Journeying to meet the master at the top of a mountain is no longer relevant. These days, you can keep your guru right there in your pocket, with any number of meditation and mindfulness apps. These are our top 10.Even though it’s the simplest thing in the world to do, sometimes it can be hard to just BE. Our monkey mind grasps onto the tensions of the day, and finding equanimity can feel nearly impossible. The good news is, there’s an app for that.
It’s ironic, isn’t it? Even though our smartphones are our greatest source of distraction, mobile mindfulness and meditation apps can be highly effective in helping us achieve the relaxation and calm we seek. While over the last few years, more and more have flooded the market, only a handful are truly worth your while. We took a number of the top apps out for a spin, and these are the top ten best bets out there…
1 - HEADSPACE
Headspace welcomes users in with it’s ‘Take 10’ program, 10 days of guided meditations hosted by Andy Puddicombe, a former Tibetan monk, and present-day mindfulness advocate and meditation teacher. Andy’s meditations provide easy, 10-minute sessions each day that can help anyone get into the regular habit of slowing down, via thought-provoking metaphors and simple, relatable instructions.
Your first 10 days fly by, and then you’re invited to subscribe - for $12.99 per month, or $94.99 per year. The cool part is, though, you’re not in it alone. There’s a fun buddy system feature that lets you and a friend sync up within the app and encourage one another other along down the path to nirvana.
2 - CALM
Similar to Headspace, Calm provides a free, seven-day course for guided-meditation exercises, followed by a monthly subscription at $12.99, or a yearly one for $59.99. Once you hop on as a paid user, you unlock access to a 21-day program for wellbeing, and a week-long series focused entirely on getting a better sleep each night, as well as more than 50 other guided meditation programs tackling anxiety, stress, focus, better breathing, and more.
Individual sessions range between 2 to 20 minutes, and there are countless “unguided” sessions that envelop the listener in pattering rain, birds cawing in a rainforest, the crackle of a campfire, and other sounds that make this app live up to its name.
3 - BUDDHIFY/BUDDHIFY 2
Buddhify caters to those who have always wanted to begin a meditation practice, but didn’t know where to begin. The app’s rainbow-colored spinning dial asks what you’re doing at the moment, then provides you with a variety of situation-focused meditations to jump into on-the-spot. Trying to fall asleep? Spending unproductive time online? Or dealing with some difficult emotions? They’ve got something for each of those scenarios, and with more than 80 different meditation tracks, ranging from 5 to 30 minutes each, there’s likely something for everyone.
Buddhify also offers a timer, stats page to track your progress, and social sharing to connect your meditation practice to a wider community. Unlike other apps on this list, however, Buddhify has a model where you pay for access entirely upfront - $4.99 on iOS and $2.99 on Android - without any intro period, or additional in-app purchases later.
4 - OMVANA
Omvana’s biggest differentiator is how the app allows you to fully customize your meditation experiences. The app essentially provides you with your own mixing board, letting you merge your favorite guided meditations, narrated lessons, and inspirational speeches with thousands of high-quality audio tracks and ambient sounds in the background. You can even upload your own voice, mixing it in with any of the tracks they have on file, to create your very own meditations to share with others. How cool is that?
The app also comes loaded with a small number free starter meditations to enjoy, and provides you access to the Omvana Store, where you can purchase thousands of different meditation tracks, ranging from three minutes up to an hour, on hundreds of different topics, for $1-8.
5 - STOP, BREATHE & THINK
The non-profit, Tools for Peace, originally created Stop, Breathe & Think for students and staff who were participating in their kindness and compassion programs, but when the free app was found by others in the appstore, it organically found its way to a more mainstream audience.
Today, the app offers mindfulness meditation, loving-kindness meditation, a body scan practice and various other meditations, at varying lengths, from longer sessions to do in your freetime, to shorter ones when you just need a quick check-in. Stop, Breathe & Think also asks for inputs on how you feel - both mentally and physically - at various points of the day, then suggests specific meditations, based on your responses. A progress page displays your progress, your most frequent emotions, as well as a weekly ‘settledness’ score.
6 - SMILING MIND
Smiling Mind is an Australian-based non-profit organisation that works to make mindfulness meditation accessible to all. Their free app is a little different than others on this list because it was originally designed by psychologists and meditation educators for people as young as 7. Content is categorized by age group, with specific meditations for those 7-9, 10-12, 13-15, 16-18, and adults, alike. Even for kids who shy away from the idea of meditation, Smiling Mind is a fantastic place to start if they are struggling with their emotions, anxiousness, or insecurity. The guide’s fun Australian accent doesn’t hurt for engagement, either.
7 - THE MINDFULNESS APP
The Mindfulness app offers just about everything: a number timed meditation sessions by influential teachers ranging from 3 to 30 minutes, customized personal meditations with guided introductions and bells, statistics that help you keep track of your meditation journey, and optional daily reminders, to take time out for your meditation practice. The app also has a unique timer that shows a circle of dots that slowly moves around until it gets to 360 degrees, instead of numbers, which helps you stay in the moment.
As with others on this list, there’s an introductory period to get to learn all the app has to offer for you, and this one a month long, which is plenty of time to feel your way around. Should you decide to go all in after that month, a monthly subscription costs $9.99 and a yearly one’s just $59.99.
8 - SATTVA
Sattva offers some of the same features that the other apps on this round-up offer - a large catalogue of guided meditations by renowned experts, a meditation timer, and mood tracker - but it also has a few bells and whistles of its own, too. Some of Sattva’s extras include a heart rate monitor, as well as integrated game mechanic elements that help keep you on track via goal-setting and rewards along the way. Apart from Omvana, unlike most of the other subscription-based apps on this list, Sattva is fully a-la-carte, with courses ranging anywhere from $1-2 each.
9 - PACIFICA
Pacifica integrates a variety of different techniques together for one ultimate goal: your complete and utter relaxation. Pulling from age-old meditation practices, as well as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, the app provides daily tools and a supporting community to help users cope with stress and anxiety.
In addition to providing relaxation techniques that include mindfulness meditation, deep breathing, and progressive muscle relaxation, Pacifica helps you set goals, and track your progress. Pacifica also helps you to record your mood throughout the day, as well as track your activities, helping you to identify how one has an impact on the other. And perhaps the best part of the app? A supportive community of like-minded people also looking to maintain
Pacifica starts out with a limited number of free meditations, but the rest can be unlocked for $4 per month, or $30 per year.
10 - MEDITATE
Meditate is a free app that brings together like-minded people for in-person meditation practice, yoga, tai chi, and other healing arts. Teachers can literally put their offerings on the map, listing the date, location, time, price and a brief description, and users can discover the events near them, RSVP, pay, and even contact the teacher via chat for more information. When a user finds a teacher they like, they can follow them to be made aware of any upcoming classes, well in advance, but Meditate isn’t only for formally trained, professional teachers. If you’re an individual searching for a meditation or yoga partner, you can also add yourself to the map. Just put in the location of wherever it is that you’ll be practicing, and invite anyone in your city to join you. The more people, both teachers, initiators, and users who join the platform, the more rich of a resource it will become, so if you’re looking to build a meditation community and regular practice in your area, this app’s just the place to do it.