music. The guided meditations focus on deep breathing and checking in on how you’re feeling.
Key features of Headspace
The app has the following features:
Basics 1 and 2 courses. Designed for beginners, these 10-part courses walk through the essentials of meditation. Each lesson is between three and ten minutes.
Pro course. These courses include longer sessions and more advanced techniques for experienced meditators.
Themed meditations. The library includes meditation sessions to boost focus, productivity and creativity, combat cravings, and deal with grief and difficult conversations. Headspace also has mindfulness workouts, moving meditations and “sleep casts” — which are stories told in soothing voices.
SOS section. The app has specific meditations for those experiencing intense emotions, like panic, stress or anger.
Daily live meditations. Guided meditations are streamed every half an hour in real-time to foster a sense of community among members.
Soundscapes. Meditations aside, you can choose to listen to white noise or ambient music or work through visualization exercises. Some soundscapes have a narrator leading you through an imaginary journey.
Mindfulness messages. Headspace will notify you when it’s time to meditate, or whenever new features drop.
Dedicated COVID-19 section. Headspace launched “Weathering the Storm,” with tools and meditations for those struggling with the emotional effects of the pandemic. It includes a guide for managers to help their team members during this time.
Is Headspace effective?
Headspace has a scientific research hub on its site, with several studies about the effectiveness of the app — and mediation generally.
Internal and external studies found the app boosts mental, emotional and social health. These are some of the key findings:
Users reduced their stress levels by 14% and irritability by 27% after 10 days of using Headspace, according to a 2018 study.
The app improved users’ focus by 27%, according to a 2017 study.
After using Headspace for three weeks, users’ compassion improved by 23% and their aggression decreased by 57%, according to researchers at Northwestern University.
What devices can I use Headspace on?
You can download Headspace on iPhone and Android smartphones. However, Android users can’t access all of the guided meditations, which the company says will be fixed by the end of 2020.
Pros and cons of Headspace
Backed by science. Headspace uses evidence-based methods, and has a modern, secular approach to meditation and mindfulness.
Animated app. Meditation concepts are explained via audio, cartoons and other visual features.
Comprehensive library. There are hundreds of meditations of varying lengths, as well as themed sessions.
Downloadable sessions. You can download some sessions to watch offline.
Suitable for beginners. Headspace offers courses designed for beginners.
Features to help you stay on track. The app saves your progress, and you can set up notifications to remind you to meditate.
Family and kid-friendly. Along with offering a family plan for up to six people, the app has dedicated “Headspace for Kids” content.
Added-value features. The Headspace site has perks, like music playlists and mental health resources.
It’s expensive. At $69.99 a year, Headspace charges slightly more than competing apps.
Limited free features. You can preview 10 classes, and only unblock the rest of the beginner’s course when you subscribe.
Not all content available on Android devices. Users can’t access “The Wake Up” and “Move Mode” sessions until the end of the year.
No option to immediately access advanced content. Experienced meditators have to complete the basic modules before advancing.
Complaints about the narrator. In consumer reviews, many members said the main narrator’s strong British accent was distracting. It’s actually the voice of co-founder, Andy Puddicombe.
Female voices are not always available. You can only opt for a female narrator on some courses and sessions.
Compare mental health apps companies
How much does Headspace cost?
The app is free to download, and its free features include a 10-part “Basics 1” course.
If you want to get full access to Headspace’s features, you’ll pay $12.99 a month or $69.99 a year.
Headspace has two special pricing plans:
Student plan. College and university students pay $9.99 for an annual subscription.
Family plan. You can add six accounts to a plan for a total cost of $99.99 a year.
Headspace has been in business for a decade, but it’s not accredited by the Better Business Bureau (BBB) yet. The company has an F rating with the BBB because of its failure to respond to five consumer complaints.
Customers filed 12 complaints over the past three years, mostly about billing issues. Many said they had issues canceling their subscription, and some said Headspace renewed their annual subscription without their approval.
It’s a similar story on TrustPilot, where Headspace has 2 out of 5 stars based on over 270 reviews. Customers said the app is ideal for beginners, and that the paid version has a good variety of guided meditations.
But many customers complained about the price, and that they couldn’t cancel their subscription manually. Instead, they had to go through the help desk — and experienced slow responses, or no reply at all.
Case study: Shannon's experience
I’ve had the Headspace app on my phone since 2018. My meditation practice has had its ups and downs, but I find myself continually returning to this app to help me squeeze a little self-care into my daily routine.
What I love most about the app is how flexible it is. Sure, you’ve got your standard eyes-closed sitting meditations. But Headspace also offers a wide catalog of eyes-open exercises for times when formal practice just isn’t in the cards. You can “get some Headspace” while walking the dog, doing the dishes, cooking, you name it.
There are standalone meditations and 30-day courses across a variety of categories: anxiety, grief, chronic pain, self-esteem — they’ve even got courses for kids. Oh, and did I mention the sleepcasts? You can tune into ambient soundscapes that simulate desert campfires, rainy antique stores, lazy lagoons and more.
If it sounds like I’m gushing, it’s because I am — I really do love this app. The monthly $12.99 price tag is pretty steep, but for the right person, the expense may be worthwhile.
How to sign up for Headspace
The easiest way to sign up is through the app store.
Go to the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.
Create an account, and take advantage of the free trial.
When the trial is over, you can either continue using the free features or upgrade to the app’s paid version.
If you’d like to do that, click Subscribe and select a subscription.
When does my subscription renew?
Your subscription will automatically renew once a month or year, depending on the payment plan you choose.
If you no longer want to use Headspace, you’ll need to go to Settings and turn off the auto-renew feature before your subscription expires. Otherwise, you’ll be charged as usual.
Live chat. You can access live chat by clicking the Help button on the bottom right corner of the site. However, reps aren’t always available.
Social media. Get in touch via Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. You can also join the Community page on Facebook: Everybody Headspace.
No. But you can go to your account settings and disable the auto-renewal feature. That way, your subscription will expire at the end of the period you’ve paid for. Your meditation progress will be saved, so you can pick up where you left off if you decide to subscribe again.
No. It’s secular, and more spiritual than religious. Traditionally, meditation is based on the writings and teachers of Buddhist and Hindu spiritual leaders. It focuses on the journey of enlightenment and the concept of Samsara — which is the cycle of suffering, death and rebirth.
But Headspace is based on modern science, and aims to help its members improve their meditation skills and mental health. The app doesn’t have religious teachings or underpinnings.
Headspace is headquartered in London, and also has an office in Los Angeles.
Katia Iervasi is a staff writer who hails from Australia and now calls New York home. Her writing and analysis has been featured on sites like Forbes, Best Company and Financial Advisor around the world. Armed with a BA in Communication and a journalistic eye for detail, she navigates insurance and finance topics for Finder, so you can splash your cash smartly (and be a pro when the subject pops up at dinner parties).
Headspace was one of the first meditation apps when it launched in 2010, and it’s still pioneering the space. It’s tailored to modern, fast-paced lifestyles with mini meditations, and keeps users engaged with themed meditations you can listen to while walking, cooking or trying to fall asleep.
With its structured courses and daily guided meditations, the app is ideal for beginners and those who need extra encouragement along the way. The app also stepped up during the COVID-19 pandemic to cater to healthcare workers, and created an “SOS” section for anyone going through a tough time.
Downsides? It’s pricey, and not all features are available to Android users.
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