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When we talk about travel and wellness, it’s usually in the context of staying physically healthy. But what about the emotional and mental side of wellness? We know that a lot of people view the experience of travel as therapeutic. However, traveling can also be stressful. Being stuck at home during a pandemic also creates anxiety for many people. In this video and post, I’m sharing my Calm app review and how it can help you live better in your daily life and travels. I’ll also share how you can get a free premium membership with your American Express card.
Why meditation is important to me
Life as a content creator is stressful
I don’t often talk about my personal life, mostly because my life is fairly ordinary. I may be a “YouTuber,” but like most of you, I work a full time job and very soon will be starting a family. While I sometimes wish I had a life of jet-setting around the world and living out of luxury hotels, I also know that not everything you see online is real. I know — it’s hard to believe that Instagram and YouTube aren’t always real, right?
Being a content creator is a huge time commitment for me. I would be lying if I said it hasn’t taken its toll on my health. The work to support this channel is usually done in the evening hours, and I’m often sacrificing sleep in order to meet my own deadlines for my content development. While I love creating content, it’s mind-boggling how much time it takes to produce a video. I think all content creators out there can relate when I say that it’s truly a lifestyle and much more work than I ever imagined when I first started.
Dealing with insomnia
It shouldn’t be surprising that I’ve started to suffer from insomnia. Even when I’m exhausted and can barely keep my eyes open, my mind races with thoughts and anxiety. The anxiety is from work, this channel, and all the changes in my personal life. I’ve tried to mitigate this through supplements, sleep aids, and new routines. But what has probably helped me the most with managing my stress and anxiety, which has been the cause of my insomnia, is meditation and breathing exercises.
New partnership between American Express and Calm
You can imagine my excitement when I received an email from American Express a few weeks ago advertising a new partnership with Calm. American Express is offering personal and corporate cardmembers a free year of premium membership to Calm, which is worth $70. And after the first year, cardmembers can get a second year at 50% off the normal price.
You can use the Calm app without a subscription, but it’s more a preview of what’s available in the premium membership. Since many of you in this community are American Express cardholders, I’m hoping you can take advantage of the promotion. But even if you don’t have an American Express card, I think it’s still worth looking at the app.
What is the Calm app?
Calm is a wellness app that you can download to either a smartphone or tablet. The goal of the app is to help you sleep more, stress less, and live better. This is accomplished through a variety of different programs within the app.
Requirements for the free premium subscription
To qualify for the free premium subscription, you don’t need to have a premium American Express card. For example, I have a Blue Everyday and Blue Business Plus card. Both of these cards do not have an annual fee. Oddly enough, the offer does not apply to business credit card members, even though corporate cardholders are eligible.
Calm app review
For those of you that have never used Calm, I want to give you a quick review of the app and then tell you why you should definitely use it in your daily life. Since we are a travel-focused channel, I want to explain how this could help make you a better traveler as well. Keep in mind that I am reviewing the app with the premium subscription.
Daily Calm meditation
The app has a daily meditation that is focused on a different topic every day. These are typically less than ten minutes and a great way to start your day if you’re looking for some focus or inspiration.
If you click on the Meditate tab, you’ll see an assortment of meditations listed. Calm has created meditations with different focus areas and experience levels. If you’re a beginner, they even have a series where they teach you basics of meditating. Some of these meditations are meant to be extended programs, where each session builds off the previous session. So instead of just having one long session to explain a topic, you’ll get 7, 21, or even 30 days of short sessions that you can incorporate into your day and ultimately build a new and sustainable habit. For someone like me who hasn’t spent a lot of time meditating in my life and is constantly struggling to find time for self-care, this approach works really well for me.
Several of the meditations are narrated by guests, including one by LeBron James. I think it’s so interesting to get an athlete’s perspective on meditation and how they manage their mental fitness while in the game or in their personal life. It’s a nice touch, especially for those of us who are new to the practice.
Meditations for all levels of experience
The app caters to all levels as well. For example, if you’re someone who is experienced with meditating, you’ll find that they also provide sessions with less guidance. Calm even includes meditations for kids, which is a great way to introduce young ones to the concept of restful breathing and mindfulness.
TIP: Consider walking meditations
If the thought of being still gives you anxiety, don’t fret! The app includes walking meditations if you’d rather develop your mindfulness while getting in your daily steps.
What if meditating before sleep isn’t your thing? Or perhaps you’d rather take a different approach. Calm has a whole section of short sleep stories to help you fall asleep. These are 15-45-minute-long vivid and relaxing stories that can help clear your mind and prepare you for sleep. Again, you’ll find many interesting narrators listed in the app. I personally found the stories to be both interesting and effective at getting me to sleep. It’s a great activity to add your routine, especially if you find your mind racing before bed.
TIP: Get a Bluetooth sleep mask
I purchased an inexpensive Bluetooth sleep mask so I could listen to stories and fall asleep comfortably without disturbing Fiona. Since I am a big fan of audiobooks through the Libby app, I’m already accustomed to listening to books and stories. As cheesy as it sounds, it’s made me look forward to getting into bed so I can listen to a story, which has helped me to establish a better sleep routine.
Music and sounds library
Calm also includes a music section with a variety of natural white noise and instrumental music. I find these to be useful for winding down and relaxing. I’ve been using brain.fm music to help me focus on work during the day, and in addition I’m using Calm’s music selection to help me to unwind more effectively as well. Brain.fm has relaxing music, but I find it a bit too aggressive at times. For me, Calm’s selection is much more chill and relaxing.
The app features masterclasses, which are in-depth audio series on all sorts of wellness topics that affect our daily life. Think of it as a podcast series led by an expert on the topic. These are a great way to improve your knowledge on specific areas of interest.
Calm Body offers meditations through stretching and movement. For those of you who can’t stand the thought of being still for a meditation, this is a great option. Again, Calm wants to make meditation and mindfulness as accessible as possible. Calm Body offers another way to approach your mental fitness.
Why the Calm app is perfect for travelers
One thing worth noting about Calm is that all their content is downloadable for offline access. This makes it a perfect companion for travel. In fact, I plan to use it the next time we travel. I’ve always struggled with sleeping on a plane, so anything I can do to make me more comfortable and relaxed is of interest to me. In fact, I even noticed that some airlines have been featuring Calm stories in their entertainment systems.
Jetlag is also an issue when traveling. While I’ve tried taking supplements like melatonin to help regulate my sleep cycle, I think the app will be yet another tool I can use to help me fall asleep when I need some help. In my opinion, the sleep stories are an effective way to slow down your mind and create an optimal mental space for falling asleep.
Why should I meditate?
You might be asking, “why should I take the time to meditate?” Meditating is scientifically proven to improve your concentration and reduce stress in your life. It’s not a religious thing either. A lot of people associate mediation with metaphysical practices and beliefs. However, at its core, meditating is about managing your thoughts and breathing. It gives you the space to manage the distractions in your life. And since we’re bombarded every day with more and more notifications and disruptions, it’s more important than ever to dedicate time toward developing your mental fitness. Just like going to the gym to keep your body in shape, taking the time to meditate makes you better prepared to handle all that life throws your way.
To me, this is why the Calm app is so valuable. It’s like a mental gym membership that gives you all kinds of workouts to help make your mind stronger. It’s not just one type of exercise either. It’s meant to give you a wide range of tools to help you live better.
Creating an open and clear mind for new opportunities
In the words of Louis Pasteur, “chance favors the prepared mind.” I truly believe that having mental wellness gives you the ability to see and experience new things, especially when traveling. And whether it’s feeling compassion for others or just being able to conquer your fears and insecurities, it makes us better people in the process.
Have you tried the Calm app? If so, have you found it useful? Let me know in the comment section below. Again, if you’re an American Express personal cardmember, then there’s no reason not to try it out and take advantage of this valuable app.
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