People often ask me how I stay calm all the time. The short answer? I don’t. I’m a human, and like everyone else, I have my fair share less than shining moments. (Don’t believe me? Hear my humorous recount of a recent mini-meltdown I had while traveling in the video below. It’s proof that even psychologists have their moments!) However, I will acknowledge that I work hard to stay calm, reduce freak outs, and manage emotions. One of my favorite ways to do this? Mindfulness. And luckily, there are apps for that!
There are so many different mindfulness and meditation apps available, and I’ve tried just about all of them. In fact, I have an entire folder on my phone dedicated to these apps! Each of them offers something different, and depending on what you’re wanting or needing, you’ll probably like one over another. Today, I’m sharing about the Calm app. I’m giving an overall Calm app review, highlighting my favorite features, what I love most, as well as few small things that aren’t quite perfect.
Calm has been around since 2012, and it was actually the first mindfulness app I ever used. The app has evolved a ton since it’s release, and like most apps, they have both free and paid content. Today I’m focusing on all the free content, because let’s be honest, free is awesome.
It starts off strong.
First, I love that the app prompts you to take a deep breath while it’s loading. This is such a small thing, but it really prepares you to be intentional. Y’all know how much I love deep breathing. You’ll also notice when the app opens that its actually really beautiful.
It’s well organized and goal oriented.
I love how many different topics Calm focuses on. It’s nicely organized. This allows you to choose what best fits your goals. Trying to manage stress? There’s a tab for that. Working on relationships? How about resilience? Yep, there are tabs for those too. These areas are more specific than many of the other meditation apps, which I like, as it helps you really zero in on your goals.
It explains the whys and hows of mindfulness.
One of my favorite parts of Calm is the level of explanation they usually do at the beginning of each meditation. And it’s not just an explanation of what you’re doing, but they give a really thoughtful explanation of why. I refer to this as “the pitch.” In my job as a psychologist, I actually spend a lot of time helping people understand why something will benefit them. Why they need it, what it will target, how the science works, why it makes sense. We want to know that what we’re doing is actually going to be helpful.
Headspace does this through their little videos, but I like the way that Calm incorporates this into their meditations. For me, I noticed that without added visuals, I hear the narrators words more. You can experience this for yourself at the beginning of each of the 7 day series.
It’s got a lot of variety, with several good places to start.
With so many options, you can start just about anywhere. I’d recommend any of the seven day series, especially Managing Stress and Calming Anxiety. I love how the seven day series sets an expectation of consistency, prepping you to practice for a full seven days. You can also look through any of the Daily Calm Highlights to find a favorite.
It appreciates the little things.
Calm offers small, but appreciated details, making the app a really enjoyable experience. Like many other mindfulness apps, it offers push notifications if you want them, keeping you engaged and on track. You can also heart your favorite meditations, to return to frequently and with ease. I also really like the moderator’s voice and pacing. As I shared in the video, I can be a little picky about tempo, and I think Calm strikes a nice balance here.
But it’s not perfect.
Because nothing in life is, right? First, Calm offers a breathing bubble to help you focus and slow down. For me, it’s too fast, even on the widest setting, though I appreciate that they offer various pacing options. I’m not a fan of visuals or counting when engaging in deep breathing, which you can hear more about in the video.
Second, Calm doesn’t include a lot of shorter meditations, meaning six minutes or less. Sometimes we don’t have time or don’t want to make time for a 12 minute meditation. A few two or three minute options would be helpful. If you’re in a pinch and want something shorter, you could always use their breathing bubble or the open ended meditation.
If you’re wanting to engage in regular mindfulness and meditation, Calm is a great app to use. Their breadth and depth is pretty amazing, offering options for both beginner and advanced meditators.
So what do you think? Are you ready to give Calm a try?
PS: In case you’re in the mood for a little compare and contrast, check out my Headspace review here.
Hi Dr. Allison, I love your posts and videos! I have used the Calm app for about a year now. I initially did the free portion, and enjoyed it so much that I paid for one year of service. I usually NEVER pay for these types of things, but I found that the Calm app really motivated me to meditate everyday for many of the positive reasons you mention above. I also enjoy the narrator’s voice tone a great deal, and I love that everyday she posts a new Daily Meditation that is ten minutes long. That is the perfect amount of time for me. There is always a focus or message towards the end of the daily meditation as well, and a quote that you can save if you want to. I’ve also used Headspace and Smiling Mind meditation apps, and though I found those useful, they just didn’t click as well for me as the Calm app. Thanks for your great review above!
Anyone using Insight Timer? It’s free and ad free which I am grateful for!
I’m like Angie: I used Calm’s free offerings for about two months and liked it so much, I signed up. I agree that the breathing bubble could be better to adjust, but I adore the daily meditations (probably only available to subscribers). Oh, and their sleep stories are surprisingly effective: I really didn’t think they’d work on me, but they do!