In a blend of East and West, ancient and modern, people are using their smart devices to bring them closer to their version of spiritual enlightenment. Meditation is a tradition dating back thousands of years, but companies like Headspace, Calm, and Ten Percent Happier are helping North Americans bring these practices to a screen near them.
Consumers are looking for new ways to center themselves and connect with others as they weather the Covid-19 storm at home. American psychologist Tara Brach comments on the effect the pandemic has had on people and the role of meditation. She explains that in China, the word for mindfulness is “present heart” – a way to practice individually but in connection with others. People are taking this idea literally to heart through these applications – apart but together.
According to the mobile insights platform App Annie, "mindfulness" app downloads have climbed up to 750,000 during the week of March, a 25 percent increase from the weekly average in January and February. Android users also spent 85 percent more time accessing these apps during that week than normal.
Meditation app providers responded to the sharp spike in demand. They are forging partnerships with local governments, adding new features, and broadening content. There are live training sessions and classes where people are building communities through these new connections. People are using live Q&A functions during these events to reach out to other people and reduce their isolation.
Headspace, a provider of guided meditation offerings, stated downloads have doubled since the middle of March. People are using the application’s live meditation feature 70 percent more than usual, and CEO Richard Pierson: “I think we are craving human connection and shared stories more than ever.”
“We know people are struggling with sleep, we know people are experiencing extended periods of stress and anxiety, and meditation is definitely being seen as one way of helping with that,” chimed in Andy Puddicombe, Headspace co-founder and a former Buddhist monk.
Over at the virtual head offices of Ten Percent Happier, the 30 member staff are working hard to meet the needs of their growing customer base. The company recently released a “coronavirus safety guide” application designed to help people manage Covid-19-related stress. Also, the firm has made its premium features available to healthcare workers, which gives them access to hundreds of guided meditation and mindfulness sessions.
Other tech firms in the personal care sphere have followed suit. Digital provider Breethe also stepped up to offer their paid version of its meditative services to all North American healthcare workers. To serve the public in this time, Breethe rolled out a free meditation program called "Inner Wellness During Coronavirus," which supports people with anxiety, self-care, and grief.