The AtlanticThe Atlantic

Your phone is a mindfulness trap

By Michael Owen

23 Jun 2023 · 7 min read

informed Summary

  1. Mindfulness apps such as Calm and Headspace have become popular tools for emotional well-being. These apps offer guided meditations and sleep stories, aiming to make the practice of mindfulness more accessible and less time-consuming.

“Let’s travel now to moonlit valleys blanketed with heather,” Harry Styles says to me. The pop star’s voice—just shy of songful, velvet-dry—makes it seem as if we’re at a sleepaway camp for lonely grown-ups, where he is my fetching counselor, and now it’s time for lights out.

Styles’s iambic beckoning lies within a “sleep story” in the mindfulness app Calm. Like many of its competitors, Calm has become a catchall destination for emotional well-being. In recent years, I’ve cycled through several of these platforms. Using them turns the amorphous, slightly unaccountable act of meditation into something I can accomplish, and cross off the list. That’s the forte of the modern mobile app, after all: easing the completion of a discrete task. Send an email, watch a show, order Kleenex, run at a moderate pace for 30 minutes, doomscroll yourself to sleep. There’s an app for it, and you’ll know when you’re done.

Sign in to informed

  • Curated articles from premium publishers, ad-free
  • Concise Daily Briefs with quick-read summaries
  • Read, listen, save for later, or enjoy offline
  • Enjoy personalized content