Journeying to meet the master at the top of a mountain is no longer necessary. These days, you can keep your guru right there in your pocket with meditation and mindfulness apps.
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 found the best mindfulness and meditation apps out there.
Meditation is a practice that has been around for hundreds of years. It was firstly a spiritual and religious practice of Buddhism and Hinduism. Now meditation is also a health and well-being improver that trains breathing, attention, and awareness.
You may be worried and stressed, or constantly trying to calm yourself with logic. Meditation can push you to go beyond your regular thinking patterns with different techniques and breathing exercises.
Headspace welcomes users 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.
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.
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 week-long sleep stories for better sleep each night, as well as more than 50 other guided meditation programs and bedtime stories 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.
Simple Habit is a mental health and mindfulness app meant for people on the go, especially for those who want to squeeze in some wellness into their busy days. There are over 2,000 short meditations and audio therapy sessions on the app that you can use to build mental strength, gather resilience, or work on your focus. There are even more sessions for more specific purposes like meditation for children or centering sounds for overwhelming or emergency situations. One of the best things about the app is that the content is created by experts in the fields of psychology and wellness.
Simple Habit’s pricing is “freemium”, meaning that many of the features are free but to unlock certain meditations or sounds, you need to pay a premium ($89.99 per year, $11.99 per month or $299.99 for lifetime access).
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.
Insight Timer is a meditation app that is full of surprises. The app is suitable for both amateurs and professional meditators, as it has 100,000+ guided meditations that can suit any level of practice. The free app provides lots of flexibility and features including a customizable meditation timer and the ability to track your progress with milestones and stats. The user interface of Insight Time is quite modern and welcoming.
One of the more interesting features of Insight Timer is the possibility to join a community of meditators. Not only can you get better at breathing, relaxing and sleeping with Insight Timer, but you can also join groups and discuss spiritual topics, poetry, transcendental meditation, and more.
Smiling Mind is an Australian-based non-profit organization 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.
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.
One thing that makes the Healthy Minds Program stand out is its scientifically backed process. The app was developed at the University of Wisconsin-Madison with neuroscientific research in mind. Healthy Minds doesn’t just provide you with meditations and wellness sessions, but also a curriculum to track progress and develop skills for the long run. You can also reflect on your progress and see where you stand when it comes to life coaching and well-being. Healthy Minds ultimately focuses on four key ideas for your well-being practice: Awareness, Connection, Insight, and Purpose.
The Healthy Minds Program app is entirely free as part of the project’s mission to help people heal and grow through mindfulness. Healthy Minds Innovations is a non-profit organization that is donation based.
Breethe focuses on providing you with meditations that can match any season of your life, time of day. With the app, you can get the hang of making wellness part of your daily routine. You can answer questions through “My Life Kit” to help the app better help you, start listening to the huge variety of extremely specific sounds and meditations, or receive masterclasses from professionals. Breethe’s offerings are creative and down-to-earth.
You can sign up for a Breethe free 14-day trial, but afterwards the app costs $12.99 per month to use. The most competitively valued package is the lifetime subscription which costs $170.00, billed as a one-time payment.
Meditation is well known for reducing stress among those who practice it. It can also significantly increase self-concept and inner peace, as well as function as a positive tool for battling various neurological and mental health issues. Here is a list of just a few meditation benefits:
Improved emotional health
Helpful for problem-solving skills
Benefiting sleep quality
Lowering resting heart rate
Stabilizing blood pressure
Minimizing side effects of asthma, cancer, heart disease, IBS, headaches and migraines
Increased ability to reflect and recognize
Reduce age-related memory loss
Help to generate self-love and kindness
Keep down addictive behaviors
If you’re new to meditation, find an app that offers beginner’s courses in order to prevent getting overwhelmed. Even if you don’t have any experience or didn’t enjoy past programs, beginners courses will let you open the app and know that simple habits begin slowly.
When choosing the best app to meditate, factor in the different kinds of meditations you want to practice. Beginner meditators may drift towards trying guided sessions. As you progress, you may want to experiment with transcendental meditation or loving-kindness meditation practices. The most important thing is to meditate at your own speed, according to your preferences.
Meditation as a practice requires tons of discipline. An app that provides a clear curriculum with reasonable goals and incentives can keep you meditating for longer. You'll be able to see results with a program that is built with consistency in mind.
These days, there’s basically no reason for a meditation app to be clunky and hard-to-use. Meditation is all about getting to a higher level of thinking without stress. A streamlined interface should reduce any extra stress or distractions, and allow you to focus on the task at hand.
The easiest way to get into meditation is through a great trial for your app of choice. A free trial, free version, or free meditations, can be a simple way to dip your toes into the flows and see what meditation schedule or program is really best for you.
It’s great to have everything you need on one app, whether you are online or offline. You can set up a meditation studio anywhere in the world, even in the most remote places, if you are able to download your mediations through the app.