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In a statement that should come as a surprise to no one, stress levels are on the rise. From the pandemic to the ongoing political and social justice issues that are plaguing the US and beyond, it’s no surprise that study after study consistently shows that people are feeling more stressed than ever before. Thankfully, the subject of mental health is becoming less taboo and more resources are being put towards tools (like stress balls) and research to help those dealing with stress, anxiety and depression. One of the resources with the lowest barrier to entry is a meditation app.
Meditation can be done anywhere and last for a few minutes to a few hours. Ideally, meditation is practiced daily to help people center themselves and find a calm and peaceful headspace that helps them respond better in a crisis, make thoughtful decisions and deal with daily stressors in a way that won’t impact their physical health. But if you only have a few minutes once a week to meditate, anything is better than nothing.
Thanks to meditation apps, learning how to meditate has never been easier. How hard can it be to sit still and let your thoughts wander? Much harder than you would think. With meditation apps, users receive guided courses on everything from dealing with their child’s temper tantrum to calming their nerves before an important business meeting. From sleep aids to soundtracks that set the mood for a relaxing ambiance that will help you work faster and more efficiently, meditation apps offer a wide variety of resources that are designed specifically to make your life better. Now that is worth taking up some data on your phone.
From helping kids deal with big feelings to overcoming a fear of flying, we’ve compiled a list of the best meditation apps. Inhale, exhale, and get ready to finally feel a little bit less stressed.
Calm has been leading the meditation app landscape for years and for good reason. The app has one of the most extensive libraries available to users, whether it’s guided meditation sessions by world-class teachers or soothing playlists that range from nature sounds to the relaxing vocal stylings of Sam Smith. The app includes several programs to help users fall and stay asleep, including nighttime stories read by celebrities (falling asleep to Matthew McConaughey’s voice sounds alright, alright, alright) and breathing practices.
We also like that users can choose from meditation sessions ranging from three minutes all the way up to 25 minutes and specializing in a huge variety of topics. Calm also has one of the best programs for kids, including meditations tailored towards younger users and bedtime stories. The app is continually adding new content and is geared towards beginners (there are seven and 21-day guided sessions) and longtime users. For those who want a way to quantify their use, the app also includes several tracking analytics.
Many of us meditate as a way to relax, so using an app that has a confusing interface is not going to get you in the right headspace. Thankfully, there’s Headspace. The user-friendly app makes it easy to get started with meditation and continue your practice as part of your daily routine. New users can learn about the basics of meditation and walk through short guided sessions to help understand the fundamentals. Users can access guided sessions that can help with a variety of topics, from Movement and Sports Meditation to specific sessions for students. With the help of EGOT winner John Legend, the Headspace app has recently added the Focus tab, which includes several playlists that help users concentrate while working. The app has even been expanded to a documentary on Netflix that helps users understand the benefits of meditation in their daily lives.
3. The Mindfulness App
BEST TIMED SESSIONS
If you’re looking for a program that can make daily meditation sessions an easy part of your routine, we like the Mindfulness app. New users can start with a five-day guided session before venturing into the app’s impressive library that contains hundreds of guided meditations. Ranging from three to 30 minutes, it’s easy to find a class that is appropriate both for time constraints and whatever topic needs to be addressed most urgently. The app can send users notifications to help them remember to be mindful throughout the day and we also like that sessions can be downloaded, making it easy to stay on course with your meditation practice even when off-line.
BEST FOR MEDITATING ON THE GO
Ideally, meditation takes place in a quiet setting where a person can find some calmness and focus on their breathing. But sometimes we don’t have five minutes to sit still before getting our day started. That’s why we like the Buddhify app, which is designed to help users meditate even when their busy time table prevents them from scheduling dedicated meditation time into their day. Users can choose from over 200 guided meditation sessions that can be experienced during a work break, while you’re trying to fall asleep, during a meal and even while you’re on the phone. Sessions range from 3 to 40 minutes in length and users can choose from a variety of instructors to find a voice that helps bring them peace. The user-friendly app makes it easy to quickly find a guided meditation that best suits a user’s needs by going through a list of emotions and activities. Buddhify also has several meditation sessions geared specifically towards kids.
FOR SERIOUS MEDITATORS
Many mindfulness apps are made with beginners in mind and can help those new to meditation grow their practice and make it part of their daily routine. But if you are already practicing meditation and are looking for an app to help expand your toolbox, we recommend Sattva. The app draws from Vedic principles and features guided sessions led by Sanskrit scholars, including world-renowned yoga and meditation leader Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. Newbies can still start with six-minute meditations and work their way up to more intense courses, including over 100 chants and mantras. Users can set goals, track their milestones and choose from a variety of songs to help create a setting that is conducive to mindfulness and exploration.
Inscape began as a studio in New York and created a relaxing and inviting atmosphere that was conducive to a fully immersive way for clients to achieve mindfulness in a physical space. Now the company has pivoted towards the app market and designed a program that helps users create a relaxing space wherever they are. Helping users make mindfulness and meditation a part of their daily routine and incorporate it into their work and workout time, the app offers several guided meditations designed around custom sounds to help users find peace and calm.
FOR BUSY PEOPLE
Think you have no time to meditate? Then you need the Aura app. Designed for people on the go who still want to practice mindfulness, the app features hundreds of guided meditation sessions in snack-sized options. Ranging from 30 seconds to three minutes, users can practice daily meditation or select guided sessions that are specific to their current situation. Need help calming your nerves before a major presentation or first date? Aura can help users focus on their breathing and find moments of stillness that will help them move forward with greater ease and confidence. The app also includes a massive library of soothing songs, meditations to help users fall asleep, and a gratitude journal.
8. Smiling Mind
BEST FREE APP
Most meditation apps are geared towards the individual user, but with Smiling Mind, specific groups of people are targeted with customized meditation guides to help understand and process specific feelings and events. Teachers and parents will appreciate this free app, which comes with sessions on helping children process their feelings and emotions. The app offers courses geared towards sports, classroom use, and has recently added health care workers as one of their target demographics. The Australian-based app also includes some Indigenous languages, making Smiling Mind a program that is one of the most accessible meditation apps available.
9. 10% Happier
BEST FOR BEGINNERS
What started off as a New York Times bestseller has now become one of the most popular meditation apps available and we know why. The 10% Happier app makes it easy for even the most reluctant meditators to learn how to find some peace and calm in their daily lives. Focused on helping users make small but impactful improvements in their mental health, the app makes it easy to incorporate meditation into your routine. Don’t want to sit still and listen to nature sounds for your meditation practice? No problem. With 10% Happier, users can choose from more than 500 guided meditations, listen to short stories of wisdom and encouragement, and watch videos that help to break down the basics of meditation and make it an attainable practice. New content is added weekly and users can easily track their progress using the app’s analytics.
10. Insight Timer
If you can’t find a guided meditation that fits your needs in the Insight Timer app, then that meditation may not exist. Touted as one of the best free apps available, Insight Timer has an incredible 75,000 guided meditations, with hundreds of new meditations being added weekly. Featuring courses led by world-renowned psychologists and mindfulness leaders, users can enjoy guided meditations, thousands of music tracks, and a customizable timer that enables users to find some mindfulness whether they have one minute free or an hour. Users can follow their favorite teachers on the app, track milestones and join discussion groups to find tips and tricks on how other app users are making the best of their meditation practice and achieving their goals.