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The Best Mindfulness Apps 🧘🏽‍♀️ Calm vs Headspace vs Waking Up vs Reflectly

Blog: The Process Street Blog

The Best Mindfulness Apps 🧘🏽♀ Calm vs Headspace vs Waking Up vs Reflectly_1

Inhale… Exhale… Inhale… Exhale… 🧘🏻‍♂️

Why the deep breaths?

Perhaps because of the pandemic, its subsequent lockdown measures, and the impending breakdown of life as we know it?

In the midst of the global crisis, people are increasingly turning to mindfulness and meditation to regain a sense of calm in their lives.

This means that while the world goes bust, it’s boom time for the mindfulness app industry.

Downloads of mindfulness apps have doubled since mid-March and the digital mental health market is projected to reach $4.6bn in 2026; a massive jump from its value of $1.4bn in 2017.

Continue reading to take a look at the two key rivals in the mindfulness app game: Calm vs Headspace. We’ll also examine why people are turning to mindfulness as a means to cope with the pandemic, and check out two other alternatives beyond the Calm vs Headspace feud: Waking Up and Reflectly.

To skip to a specific section of this Process Street blog post click the appropriate link below:

Take a breath… Now let’s get started! ✨

Why mindfulness? Why now?

According to a report from the app store intelligence firm Sensor Tower, the world’s 10 largest English-language mental wellness apps saw a combined 2 million more downloads in April 2020 (the height of the pandemic) compared with January. And the total amount of downloads for April reached close to 10 million in total.

Why the surge in downloads?

The coronavirus pandemic.

Just to clarify, this post focuses solely on mindfulness apps rather than apps in general. It is worth noting that downloads of all mobile apps have seen a massive spike since the onslaught of the pandemic.

App store intelligence firm App Annie found that in the second quarter of 2020 (Q2), consumers downloaded nearly 35 billion new apps and mobile app usage grew 40% year-over-year. In April 2020, usage reached an all-time high of over 200 billion hours.

Nonetheless, despite the rise in overall downloads and usage, meditation and mindfulness apps were (and still are) becoming increasingly popular.

Top of the leader board is the app Calm with 3.9 million downloads in April, followed by Headspace with 1.5 million downloads, then Meditopia, with 1.4 million. Of those, Calm saw the largest number of installs, with over 911,000 more downloads in April compared with January, a rise of approximately 31%.

What is mindfulness and why are people using it?

“Mindfulness means knowing directly what is going on inside and outside ourselves, moment by moment.” Professor Mark Williams, What is Mindfulness?

According to Professor Williams, an important part of mindfulness is reconnecting with our body, our senses, and the sensations our body experiences. This means being aware of the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of the present moment.

An example of bringing awareness to the present moment could be enjoying the sensation of the sun on your face as you draw the blinds in the morning, or noticing how it feels to hug your loved ones goodnight. 😴

This leads us to another important part of mindfulness: an awareness of your thoughts and feelings as they occur from moment to moment. Mindfulness isn’t solely about actions; an important part of being mindful is developing a direct awareness of your thoughts and feelings, so that you’re better able to identify and understand them.

By incorporating a sense of awareness into your daily life, you become more attuned to the present moment. And in being more present, you begin to appreciate things that you may have been taking for granted or have become accustomed to.

In the words of Professor Williams:

“It’s about allowing ourselves to see the present moment clearly. When we do that, it can positively change the way we see ourselves and our lives.”

Where does mindfulness come from?

The techniques used for cultivating mindfulness stem from Eastern introspective psychological practices. Buddhist psychology made reference to this concept over 2,500 years ago.

As the practice of mindfulness was slowly introduced into the Western arena, there was an underlying assumption that mindfulness and its associated meditation practices (more on this later) were abstruse and bound to religious beliefs.

However, decades of research and scientific discovery have debunked these myths, and mindfulness is now considered to be an essential aspect of human consciousness.

This means that mindfulness consists of increasing your capacity of attention and the amount of awareness you bring to the present moment. Whilst it is true that levels of mindfulness can vary between individuals, the reasons for this are independent of religious, spiritual, or cultural beliefs.

How to be more mindful

Taking notice of your body sensations, thoughts, feelings, and the world around you is the first step to being more mindful.

The UK’s National Health Service’s website provides a more in-depth look at how you can go about achieving this:

Mindfulness apps: Calm vs Headspace (the top dogs 🐩)

In the United States, Calm generated the most downloads out of all of the mindfulness apps. In April, the app witnessed 1.6 million first-time installs, an increase of 30.7% month-over-month, and up 36% compared to January.

Meanwhile, Headspace ranked a close second (in April). Whether it’s in the U.S or the English-speaking world as a whole, the battle for best meditation app is firmly between Calm vs Headspace.

As the top dogs, how do these apps stand out from the rest?

Calm vs Headspace: Calm


Calm, which launched in 2012, aims to help its users cope with anxiety, stress, insomnia, and similar mental health issues. It was set up by British entrepreneurs, Michael Acton Smith and Alex Tew and was recently valued at over $1bn.

This means that Calm will be joining the ranks of 312 other start-ups who have been valued at a billion dollars or more (a.k.a. unicorns). However, the app is not just any ol’ unicorn, but the world’s first (ever) mental health unicorn. 🦄

Once downloaded, Calm introduces you to the basics of mindfulness meditation with the “7 Days of Calm,” a guided course consisting of seven 10-minute sessions. By completing the first session, you unlock the next in the series. And on completing the entire course, users can progress onto the “21 Days of Calm” and gain access to the app’s full capabilities with a paid subscription.

The free version also offers a taster to some of Calm’s extra features:

Pros: Calm

Cons: Calm

Cost 💸
Choosing to sign up for a 7-day trial, means you’ll automatically be enrolled in Calm Premium, which costs $69.99 a year or $14.99 a month. You can cancel up to 1 day before your trial ends to avoid being charged. Calm also offers a lifetime membership for $399.99 and has a ton of promos such as a partnership with American Express.

Calm vs Headspace: Headspace


Headspace, which launched in 2010, is a Los Angeles-based mindfulness meditation start-up. Like Calm, it was founded by two Englishmen, Andy Puddicombe and Richard Pierson. In 2019, the company had raised a total of $75 million and in June 2017, the company confirmed it was valued at $320 million. In February 2020, Headspace, locked in a competitive struggle with Calm for leadership in the mindfulness app world, raised new capital to try to win the top dog position.

On downloading the app, you are introduced to the basics of mindfulness and meditation with the “Take 10 Free Trial”. This is a guided foundation course featuring 10 sessions (10 minutes each), with six accompanying video infographics to illustrate concepts.

As is the case with Calm, completing a session unlocks the next meditation in the series. On completing the sessions in Level 1, users can opt to continue to Levels 2-3 by paying a subscription. Progress is tracked by giving the user statistics on session completion and time spent meditating.

As you build your mindfulness practice with Headspace, you will find an everyday meditation, which is a short, guided, daily meditation. The meditation is front and center on the home screen – this is something you will also find in Calm.

Here’s what else you’ll find:

Pros: Headspace

Cons: Headspace

Cost 💸
You can upgrade to Headspace Plus for the monthly cost of $12.99 with a free 7-day trial or get 14 days free with a $69.99 annual subscription. There are also plans for students and families and a promo with Spotify (I definitely recommend checking this out).

Calm vs Headspace: Who takes the crown? 👑

One thing is for sure: both apps have a lot of happy users. I, for one, use Calm every single day and truly believe it has a positive impact on my mental health, relationships, and life in general. In a message describing my experience of the app to a friend, I wrote:

“The mediations go deeper; they start you at the basics and then coach you so that you are constantly growing and improving in your practice. I use it to keep me focused and prioritize work, help little Loris (the little boy I was nannying at the time/my all-time favorite human) get to sleep, and to bring some positive structure into my life”. Molly Stovold, Content Writer at Process Street

My colleague at Process Street has used both Calm and Headspace. This is what he has got to say:

“The UX/UI is better with Headspace. I also preferred the meditations – more variety and it generally felt more professional. I vaguely remember being irritated by the voice in Calm as well. That’s wholly subjective, but you want the person telling you to relax to encourage relaxation. Overall, Headspace inspired more confidence, and by extension willingness, to give it a shot.” Leks Drakos, Content Writer at Process Street

Both Headspace and Calm are designed to help you live life with more ease, by stressing less, sleeping more, and improving your overall approach to daily life.

Headspace’s use of fun illustrations in-app can mean that customers prefer its UX/ UI and general experience of the app. Whereas the broad range of guided meditations in Calm can allow users to broaden their practice by delving deeper.

Ultimately, in the toss-up between Calm vs Headspace, both are good options, and both have lots to offer. They are both designed to help you live a better life, and only you can choose which app is best for you.

But hold up a little longer before making your choice because there are heaps more players in the mindfulness app field – two of which are Waking Up and Reflectly.

Beyond Calm vs Headspace: Waking Up and Reflectly

The Best Mindfulness Apps 🧘🏽♀ Calm vs Headspace vs Waking Up vs ReflectlyAs I said, there are tons of mindfulness apps out there, unfortunately covering all of them would keep you reading this post all day. So, for now, let’s take a brief look at two of the more popular and niche alternatives.

Beyond Calm vs Headspace: Waking Up

Launched in 2018 by Sam Harris a neuroscientist, philosopher, and best-selling author, Waking Up helps you learn the science, philosophy, and ethics behind mindfulness meditation. The lessons and meditations the app offers consist of short audio lessons with Sam and conversations with other recognized teachers and scholars.

Its features include:

Waking Up could be your preferred choice if you’re looking for a more intellectual experience to ground your mindfulness meditation practice.

Cost 💸
Waking Up costs $14.99 for a monthly subscription and $119.99 for an annual plan (this is for US citizens; prices may vary depending on you location).

*The free version of Waking Up gives you access to five audio meditations and five lessons from Harris.

Beyond Calms vs Headspace: Reflectly

Reflectly, founded in 2016 by Jakob Brøgger-Mikkelsen, Daniel Vestergaard, and Jacob Harboe Kristensen, is a journaling app. Journaling is a key part of mindfulness as it helps you to structure and reflect on your daily thoughts and problems (think back to the section “how to be more mindful”).

As you’d imagine, this app is structured differently from the others due to its focus on journaling – rather than meditation.

Here’s a brief introduction to how you would go about using the app:

Reflectly is very different from the other apps we have looked at in this post, but this should not take away from its value.

Journaling is a great mindfulness option and alternative/ accompaniment to meditation. It’s great if you are looking to start journaling as it offers valuable guidance. Also, having a journal stored on your phone is super handy as it means you can journal on the go with ease, and won’t have to worry about leaving your journal around for prying eyes. 👀

It’s not a question of Calm vs Headspace, the question is: Are mindfulness apps for you?

So there you have it. By now you should feel clued up on all things mindfulness; the competition that is Calm vs Headspace and the alternative apps – Reflectly for journaling, and Waking Up for a more intellectual approach to mindful mediation.

The question now is: Are mindfulness apps for you?

Considering the recent humongous surge in downloads of mindfulness apps, I’d say it’s definitely worth giving them a go. All of these people are surely choosing them for a reason… right?

In my opinion, mindfulness apps are a productive and positive way to stay occupied while inside. And (more importantly) in the midst of a global crisis, a little bit of calm wouldn’t go amiss.

Calm, Headspace, Reflectly or Waking Up? Which would you choose (or have you chosen) and why? Leave a comment below to let us know your thoughts about mindfulness and about the apps you use.👇🏼

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