The best meditation apps can help you sleep better, reduce your stress levels, and find the inner peace you need. But given the situation right now with Covid-19, even if meditation apps just give you a break from the news and a chance to relax for ten minutes, they are worth it.
Headspace, one of the most popular meditation apps on the market, was launched over 10 years ago. Since then, hundreds of other meditation apps have been created and that means finding the best meditation app for you can be overwhelming.
But when it comes to meditation, choice is a good thing. There are now meditation apps to suit all types of people and preferences. From beginner apps that walk you through the fundamentals of meditation (like Headspace and Buddhify), to ones that just give you a timer and sound cues so you can ‘freestyle’ your meditation practice (like Samsara timer (opens in new tab) and Pocket Meditation Timer (opens in new tab)).
Not only are there different styles of apps, but different variations of meditative practice. You’ve probably heard celebrities screaming about the benefits of transcendental meditation, but most meditation apps you can download and the ones on this list allow you to practice a form of mindfulness meditation – less focus on chants and mantras and more focus on, well , focus.
What is mindfulness meditation?
It’s easy to roll your eyes at the word ‘mindfulness’. We’ve all been inundated with books, articles and apps on how to become more mindful, from mindful swimming and shopping to mindful organizing and travel and everything in between. But simply put, mindfulness is being present and noticing what is happening.
Contrary to popular belief, this does not mean emptying your mind. Instead, it means paying more attention. Whether it’s your thoughts, your breathing, or the sounds around you. The benefit of mindfulness meditation is that you can start to absorb some of the presence and awareness you feel when you are meditating into everything you do throughout the day.
And giving you the tools to be a little more present throughout the day is just one of the many benefits of meditation. It’s still too early for scientific studies (so we can’t say for sure that meditation works well for everyone and has the same benefits for everyone), but the results are promising.
So far, studies have shown that meditation can lower blood pressure, improve sleep, relieve some of the symptoms of depression (opens in new tab), reduce stress and increase self-compassion, improve your memory and even strengthen your immune system.
With all that in mind, here’s our pick of the best meditation apps right now. We all use and test (in some cases for years) to bring you the best chance of cultivating a little more calm and a little less stress in your life.
Waking Up was created by Sam Harris, a neuroscientist, philosopher, podcaster and author who teaches and discusses meditation in a modern scientific context.
What we like about the Waking Up app above all others is that it makes no sense. There are no chants, sparkling rain sounds or spiritual references. Even the app itself has a very user-friendly and minimalistic design.
The goal here is to be present and aware. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t also calming and transformative. We’ve been using Waking Up for over a year now and we’ve found it has made a huge difference – particularly in our stress and reactivity levels.
There are two Wake Up sections. The Practice section is where you can access simple daily meditations narrated by Sam Harris himself. When you first sign up for the app, these daily practices will serve as an introduction to meditation, facilitating the basics of staying still and becoming more mindful.
But there’s also a section called Theory, which is about learning what’s going on behind the practice. Sam Harris interviews several prominent figures in the meditation, self-development and neuroscience spaces to discuss topics like death and consciousness and also publishes smaller lessons, which are like bits of wisdom we sometimes hear when we’ve already meditated that day.
This wealth of additional meditation lessons, interviews and insights is what makes Waking Up stand out from the competition. That’s why we recommend Waking Up to those who want to familiarize themselves with meditation, as well as the science and thinking behind it.
Price: Free. But with in-app purchases to unlock more content. You can also contact Sam Harris and the creators if you really want to try more of the app but can’t afford it.
Headspace is one of the most popular meditation apps – and for good reason. We started meditating with Headspace over six years ago, and we credit it with the ability to get around the obstacles that can arise when you choose to meditate for the first time. How did we stop? What if we get caught up in the thought? How do we stop beating ourselves up when we get distracted?
He managed to make it easier for us to do a daily practice through an easy-to-use app full of colors, simple instructions, fantastic visuals to illustrate what’s happening when you meditate, and the soothing voice of Headspace founder Andy Puddicombe.
This is a great first port of call for beginners looking to get familiar with meditation. One of the best parts is that there are so many different types of meditation to try in all kinds of situations. Whether it’s a simple mindfulness practice, meditation for kids, for sleep or for when you’re busy, including mindful cooking.
We particularly love the SOS meditations, specially designed for mini meltdowns. There’s one for feeling overwhelmed and one for panicking, which we use on many, many occasions to get us back into neutral.
Price: Free. But with in-app purchases to unlock more content.
When you first open the Calm app, it tells you to take a deep breath and that’s what the whole app experience looks like. A breath of fresh air and a chance to shut down and slow down, just for a few minutes.
One of our favorite things about Calm is that you ask what your focus is before you start. Whether it’s developing gratitude, increasing happiness or, our favorite, reducing stress.
Calm has a wide variety of different meditations to choose from. There’s a series about trust, one about saying yes to life, and even a Sigur Ros sound bath experience for when you don’t want guidance but just want some soothing sounds to relax.
There’s also a Sleep Stories section of the app to help you sleep soundly. With bedtime stories read by soothing voices or famous soothing voices, including Matthew McConaughey. It tells a story about the universe called Wonder and it’s a very, very dreamy experience.
If you don’t fancy following a guided meditation, Calm also has a timer and a huge catalog of calming music, sounds and ambient noises to choose from, many are sleep-ready but others are just lovely to listen to while you’re at it. working or doing chores.
We think there are better apps for teaching the basics of meditation, but Calm has the widest range of meditations, sounds, sleep resources, and stories to choose from. For us, it really lives up to its name – it’s a destination for calm.
Pricing: You can sign up for a 7-day free trial of Calm. It’s then £42.99 / $42.99 for a year.
Although we are creatures of habit, many of us don’t always want to meditate in the same way every day. That’s where Buddhify comes in.
Sometimes you might want something slow and calming to guide you through a difficult experience, other times you need a simple body scan when you’re waiting at the doctor’s office or in line at the post office.
That’s why, instead of asking you what you want to focus on (because we often don’t know, especially if we’re stressed), Buddhify will show you multiple scenarios on a color wheel and your job is just to choose which situation best describes what you’re in. passing now.
The app offers a recommendation focused on what you might need at the moment – and it always tends to perfectly match your situation with a meditation. Whether for sleeping, walking or traveling.
Our recommendation would be to start your meditation journey with Headspace or Waking Up and then complement your practice with Buddhify as it makes meditation less of a sacred practice that requires a quiet room, a comfortable pillow and incense and more practical and useful. tool.
Price: £4.99 / $4.99
Like Calm, Insight Timer is an app with lots of guided meditation practices, lessons, and resources to choose from. That means it’s not just an app for meditating, but a one-stop shop for feeling good, calming down, and reading about the broader thinking and story behind the practice of meditation and self-development as well.
There are a variety of guided meditations offered in Insight Timer. You can choose from a starter kit, which includes learning to meditate or dealing with anxiety. Or select how you would like to meditate based on a specific focus, such as sleep, stress, and anxiety. Or you can choose the type of practice you want, such as paying attention to sound, movement, or sitting down and participating in a guided visualization.
There’s a handy 7-day course that we recommend if you’re new to meditation that teaches you the basics. But like Calm, we think Insight Timer is a great choice when you’re just starting to meditate and want to access a huge range of practices at your fingertips – it’s a blend of meditation.
Price: Free. But with in-app purchases to unlock more content.