Calm App: A Review

I will preface this review by stating that I struggle something fierce with meditation.

The Setup

I downloaded the Calm App, and purchased the annual subscription (US$69.99), in August of 2019, so I’ve had it for almost a year.

I say that I’ve had it for a year, not that I’ve used it for a year, because I’ve realistically only used it consistently over the last six months.

Once I downloaded it, I tried it, of course, but I immediately found that I do not really do well having to sit and focus on my breath. It felt like a punishment more than a relaxing tool, so I regretted my purchase and pushed it aside.

Then, about six months ago, I was wracked with anxiety and decided to give it another go.

I continued to not be a fan of it, but I kept trying.

Now, six months in, here are my thoughts on the app.

About The App

Once you open the app, you’re shown a relaxing, moving opening scene. You are able to choose from a variety of options, but I chose the Jasper Lake scene. Once the image starts moving, the sounds of nature such as birds chirping and waves begin playing.

Screenshot of my opening screen.

It is an immediately immersive experience, which I find helps to put me in a more relaxed mood.

The colors and images are all geared towards relaxation, and make it very visually appealing.

From the opening screen you are able to choose from a variety of options including: Home, Sleep, Meditate, Music, and More.

Sleep – A variety of soothing stories to help you drift off to sleep. There are even kid friendly options such as the relatively new Thomas and Friends story “Return to Sodor.”

Meditate – A medley of meditations that include sections dedicated to anxiety, stress, work, focus, relationships, personal growth, specifically for kids, etc. Some of the mediations are longer than others, and they are all very unique, which is nice. There are even some mediations that are voiced by celebrities, like the series that is voiced by LeBron James.

Music – This is a newer option on the app. It has a mix of soothing music to help you unwind. It’s the type of music you might find in a spa. Again, all of the music is shuffled into different sections such as relax, melodies, work, focus, etc. A recent addition is the Disney Peaceful Piano collection, which has a few instrumental Disney hits. The music section also contains some soundscapes like rain on leaves, campfire, waterfall, etc.

More – You are able to access your Check-Ins, Calm kids, Breathing Exercises, Calm Body (takes you through relaxing stretches) change your Scenes, Profile, and Settings in this section.

Pros

Let’s start with what I like about the app.

You are able to try it for 7 days for free.

It is extremely easy to use and navigate, which is nice when you are looking for the app to help you relax. It is also very visually appealing and auditory, which provides a more immersive experience.

I have tried a little of everything, but what I tend to stick to is using the Daily Calm. It is a quick, ten-minute meditation that helps set your mindset for the day.

I’ve found that ten minutes is about all I can handle in regards to meditation right now.

I’ve worked to integrate it into my morning routine.

I also enjoy some of the sleep stories to help me relax. I know a lot of people use them to help them go to sleep, but I will sometimes turn one on to listen to if I’m just feeling stressed and need a break.

The soundscapes are something I also will gravitate towards when I’m stressed, or when I’m working and just want a little background noise and I’m not feeling music or a podcast. (I’m listening to a soundscape as I type this!) I like that they help me relax and pretend that I’m anywhere other than my living room or desk. (Quarantine fatigue, anyone?)

Overall, I’ve learned to love a lot of the features, and utilize the app daily.

Cons

Now, for what I’m not too keen on about the app.

The number one thing I struggle with for this app is definitely someone with a different type of personality might love, and that’s the streak count that shows at the end of my Daily Calm mediation.

The app gives you a streak total that shows how many days in a row that you’ve meditated.

This is a no go for a recovering perfectionist with obsessive compulsive tendencies like me.

If I miss a day, the streak starts over, and I spiral into the pit of shame.

It not only keeps track of your streaks, but it keeps track of how many times you’ve meditated, etc., over the life of the app. Again, providing a person like me with these kind of metrics has been a difficult side to the app.

I wish that there was an option to turn that particular function off. (Calm App Overlords, if you’re listening, that might be a nice addition to any future upgrades.)

(In case you were wondering, I do this with practically anything that keeps track of “goals” for me. I have a step counter on my Galaxy Watch, but bless those programmers at Samsung who do not keep metrics on my steps overtime and allow me to adjust my “goal” settings and turn off movement reminders.)

This will most likely come as a complete shock, but that means that I am also not a fan of any of the Check-Ins. Calm will keep track of “How are you feeling?” and “What are you grateful for?” Again, I like to utilize the app to relax, not to become another worry of something I’m not perfect at keeping up with.

I also wish that it would allow me to save the quotes at the end of each Daily Calm somewhere on the app, rather than having to send it to pinterest, etc., or lose it forever.

Final Impression

Overall, I find myself enjoying the app, and I plan to renew my annual subscription. Despite the fact that I struggle with meditation, I find it to be a worthwhile endeavor that I’ve noticed has helped me to work towards becoming a more calm person. I feel that my small meditation practice has helped me to become less reactive, and has helped teach me to pause, breathe, and then tackle whatever life throws at me.

This app, and hundreds of dollars of therapy.

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