Calm App Review: is it Right for You?

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

It’s common to feel overwhelmed and anxious. For some, these feelings might be completely unfamiliar, while others might be looking for new ways to cope with or manage existing emotions or conditions.

Whatever your level of anxiety or unrest, it can be helpful to try your hand at meditation to keep your mental health in check.

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Calm is a mindfulness app for both newcomers and meditation enthusiasts alike. It can help users find inner peace and navigate life’s stressors.

Read on for more about what Calm has to offer, and if it’s right for you.

What is Calm?

Calm is an award-winning mindfulness app that’s available for iOS, Android, and desktop. Developed in 2012, Calm has over 100 million downloads and more than 700,000 5-star reviews.

The app features hundreds of calming exercises, helpful breathing techniques, and sleep stories narrated by celebrities like Matthew McConaughey and LeBron James.

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Calm has many offerings and the interface is relatively simple to navigate through. Plus, they’re constantly adding new content.

How much does the Calm app cost?

Free version

Calm is built on a “freemium” model. Without purchase, you get access to:

  • daily meditations
  • breathing exercises
  • mood tracker
  • select sleep stories
  • several music tracks
  • some guided meditations

The 7-day free trial unlocks more than 100 guided meditations, the entire sleep story library, exclusive musical tracks for sleep and relaxation, and master classes led by experts.

Paid version

After the free trial ends, access to the full library is $14.99 per month or $69.99 per year. If you pay for the year in full, it comes out to $5.83 per month, which is more affordable than other meditation apps on the market.

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For teams of 5 or more, Calm offers a 15-percent discount. Calm also offers a lifetime membership for $399.99.

How does Calm work?

As soon as you open it, the app welcomes you to take a few deep breaths. Then, a pop-up menu asks you to select what brought you to the app so that it can tailor recommendations based on your goals.

You may receive questions like: Are you looking to increase your happiness or reduce stress? Do you want to get better sleep or reduce anxiety? All of the above?

The meditation section is organized into different categories, like stress, focus, anxiety, and relationships. Calm offers both guided and unguided meditations. The sessions can range anywhere from 3 to 30 minutes.

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Calm doesn’t focus on religious or spiritual themes, but rather mindfulness- based stress reduction (MBSR). This program teaches people to use their innate resources to help manage stress and pain.

Some MBSR techniques include:

  • body scans
  • walking meditations
  • shifting from focus to awareness
  • breathing exercises
Meditations

Calm is best known for its meditations. They’re divided up into different categories, such as sleep, beginners, work, inner peace, anxiety, emotions, and personal growth.

Each category contains topic-specific meditation packs or singles. For example, in the anxiety section, you’ll find sessions like “Panic SOS,” “Calming Flight Anxiety,” and “Letting Go into Sleep.”

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Beginners are encouraged to start off with the “7 Days of Calm” series, and then transition into “21 Days of Calm” to sharpen their skills.

Daily Calm

Only users with premium memberships can access Daily Calm. However, users who have a free trial can access Daily Calm Highlights, which is a collection of the most popular Daily Calm sessions.

Although Daily Calm refreshes each meditation session every day, premium users get the ability to go back and listen to previous sessions that they’ve listened to. They can access them in the history section of their profile.

Breathing exercises

Calm features six types of audio breathing exercises, including:

  • Relax
  • Balance
  • Restore
  • Focus
  • Energize
  • Unwind
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The app lets you customize the volume and speed of each breathing exercise. You can also customize the length of your breathing exercise, within a 1- to 60- minute timeframe.

Sleep stories

If you miss being tucked in at night with a sweet bedtime story and a glass of warm milk, then you’re in luck. The sleep stories section on Calm is full of stories, ranging from fairy tales to nonfiction. You can even get stores that activate your autonomous sensory meridian response, or ASMR.

Music

The music section of Calm contains hundreds of curated soundtracks to put you at ease while working, walking, or falling asleep. The app has everything organized into six categories: focus, lullabies, relax, sleep, soundscapes, and nature melodies.

Calm Masterclass

Calm’s master classes are short courses taught by mindfulness experts and esteemed professionals, like Shawn Achor, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Ryan Holiday.

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This offering is great for anyone looking to dive deeper into the world of mindfulness. This educational component is what sets Calm apart from their competitors.

Calm Kids

Calm offers meditations, sleep stories, and music designed for children of all ages. Kids can learn to meditate with Thomas the Tank Engine, listen to soothing lullabies, or fall asleep to classic stories, like “Peter Pan” or “The Velveteen Rabbit.”

Calm has a children’s offering for kids as young as 3 years old. They say their sessions equip children with the proper tools to handle whatever life throws their way. Additionally, 2016 research suggests that mindfulness instruction can improve psychological functioning, lower some of the negative effects of stress, and reduce trauma-associated symptoms in some children.

Calm Body

Mental and physical health are intrinsically linked, according to 2018 research. Calm Body can be beneficial for your overall well-being.

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There are currently eight Calm Body sessions on the app. Each session is a 10- minute movement designed with mindfulness in mind. You can choose from:

  • “Morning Wake Up”
  • “Afternoon Reset”
  • “Mindful Warm Up”
  • “Mindful Cool Down”
  • “Evening Wind Down”
  • “Morning Stretch”
  • “Evening Stretch”
  • “Back Care”

Is Calm right for you?

Calm may benefit individuals looking to gain the skills and knowledge to deal with daily stress or anxiety.

Calm is a science-based mindfulness app that can be used by beginners and experts alike. If you are looking to find more peace in your daily life, or if you’re simply looking to add new tools to your mental health toolkit, then it might be worth giving Calm a shot.

The more regularly you use the app and its many features, the more you might notice positive mental health benefits.

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Newcomers can start off with courses like “How to Meditate” to get acclimated to the practice. Experts can play around with the “Less Guidance” section, where they’ll find a meditation timer, lightly guided meditations, and open-ended meditations with bells.

Statistics on time spent meditating can help you track your progress on the app.

Does it work?

Calm can help soothe negative thoughts and emotions and can be used to help lower stress, anxiety, or chronic pain.

A 2013 analysis of 209 studies suggests that mindfulness-based therapy is a “moderately effective” treatment for a variety of psychological problems, and it is especially effective at reducing symptoms of anxiety, depression, and stress.

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A 2014 randomized clinical trial review of treatments given to 3,515 adults found that there was “moderate evidence” that mindfulness meditation improved symptoms of depression and anxiety. However, stronger studies are needed.

This 2019 study of 153 adults showed that mindfulness training done through a meditation app for 2 weeks reduced loneliness and increased social contact for its users compared with those in a control group.

Calm is not a replacement for anyone experiencing symptoms of depression or moderate to severe anxiety. It can, however, be used together with psychotherapy and prescribed medication.

Calm vs. Headspace

Calm and Headspace are both apps designed to help you learn meditation methods, practice guided mental exercises, and improve sleep quality.

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They both cost nearly the same price, too. Calm offers a 7-day free trial. When that expires, the app costs $14.99 per month or $69.99 per year. Headspace also offers a 7-day free trial and subscriptions for either $12.99 per month or $69.99 per year.

If you’re looking to decide between the two apps, you may want to consider that Calm:

  • may be better for those who have some meditation experience
  • has lengthier guided meditations and stories
  • offers less structured meditation sessions

Takeaway

Calm is a great one-stop shop for anyone looking to improve their mental well- being. The app teaches users how to reduce anxiety and stress, sleep better, and check in with their emotions.

If you want to give Calm a try, get started here.

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