Breathe in. Breathe out.
The state of the world is, in short, chaos. Your mental state does not have to be the same. It sounds counterintuitive, but the very device that is delivering anxiety-inducing news could be the thing that brings you a bit of calm. Meditation apps are a welcome window into a world of gentle bells, chirping birds, and encouraging words. Beyond the peaceful imagery, the ceasing of the mind's worry with meditation can have tremendous health benefits, easing anxiety, depression, and pain and even improving immunity.
We're here to share with you a few of our favorite ways to get our om on.
(Free on iOS, Android)
Smiling Mind is incredibly comprehensive—and it's free. There's a three-step introduction to mindfulness and meditation that prepares beginners for the many modules and programs from which they can then choose. Smiling Mind has meditations for children and a guide for helping children through traumatic times. Meditations for adults are sorted by issues and events like stress, relationships, sleep, and difficult emotions, as well as for sports performance and the workplace. There are also meditations for those who feel confident in meditating with limited guidance. You can keep track of your progress, set reminders, download sessions to listen to offline, and save your favorite meditations to access them easily.
($4.99 on iOS, $2.99 on Android)
Buddhify is out to change every part of your day. It asks you what you're doing at the moment and gives you a variety of meditations to accompany that activity. It's particularly useful for busy city dwellers who can do the meditations, eyes open, while they're on public transportation or walking on a busy sidewalk. If you're into quantifying your relaxation, there's a stats tab to do just that. Buddhify includes a timer for those who want to do non-guided meditation on their own. An annual membership ($30) gives access to a short course on how to meditate, videos and stories about meditation, and instructions on how to guide others in meditation.
The Mindfulness App
(Free on iOS and Android, Premium is $9.99 monthly or $59.99 annually)
The Mindfulness App has instructions and tips for beginners so you don't stress about meditating. There's a five-day program of short sessions that cover how to focus on your breathing, let go of tension, filter out sounds, calm the mind, and develop appreciation. You can choose from meditation sessions of one, three, five, 15, or 30 minutes—guided or silent. There is a selection of nature-themed background sounds you can add to any meditation. If meditation is something that easily slips your mind, you can set reminders. For those who like to keep track of their progress, there's a profile section with stats. Premium users get access to meditations for challenges, travel, sleep, relationships, stress relief, emotions, body awareness, focus, and relationships.
Stop, Breathe & Think
(Free on iOS and Android, Premium is $9.99 monthly or $58.99 annually)
When your mind is aflame, you need to stop, breathe, and think. That's what the Stop, Breathe & Think app does—asking you to check in with how you feel physically and emotionally before you meditate. Once you do that, you get a choice of three meditations that suit your current state and a choice of a man (Grecco) or woman (Jamie) to guide you through the practice.
To choose your own meditation, click Explore, which includes a section called Get Started with the basic steps on how to meditate for beginners. The Progress section has charts that keep track of how much time you've spent meditating, your top meditations, the most common emotions you've reported, and how often you've checked in.
There are enough free meditations in Stop, Breathe & Think to use the app regularly without having to pay for the premium version, but if you opt for the premium package, you get a little extra time in some standard meditations, as well as additional meditations and videos to guide you through yoga sessions and acupressure. There's an iOS version for kids ages five to 10, too, which presents mindfulness as a game.
(Free on iOS / Android, Premium $11.99/month, $59.99/year, $399 lifetime)
Every day is a new meditation on Aura. Tell Aura what mood you're in and you'll get a customized, three-minute track. (If you like the meditation, you can save it.) When you're done, you can give feedback so the app's algorithm adapts to your needs and preferences. There's a built-in gratitude journal, two-minute life-coaching talks on a variety of topics, and nature sounds. A premium subscription lets you listen to as many meditations, life-coaching sessions, and relaxing sounds as you want whenever you want and also gives you longer meditation sessions.
(Free on iOS and Android, Premium is $59.99 annually or $399.99 lifetime)
Living up to its name, Calm is an oasis among apps. Against a serene backdrop and nature sounds, you can choose from one of three ways to bring some peace into your life. Unfortunately, serenity isn't free; there is little you can do in the app without a subscription. With the Breathe section, you get a timer that tells you when to breathe in, hold the breath, and breathe out. If you choose Meditate, you can follow a daily meditation that leads you through the app's "7 Days of Calm" program. Beyond that, you have to pay for a subscription to select other programs or even meditations for activities like walking or commuting. The Sleep Stories section lets you select a calming bedtime tale read by a famous voice.
(Free to $2.99 on iOS and Android)
Ever wish Sean Connery was there to calm you with his soothing voice whenever you needed it? He essentially is with Andrew Johnson's app. The Scotsman and clinical hypnotherapist has a variety of apps for relaxation, deep sleep, confidence, positivity, weight loss, success, and even to sever your dependence on devices. It's easy to fall asleep while listening to these meditations, but don't worry; Johnson says your mind will still process them.
($12.99 monthly or $69.99 annually on iOS and Android)
Change where your mind is with Headspace, which the app creators tout as "the gym membership for your mind." The guided-meditation app is a pretty comprehensive education in meditation. There's a 10-day free trial to see if Headspace's brand of mindfulness is for you. If you subscribe, there are hundreds of meditations for health issues, emotions, challenges, and productivity. There are even "SOS" sessions for some of the more stressful times in life. US healthcare professionals working for public healthcare can get Premium for free.
Headspace has introduced a free section on its app called Weathering the Storm for those struggling with the emotional effects of COVID-19. And it has produced a guide for managers to help their teams through these times.
(Free for iOS and Android, Premium $11.99/month, $95.88/year, $299.99 lifetime)
The busier you are, the more you need meditation but the less time you have for it. You can spare five minutes, though, and that's all you need for Simple Habit. The app is designed for those who are productivity-focused. It lets you set a reminder for meditation and check your progress in a chart. There are over 50 free meditations, and if you opt for premium, you'll get access to thousands.
(Free on iOS, $3.99 on Android; $7.99 monthly or $49.99 annually)
Just looking at Meditation Studio is relaxing. This happy-looking app lets you choose from collections sorted by teachers, emotions and issues, and courses that cover comprehensive paths to specific goals. A few meditations are free, but you have to hunt and peck through the app to find them. If you're committed to using Meditation Studio, paying for premium is worth the investment.
(Free on iOS and Android with some in-app purchases)
Those with experience in the art of meditation can use Insight Timer to give their practice the sweet, deep sound of Tibetan singing bowls for timing. The not-so-experienced can gain practice with a library of guided meditations and the support of the Insight Connect social community. You can buy a collection of timer bells if you want to hear something other than the singing bowls or a wood block, as well as a few extra meditations, though there are so many offered for free that you really don't need to.
Ten Percent Happier
(Free on iOS and Android, premium is $99 annually)
Being just 10 percent happier could turn your life around 180 degrees. The app is based on the book of the same name by Dan Harris. Both are aimed at convincing skeptics that they can control their stress and anxiety through meditation. You learn the basics of meditation and get access to some meditations with the free version. The premium version comes with personal coaching, video lectures, over 300 meditations, and more.
(Free on iOS)
Depending on where you live, you might not be able to find a tree to meditate under, but Oak has you covered. The app has free guided and unguided meditations, background tracks, and progress tracking.
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