Headspace: Popular Mindfulness and Meditation App Now Free to BU Students
Latest initiative of BU’s Wellbeing Project
Every year, Gallup releases its Global Emotions Report—a survey of more than 150,000 adults spanning 140 countries—to get a pulse on the feelings and emotions of people worldwide.
Not surprisingly, the United States ranks among the world’s most stressed, worried, and angry nations. In 2018, 55 percent of Americans reported feeling stressed—tied for fourth-highest and 20 percentage points higher than the global average. More alarming, 64 percent of Americans age 15 to 29 report being stressed.
But help for BU students is on the way, courtesy of the University’s Wellbeing Project, a campus-wide initiative launched this fall to support the health and wellness of the BU community.
Partnering with BU Athletics, Graduate Education, and Student Health Services, the project has rolled out a new resource for students: free membership to Headspace, a mindfulness and meditation app that offers sessions on such issues as stress reduction, sleep hygiene, how to focus, and how to reduce anxiety. The app’s short guided meditations are especially popular.
To register, students need their BU log-in and Kerberos password. Once registered, they can access Headspace’s full suite of resources for as long as they’re enrolled at BU. And the savings are considerable: a regular subscription is $69.99.
Wellbeing Project cochair Katharine Mooney (SPH’12), director of Student Health Services Wellness and Prevention, says Headspace fulfilled several criteria of the project’s mission.
“We know that there are a lot of challenges related to stress and other mental health issues on this campus,” Mooney says. “Mindfulness and meditation, it’s trendy, but there’s also quite a bit of evidence in terms of how it can reduce stress and feelings of depression and anxiety, increase focus, help with sleep. It seemed like a great opportunity to bring some of those benefits to students.”
Another of the app’s benefits? Accessibility.
“We know that students’ schedules are busy, so to add something else into their daily routine feels like it can be really tough,” says Mia Trentadue, Wellness and Prevention program administrator. “But being able to start with practices that are one minute a day, or three minutes a day, may feel like an easier step to make.” In the three weeks the free app has been available to students, more than 2,700 have signed up. Mooney hopes to see that number increase fourfold by the end of the semester.
Feedback from students has been positive.
Julia Dayan (CAS’20) had already registered for Headspace after seeing an ad for it on Instagram prior to BUs free rollout, but had opted for a free version offering limited sessions because of the full membership’s hefty price. While she enjoyed the app’s sleepcasts, she says, the same three free audio options soon became monotonous. Now, thanks to the Wellbeing Project, she can access Headspace’s full library of sleepcasts, as well as other tools.
“It’s a readily available way to get relaxation techniques that we might not look up ourselves,” says Dayan, who is still exploring the app’s full offerings.
While students’ free Headspace access is recent, it’s been available free to faculty and staff since last year. An initiative from BU Human Resources and the Faculty & Staff Assistance (FSAO) office led the University to purchase membership licenses available to employees.
Bonnie Teitleman, former longtime FSAO director and a current consultant, says the office had been looking for “an innovative benefit to offer to faculty and staff,” focused specifically on mental health. Teitleman says FSAO researched several apps and chose Headspace because of the company’s “professional approach and marketing,” effective use of scientific evidence, which she notes is a priority for BU as a research university, and “clever and appealing” graphics.
To date, more than 1,800 faculty and staff have availed themselves of the free app. Erica Mattison, BU Sustainability assistant director of communications, says free access to the app has made a difference in her life, encouraging her to seek out quiet moments and practice mindfulness as part of her daily routine.
“It’s helped raise my consciousness about how creating space and time to think, to reflect, to just pause is very valuable,” Mattison says. “It’s valuable for me as an individual and for how I interact with others.” Another selling point, she says, is the flexibility of the app’s offerings, from short meditations she can employ during her morning commute to longer meditations she can practice at home.
After the success of the pilot for faculty and staff, Teitleman connected with the Wellbeing Project cochairs and BU Athletics and provided data about BU’s partnership with Headspace.
For Mooney, offering free access to BU students opens numerous opportunities for health and wellness programming.
“I think this is a great entry point for folks to test the waters with some of these practices, but there are opportunities on campus as well to do a deeper dive if they’re interested in doing that,” she says, noting the several free meditation groups that already meet on campus, including Behavioral Medicine’s meditation and mindfulness workshops and the BU Zen Mindfulness Community.
Mooney hopes Headspace will offer virtual meditations and that the company can come to campus for pop-up workshops.
“Take a few minutes out of your day if time allows, whether it’s on your walk to class, while you’re on the shuttle, or as you’re getting ready in the morning and getting ready for bed at night, just to give it a try and see how it goes,” Trentadue urges.