I didn't believe in the benefits of meditation until I tried the Headspace app

Meditation was never my thing, and truth be told, I'm still not a total regular at it. But as someone who is constantly on the go, thinking and talking a million miles a minute and finds joy in feeling busy, using Headspace has been a great start. 

What is Headspace?

Headspace started in 2010, originally as an events company teaching meditation, and eventually evolved into an app where people can now practice at home on their own time. According the company's website, the co-founder, and the main guiding voice you'll hear on Headspace, is Andrew Puddicombe, a Buddhist monk who was ordained at a Tibetan monastery in the Indian Himalayas. With over 10 years of meditation training and maybe the most soothing voice you've ever heard, Puddicombe can calm even the most high strung. 

I was actually at an event for another wellness brand when I was first introduced to the app and my friend forced me to sit down and try it. I reluctantly put on some noise-cancelling headphones and sat down in the corner of a crowded room, closed my eyes and listened. After 2-3 minutes, I remember feeling... still. It's hard to describe, but it was that feeling you get after lying in shavasana at the end of a yoga class. Perhaps centered, calm and serene are better words to describe the feeling. But, either way, it felt good. I was hooked.

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How to start using the app

I went home and download the app myself, starting with a free trial of the Basics course. Some nights it helped me fall asleep, other times it helped me get out of bed when I was particularly dreading the day ahead. Since then, I've become a subscriber and turn to it when I'm feeling particularly anxious, stressed or lazy. 

To start, the free Basics course will ask you about your prior experience with meditation and if you have any, why you want to try it and when you plan to meditate during your day (like after you shower, before you go to bed—up to you!). You'll then get 10 days of free meditation, with each session taking 3 to 10 minutes or more, depending on your experience level and preferences.

Once you blow through the Basics (calmly, of course) you can subscribe to the app to get access to mini sessions for when you need a quick fix and longer sessions to help with everything from sleep and stress, to more specific things like overeating and Sunday Scaries.

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There's science behind meditation

Headspace describes meditation as "a formal exercise to cultivate awareness and compassion. By sitting with the mind, we’re training it to be more open and at ease, and we consequently discover greater calm, clarity, contentment, and compassion."

The practice has been toted as beneficial for thousands of years, yet there is still a lot of research to be done on meditation and mindfulness, especially in digital programs. Although, a recent study done by the University of Michigan published in November found that just 20 minutes of meditation helped participants make fewer mistakes. 

"People's interest in meditation and mindfulness is outpacing what science can prove in terms of effects and benefits," Jeff Lin, MSU psychology doctoral candidate and study co-author, said. "But it's amazing to me that we were able to see how one session of a guided meditation can produce changes to brain activity in non-meditators."

"It makes us feel more confident in what mindfulness meditation might really be capable of for performance and daily functioning right there in the moment," co-author Jason Moser said.

Other research has shown that the benefits of meditation include things like improving sleep, memory and focus to reducing stress, anxiety and aggression, which in turn can have a positive impact on relationships, your career, fitness, pain and more, according to Headspace. 

"At Headspace, we like to think of meditation as exercise for the brain," the site reads. "Through meditation, we can build up areas of our brain and actually rewire it to enhance positive traits like focus and decision making and diminish the less positive ones like fear and stress."

Check out the video above to learn more about Headspace and try it out for free above!

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