Smart Meditation with Headspace Alexa Skill
Regular meditation doesn’t require any technology, but it can relieve stress, unleash creativity, and help you cope with all kinds of issues from addiction to cancer. But it doesn’t work at all if you can’t commit to a regular daily routine. Thankfully we found something to help us with our practice – the Headspace app, and it works even better now thanks to the new Headspace Alexa Skill.
For many years I had been reading about meditation and trying to get into the habit. When I first tried it I just set a timer on my iphone for 15 minutes and sat in a room by myself. It worked, but it drove me crazy – any noise I heard got me distracted, and it was hard to stay focused for what felt like forever. I tried the Oprah and Deepak 21-day meditation challenge a few times with varying success – while I completed several sessions over a number of days and I did love Deepak’s voice and wisdom, I don’t think I ever was able to finish the full 21 days. Nothing really worked for me until I found Headspace.
Headspace starts out with a free version that allows you to do ten days of meditation. The creator, Andy, has a very pleasant, soothing voice that made me feel completely at ease right away. He has a really simple way of explaining what you are trying to accomplish with meditation and demonstrating common issues through some engaging animations.
After I did the first ten days I was sold, but it took me a while to commit to actually buy a subscription. After all the money I had spent on different books about meditation for some reason I felt funny about paying for an iPhone app to do the same. I looked for free alternatives but didn’t like any of them as much. Finally I paid for the subscription and I haven’t looked back since. I’ve been using it for more than three years, and the last time I renewed I went ahead and bought a two-year subscription, because I know I will get my money’s worth.
After the first ten days, Headspace guides you through two more complete sets of ten days until you get up to 30 days. This builds up your habit, getting to 20 minutes a day, with fewer and fewer meditation prompts, expanding your mind muscle until you comfortable and better able to relax and focus on the exercise each time.
After that initial 30 days, there are many different other options to choose from with more being added all the time. You can choose a regular guided meditation, one that is timed without any prompts, or any number of focused packs to work on particular areas. At first there were only about a dozen packs on things like focus, motivation, creativity, kindness, etc, now there are many more on topics ranging from coping with cancer to getting the focus you need on a particular sport. You can use Headspace while you are exercising or to help you go to sleep. There are so many ways you can explore and get the mediation you need within its library.
The most motivating thing for me has been the accountability. Headspace keeps a running streak, and after a few days, you really don’t want to break it. After certain milestones it gives you rewards – like 30 days of free Headspace for a friend after you have made it 30 days in a row. So far, the most I have gotten to is about 270 days – I have not made it a whole year but I have gotten past 200 days twice but for some reason or another life interfered and I missed a day. Both times I was really upset but that didn’t stop me from meditating. Today I am up to 63 days and still going strong.
Recently, Headspace has entered our smart home with its new Alexa skill. When we first got our Amazon Echo and set it up in our bedroom, we thought meditation was a natural killer app – but at the time there was very limited content available. Now that I have connected my account with the Headspace Alexa Skill I just say, “Alexa, tell Headspace I am ready to meditate,” and it launches Headspace for me on my smart speaker.
When you launch Headspace with Alexa, she knows where you left off in the app and gives you a few options to continue. You can move forward with whatever mediation pack you have been doing, do today’s meditation, a sleep exercise, or listen to soothing music.
I have been mostly using my Echo to continue with my current meditation pack. The Echo plays the meditation and it records my progress on my account through the cloud. So I get to keep my streak going but I can do it without having to open my phone at all. Which is relaxing in itself.
But the very best use of Headspace with Alexa for me is the option to do the sleep exercise whenever I need it. I don’t often get insomnia, but when I do, I find myself wanting to use Headspace but waiting too long to do it – because the last thing you want to do when you are lying in bed unable to sleep is to get up, find your phone, turn it on and launch an app. It is only when I am desperate and have been up for hours that I will get up and do it. With Headspace for Alexa, I can launch the sleep exercise anytime without getting up or lighting up the room with my phone.
There have been some complaints in the Alexa app that it doesn’t allow you to access the entire library, which is fair, but for me, these options are plenty, and I think it would be much easier to navigate all the different libraries via my phone or the Headspace website rather than trying to have Alexa read me all of my different options.
You can try Headspace for free on the web or by downloading their app in the Apple or Google Play store. After your free ten days, you can buy subscriptions from their site or as in-app purchases starting at $12.99 a month or $7.99 a month billed annually. If you haven’t bought a subscription yet but have an account, with the Alexa skill you can access to Basics, Sleep Sounds and the Sleep Exercise. In addition to the Alexa Skill, Headspace is also available to use with Google Assistant.
Kudos to the Headspace team for finally turning my Amazon Echo into a home meditation platform.