Headspace, the world’s most popular smartphone app, may have had surprising beginnings, but its goals are just as important.

Many smartphone apps, such as the three Lyme disease apps we profiled earlier, come to fruition in order to fill a need or provide a service.

YouTube provides video content, Twitter and Facebook connect us with people, etc.

But those looking for apps to help decompress generally don’t go your typical social media apps. Even mobile games don’t help settle “busy” or anxious minds.

That’s why apps such as Headspace and other “mindfulness” apps came along. But Headspace’s story — specifically how its creator came up with the idea — may surprise you.

image of Andy Puddicombe for article You Probably Don't Know the Headspace App's Backstory
Headspace founder and former Buddhist monk, Andy Puddicombe | CNN

Traumatic Experiences Prompted a Search for Peace

Headspace’s creator Andy Puddicombe trained as a Buddhist monk before deciding to create the app.

Though he originally trained to compete in gymnastics, a few tragic deaths and traumas early in his life led him to a life of monkhood. He wanted to find peace, but he needed to learn how to do that. Then, he realized he wanted to help others do what he did.

When he returned to Britain in 2004, he met Rich Pierson and together, they founded Headspace in 2010 as a meditation events company. The app came two years later with the tagline “meditation made simple.”

Other apps similar to Headspace like Calm exist, so the need for these apps seems apparent. However, the collective understanding of mindfulness and the techniques that go along with it remain a bit of a mystery. That’s where Puddicombe hopes to help.

“My hope is we’ve taken something that most people think is quite a complex idea, and served it up in a very simple and easy-to-use way,” he told CNN.

Despite his lofty goals, the app costs $12.99 per month for a premium subscription. You can find some of his guided meditations on YouTube and check out his TED talk for free.

The Importance of Mindfulness in a Globalized and Digital World

Perhaps due in part to the increasing digitization of culture, the need for apps like Headspace continues to grow. In turn, so does the intent to profit off of that need.

Consider the above video which has the simple message: you are allowed to have “bad thoughts” and you aren’t a bad person for having them.

The deeper message discusses how meditation makes you more aware of these bad thoughts and how society might make you feel about having them. A natural reaction is to push them down or ignore them, but that may not be the healthiest option.

In a world where anyone can post anything on the internet, this kind of mindfulness is increasingly important. Think about all of the anonymous trolls out there right now. If they had a healthy way to deal with their dark thoughts, would they be bullying others?

In the same way that touch starvation can lead to personality changes, constantly absorbing information to the point of overload can have long-term effects on people. So, too, can anonymous trolling or cyberbullying on social media platforms.

Though apps like Headspace cost money, they do help. You can find mindfulness tools and techniques with a few quick Google searches, too.

What are some of your favorite ways to decompress from the digital daze an average work week puts you in?

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