Breathe in: School promotes meditation app Insight Timer for student wellness


Kaden Moubayed

DEEP BREATHS. Students can practice guided meditations and breathing exercises with the wellness app Insight Timer. The wellness council purchased a schoolwide subscription to the app this year and is hoping students will utilize this resource, and that teachers will incorporate Insight Timer into their classrooms.

Clare O'Connor, Editor-in-Chief

An iPhone speaker plays the clear tone of wood striking a Tibetan singing bowl. The note stays in the air for a few seconds as the volume seems to oscillate. Soon, the chime fades, and calming chords swell and fall, sometimes joined by a lone high note that adds an angelic feel to the mix of sounds. After 60 seconds, Tibetan singing bowl chimes again: 18 minutes left. 

The 20-minute session can be dedicated to absolute focus on work or focusing on just breathing in and out. The app Insight Timer tries to create tools that can foster the numerous ways its users meditate.

Last year, Lab’s wellness council purchased a premium subscription to the meditation app Insight Timer, accessible to anyone with a University of Chicago Laboratory Schools email account. Members of the wellness council are working to incorporate the app into students’ school lives and to spread awareness of the subscription available for student use.

Insight Timer is one of many apps marketed as wellness tools, but the app differentiates itself through the wide variety of wellness strategies offered. Counselor Tracy Graham-Santoro, a wellness council member, said this variety was a key factor in choosing Insight Timer instead of the many other options. 

Insight Timer offers traditional guided meditations and breathing exercises, but it also includes a timer system to help retain focus, courses and live workshops on wellness, live and recorded yoga classes, and a built-in mood journal. Most of the available activities range from 5 to over 30 minutes, making the app more accessible for students with little free time. 

“We thought that it really spoke to the needs of the community as an app promoting well being and thinking about sleep, anxiety, and stress in particular but also many other aspects of wellness,” Counselor Camille Baughn-Cunningham, a member of the wellness council, said.

The wellness council has slowly started advertising the subscription, but so far, only a few community members have utilized the opportunity. Ms. Graham-Santoro has started posting weekly tips for student wellness along with the information about Insight Timer on Schoology, and the P.E. mindfulness elective that utilizes the app is beginning soon. The wellness council is hopeful that these new initiatives will encourage more students to start using the app.

One of the few students who has taken advantage of the school subscription, sophomore Isaac Begle, has been using the app regularly since he learned about Insight Timer at school.

“I started using it after we signed up for our electives in gym. They had some QR codes where you could download it, and it was free, so like, why not try it?” Isaac said.

Isaac found the app particularly useful when his workload spiked before winter break. Reflecting on how Insight Timer had helped with his mood and focus during that stressful period, Isaac has dedicated himself to using Insight Timer consistently in the new year.

“I definitely think my performance at school is better,” Isaac said. “I’m much more focused and not messing around. I found that it helps me work better.”

Moving forward, the wellness council hopes to work with teachers to involve Insight Timer’s diverse material into classes. 

“One of the things we have heard from students on the high school wellness council, is that they really would enjoy seeing faculty participating in some of these activities with them and bring it into the classroom in some small ways,” Dr. Baughn-Cunningham said.

Dr. Baughn-Cunningham emphasized that developing an understanding of wellness at a young age can have a long lasting positive impact on students’ lives. She hopes that through tools like Insight Timer, U-High is setting students up for success.

“Develop good habits now, and sooner rather than later,” Dr. Baughn-Cunningham said. “Even when it’s not apparent that you might need them, these are things that are going to be critical to have in your toolbox.”