OPINION: The Problem with Meditation Apps


Hailey Stessman

It’s not necessary to pay money to experience mindfulness. Graphic by Hailey Stessman/The Gateway

Before 2020, the way that I dealt with stress was through meditation. At the time, it was easy to close my eyes and let all of my responsibilities and worrying thoughts slip away. I would simply play free meditation music on Youtube, turn off the lights, and fall into a relaxed state of mind. But with the complete chaos that this year has shown us, it quickly became difficult to quiet my thoughts. Calm music and dimmed lights just wasn’t enough.

So with a bit of researching and scrolling through the app store on my phone, I decided to try a few meditation apps out. However, I immediately stumbled upon an obstacle. Almost every single meditation app that is offered requires a subscription or payment to use its services. But  with my impulsive nature, I agreed to pay the cost of ensured mindfulness.

For example, the first app that I fully paid for was Headspace. On their website, Headspace has one singular mission: “to improve the health and happiness of the world”. A free trial allows users to use their free basics course that outlines the essentials of meditation. Once your free trial is up, you have the option to choose a subscription plan. For $69.99 a year, you can access Headspace’s full library of guided meditations, courses, and soundscapes. Thankfully, they offer a student plan where the cost is lowered to $9.99 a year if you provide confirmation that you are a student. (I chose the latter option.)

At first, I was incredibly impressed with the app. I thoroughly enjoyed the wide array of guided meditations along with the freedom of changing your listening preferences. As someone who has struggled with falling asleep, I greatly appreciated the Sleep section that includes Sleepcasts, Wind Downs, Nighttime SOS, Sleep Music, Soundscapes, and a Sleep Radio. The Headspace app helped give my meditation practice structure that I was lacking previously.

However, as my responsibilities began to pile up and the state of the world fell into disarray, I abandoned the Headspace app. In full honestly, I completely forgot that I had the app on my phone. Every now and then I would open the app, scroll through the meditations and then log out without even pressing play.

Then I started to wonder, “Why do I have to pay for mindfulness?”

I think it’s important to establish that therapy and mindfulness are two separate things. In most cases, you have to pay to meet with a therapist and receive those services. But mindfulness is its own entity that has been taught to be void of any fees. It has been ingrained in our heads through media and spiritual outlets that mindfulness is free and can be practiced anywhere at any time of the day. So why was I spending my money on something that can be attained at no cost?

Our society has become so centered around capitalistic structures that even our mental health has become a commodity. It all comes at a cost. Not to mention, the act of using an app to feel mindful felt contradictory.

If you are struggling with calming your thoughts or need a space to relax, I would encourage you to look elsewhere before paying for a meditation app. For example, Youtube has a plethora of free guided meditations, music, and courses that touch on mindfulness and meditation techniques. You should not have to pay a fee to feel at peace.