Headspace is having a big year. Signups at the meditation app surged as people look for ways to cope with the mental-health effects of the coronavirus pandemic, and over the past six months, the app made waves by offering up their premium content for free for groups hit hard by the pandemic—unemployed, educators, and healthcare professionals. The company even partnered with the state of New York to create free meditation and mindfulness exercises for residents of the Empire State. (Hey, I’m meditating here!) The latest news out of the company’s Los Angeles-based headquarters is a partnership with John Legend, the company’s so-called Chief Music Officer. It’s part of a broader push out of strictly guided meditation and into all things relaxing.
The EGOT-winning musician joined the company to help launch Focus Music, which will include soundtracks to help people be more mindful and productive and sort through the chaos of 2020. He recognizes that lately, there’s a lot of it.
“People are concerned about the state of the world, and they have good reason to be,” Legend told GQ. “There are a lot of stressful things about the fact that there’s a raging pandemic, the economy’s where it is, unemployment is where it is—but there are proven techniques that help people deal with someone of those issues.”
Proven is correct. Beyond the well-established benefits of meditation in general, one study published in the journal Mindfulness found that 10 days of Headspace can reduce stress by 14 percent. If you’ve ever listened to co-founder and former Buddhist monk Andy Puddicombe’s soothing voice on the app, you’ll understand. But how does music play into all of this? It could work in a similar way—Stanford University researchers found that listening to music may be able to change brain functioning to the same extent as medication, helping individuals to release stress and find their calm.
“The conditions that we’re in now, they are not conducive to focus,” says Megan Jones Bell, chief science and strategy officer at Headspace. “We know that music can help create the conditions necessary to change that. Improving your health and focus doesn’t need to feel like work, and that’s where our decision stemmed from to invest in this area now.”
The app’s Focus Music offering will include 12 different stations, each featuring focus-inspired playlists from different genres and themes like jazz, cinematic, and piano. In addition, Legend will also contribute a Focus playlist each month.
“It’s a learning experience for me and for anyone else who is paying attention,” Legend says, adding that the best stepping stone in his personal meditation practice was setting aside a dedicated time to do it on the regular. “Meditation and what we’re doing here, it’s a journey. You don’t need to punish yourself for not getting everything exactly right. Just try to get the most out of the experience, and you’ll get better at it with time.”
Legend’s first project: A Focus playlist featuring what he describes as “eclectic and jazz-centric”—Sam Rivers, Sun Ra, Greg, Float, Bob Moses, and more. Unlike a traditional playlist, this is one long track that transitions from one song to the next. It feels smooth. Calming. Feels like Legend wants to give us something for the hard times.
Andy Puddicombe, co-founder of meditation app Headspace, explains how practicing mindfulness might help you better cope with stress, handle daunting projects, and get a better workout.
Originally Appeared on GQ