Keep ‘Calm’ and carry on [App of the Week]

Calm meditation app

I should preface this post by admitting that I’m not what you’d call a “meditative” person. Not that I’m against it, mind you, I’ve just never really tried. But while I was recently perusing the App Store on my iPhone, I noticed “Calm: Meditation” app was marked as an “Essential.” Seeing as how I could always improve on those activities and that it was free to download, I thought I’d give it a go.

I’m glad I did, as it offers a variety of programs that help deal with relaxing, focusing and sleeping better. These are all narrated and can play like a song or podcast, meaning they can continue rolling even outside the app. In addition, you can set the background to a few different themes which play sounds in the background of any currently running program, such as a fireplace with flames crackling in the background. Calm iOS app Some programs guide you through specific meditative exercises and allow you to set specific durations, such as three or five minutes all the way up to half an hour. Others let you perform at your own pace, simply sending notifications like a bell ringing at custom intervals.

Multi-day programs are offered that assign daily tasks to perform to work towards a specific goal, like the introductory “7 Days of Calm.” There are also lifestyle-related meditations that focus on material such as loving-kindness and forgiveness.

There is also a breathing-centric exercise that tells you when to inhale, hold and exhale. You’ll be tracked on how long you do this, and records for this, as well as all of the other programs, will be saved. These can viewed along with a convenient calendar tracking your day-to-day progress, and all of these statistics can be shared with friends via social media, text messages, e-mail and more.

Calm iOS app calendar screen

What I found to be particularly useful were the “sleep stories,” which are similar to audiobooks. They tell stories of varying lengths (the ones I’ve seen so far have been between 14 and 30 minutes) and are narrated by several different people with appropriately soothing and mellow-sounding voices. Your phone will automatically shut off once the story ends.

There’s even one read by Ben Stein, once again assuming the role of the hilariously boring economics teacher from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. 

It’s worth noting that many of the sleep stories and meditation programs are locked behind rather pricey subscriptions. You can pay $17.99 on a monthly basis, sign up for a year and pay $7.08 every month or fork over a whopping $399.99 for a lifetime membership. I’m not sure if I’m willing to pay for Calm annually just yet, but I could definitely see myself going for at least one month to unlock and try everything.

For now, though, I’m going to get back to listening to Ben Stein’s delightful reading of The Wealth of Nations. 

You can download Calm on iOS and Android.