The Headspace Experiment


We live in a world where we spend more time looking after our hair, clothes, biceps and even our tans than we do looking after our minds. At Headspace we think taking care of our minds is just as important as taking care of our bodies, so we’re on a mission to inspire people to take 10 minutes out of their day to do just that.Using the latest in app technology and novel, engaging learning methods, we teach people how to develop a mindfulness practice they can integrate into daily life. Our aim is to make mindfulness simple, easy-to-use and accessible through technology.The app we want to develop will double as a data collection tool and implement cutting edge research methods to provide data to our collaborators at Yale School of Medicine. We envisage this to be the world’s largest ever study into mindfulness fully open to the public to participate.The development of 1440’s basic relationship skills are at the very heart of mindfulness practice. Mindfulness develops self-awareness and the ability to be with our experiences authentically without chasing after or rejecting them. The practice also extends beyond the self to encompass others. Developing awareness and acceptance of our own emotions enhances our ability to recognize emotions in others, to empathize and bring compassion towards their experiences, improving relationships and pro-sociality.

Mindfulness has been found to enhance mental and physical well-being and can be applied in virtually any setting from schools and the workplace through to prisons. It has been found effective at reducing anxiety and depression relapse, increasing activity in parts of the brain related to positive emotions and reducing activity in parts of the brain related to negative emotions. It’s been found to enhance working memory under stress, improve impulse control and emotional regulation. It has even been shown to boost immune system functioning. If you could get these benefits in a daily pill, it would be the most popular pill on the planet. So why isn’t everyone doing it?

Practicing mindfulness requires us to take a step out of our frantic lifestyles and to break out of our addiction to “doing”. We recognize this is difficult, so our objective is to make learning mindfulness as accessible, enjoyable and appealing as possible through the Headspace Programs.

The Headspace Programs

We use a variety of digital media to make learning mindfulness fun and engaging. We use apps, podcasts, videos, animations (like the above) and amusing creative design.

A key component of creating new habits is to break them down into bite-sized steps. So we’ve designed a 45-day mindfulness program split into three manageable series:

• Take 10 – 10 mins/day for 10 days
• Take 15 – 15 mins/day for 15 days
• Take 20 – 20 mins/day for 20 days

Novelty also plays an important part in engagement, so we have made unique meditations for each day, where one day builds upon another, taking users on a journey.

The Headspace Experiment

With the Headspace programs developed, we are now working with mindfulness researcher Dr Judson Brewer from Yale University to develop a bespoke “Headspace Experiment” version of the app which will be available on Andriod and iPhone. The experiment will build on a ground-breaking study that demonstrated our minds wander 47% of the time and that mind wandering actually causes unhappiness. So, one of our central hypotheses is that if a wandering mind leads to an unhappy mind, could a mindful mind lead to a happy mind? This app will integrate pioneering technology with research methods at the very forefront of psychology to answer this question.

The app will use a number of methods to assess happiness as advocated by the United Nations’ recent World Happiness Report. We will adopt an experience sampling methodology (ESM) to buzz people on their phones randomly throughout the day to ask them a short series of questions. The answers to these questions will provide valuable data to scientists on participants’ levels of mindfulness, mind-wandering and their emotional states. We will also assess a number of other variables before and after each programme, using psychological questionnaires built into the app. We will look at how variables such as stress, satisfaction with life, self-control, self-compassion and personality type change over the course of mindfulness training.

The experiment will answer important questions like, “can 10 minutes a day, a period that even the busiest of us should be able to sneak in, actually make a significant difference to our well-being?” If not 10 minutes, how about 15 or 20? How does mindfulness benefit different personality types and in what ways? Do certain personality types need more motivation than others? The answers to questions such as these will help us, and others, structure meditation programs that are efficacious, manageable and tailored to individuals.

The data from the ESM will also be fed back to the users to help enhance their self-awareness. We will provide users with a map of how their emotions change over the days, weeks and months, so they can witness the transience of their emotions. We will also graph how attentive and accepting they are of their experiences to help them gauge how well they are implementing mindfulness in day-to-day life.

Once the framework is in place the app can be easily tweaked to ask questions that may be of particular relevance to other populations and institutions. We already have two multinational corporates interesting in measuring how mindfulness can help reduce work place stress and a number of schools wishing to see how it can impact adolescents. The framework of this app will allow us to measure psychological variables tailored to the demands of particular populations and provide reliable data that can be fed back to scientists and users alike.

Why is Headspace So Different?

To deliver on our promise of getting as many people as possible around the world to take 10 minutes out of their day, we feel we have to demystify meditation and make it relevant and accessible to a modern audience. That is why we place so much emphasis on design and creativity. We have created a brand that people feel comfortable being a part of, and a world that is fun, light hearted and engaging so people feel at ease with their meditation practice. Meditation is often presented in such a serious light and often only appeals to those with “problems”. We think that’s a shame and that is why we are so passionate about the Headspace approach.

Budget and Timeline

• App Coding – 14k
• Website development – 4k
• Animations – 4k
• Creative Design – 3k
• Video Recording & Editing – 1.5k
• PR – 3k

Total 29.5k (We will meet any balance)

The project will take c.4 months.

• Initial coding, creative design and video – 2 months.
• Beta testing – 1 month.
• Changes and Re-testing – 1 month
• Over the final month we will increase our PR presence.


Mr Puddicombe is the co-founder of Headspace and responsible for the Headspace techniques. After spending 10 years training in Buddhist meditation and monasticism, he has spent the past 8 years in private practice, registered with the UK Healthcare Commission. He is the author of Get Some Headspace and is a regular contributor to the BBC.



Mr Pierson is the co-founder of Headspace and a former marketing executive. His roles have included Head of Business Development for Bartle Bogle Hegarty and Zag (their brand invention arm). He ran the Axe account globally and was voted in the top 100 most influential people in the media by the Independent newspaper.




Mr Begley heads up Headspace’s research. He graduated in Physics and worked in finance as an Actuary, before taking part in the Shamatha Project, the most extensive meditation research project to date. After the project he retrained in psychology investigating the neural correlates of mindfulness at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London.




Dr. Brewer, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine and Medical Director of the Yale Therapeutic Neuroscience Clinic. He has been investigating the efficacy of Mindfulness Training for clinical disorders and recently created a mindfulness training program for smoking which was found to have superior efficacy to the ‘gold-standard’ treatment. Dr. Brewer has a number of publications to his name.



External Validation

We have 120,000 users, 7,000 Facebook likes and 5,000 twitter followers.

We have been featured comprehensively in the media across a wide range of publications, such as the Guardian, Times, Vogue, Tatler, Men’s Health,, Huffington Post and the New York Times among others.

We engage in philanthropic work with a number of charities, such as Action against Hunger, Kids Co. and Centrepoint.

Our mobile app featured on the front page of the UK iTunes store and was ranked No. 1 in iTunes Health and Fitness Apps on 10th February 2012.

“No incense, No religion. And you can do it over lunch. Andy Puddicombe is doing for meditation what Jamie Oliver has done for food”

The New York Times