When the sky began to fall in March of 2020, I grappled with ways to survive — to be there for my family and my company. One way was running outside while we were all shut in. Another was an attempt at meditation. I downloaded the Calm app and was attempting to go through a 30-day “How to Meditate” course. These “classes” ranged from nine to 14 minutes.
I never made it through the 30 days.
Two years later, with life throwing me another curveball (I’ll spare you the details), I have downloaded and paid for the app again. This time my goal is to find a little more brain space to deal with stress and anxiety and sleep issues. I started in mid-April and have so far done 28 sessions and have used the app a total of five hours and 53 minutes. (Note, I still have not made it to 30).
Normally, in my articles for Residential Tech Today, I find modern technology “gadgets” to live with and see if they really can improve my life. In this case, we’re talking about an app, rather than a gadget. As an application that you download onto your smart phone, it begs the question, “Can it be this simple?”
The Calm app was created in 2012 by Alex Tew and Michael Action Smith based on scientific research; there are more than 20 research publications hosted on their science page.
According to the company, Calm is currently the number-one app for sleep, meditation, and relaxation, with more than 100 million downloads and more than 1.5 million five-star reviews. The app was honored as an Apple BEST of 2018, Pay Editor’s Choice 2018, and “the world’s happiest app” by the Center for Humane Technology.
It is a free download with a seven-day trial, although seven days will not be long enough to evoke change. You will need to work harder than that. From there, you pay $14.99 a month or $69.99 a year. This, by far is the most expensive app I have ever purchased, and I committed to a year in one more attempt to get myself to use it more.
When opening Calm, you are first told to take a deep breath. Then on the landing page, you will find some quick meditations broken up in the Daily Calm, Daily Trip, Daily Jay, and Daily Move. My favorite part is the soundscape that begins when you open Calm, with lapping water and chirping birds.
The app itself is beautifully designed with calming landscape scenes. There is an area for what you recently played, and further down you find modules that are popular with listeners and more recommendations.
You have quick access to a breakdown of what you might be looking for, with options of Meditation, Sleep, Music, Soundscapes, Check-Ins, Dailies, Wisdom, Calm Kids, Movement, and For Work. At the bottom of the page, you find a search and the ability to enter your profile. This is where you find your dashboard that will breakdown your mindful days and streaks.
What I like: Meditation has always felt unapproachable to my ruminating mind. The fact that Calm has made meditation approachable with simple 10-minute sessions takes away the biggest hurdle to getting started. Everyone should be able to find at least 10 minutes in their day. A 2018 study in the International Journal of Wellbeing found that “brief, daily meditation enhances attention, memory, mood, and emotional regulation in non-experienced meditators.” I’ll keep at it.
What I had trouble with: While this app is hailed as the greatest app for sleep, something I have always struggled with, I find myself not using it for a few reasons. Number one, I am married and share the bed with another human who may not want to listen to a sleep story. Your quick answer to that may be headphones, but how do you fall asleep with them on? I also read before bed and do not want to turn on my phone after I put down my book to get into the app. I am not sure what the solution is, but I have only ended up using the sleep features sparingly.
I would like to see more series that I can complete on the app, although, perhaps, in wanting something I can check off and complete, shows that I need more meditation altogether. This app does not do the work for you. It is a commitment on your part, to your wellbeing, and there is no finish line to cross. Calm is there to help you change your life to become a better you. We should all find time for that.