Which App Should You Try
Theres no single best app for everyone. It may be helpful to try a self-guided app first, but if you dont click with it, then try an app that has verbal instructions or guidance, returning to the self-guided silent app later when youve gotten the hang of it.
Even with an app, mindfulness takes practice. Like playing an instrument or a sport, the more you practice, the better you get and the more you get out of it. Thats where the 10 minutes every day comes in. Whatever you try, mindfulness training is considered very safe, and has a good chance of increasing your happiness and peacefulness, and reducing your depression, anxiety, and stress.
About the Author
James Cartreine, PhD, Contributing Editor
Mindfulness Apps Under The Microscope
Less stress isnt the only outcome we can hope to achieve through our digital contemplative practice.
In 2017, researchers conducted one of the only studies that compared a mindfulness app with a traditional, in-person mindfulness class. Here, nurses in residency listened to Headspace meditations or attended a class once a week for four weeks. Ultimately, the app users improved their mindfulness skillsin particular, their ability to act with awareness and not overreact to their thoughts and feelings. They also felt less fatigue and burnout in their caregiving role, compared to class attendees.
Several studies have compared participants who used Headspace to those who used another beneficial app, like the brain-training app Lumosity, the organizational app Catch Notes, or a web app with logic problems. After training for 10-20 minutes a day for 10-30 days, Headspace users reduced their mind-wandering, boosted their positive emotions, reduced their symptoms of depression, and became kinder and less aggressive compared to other app users. In one study, though, Headspace didnt seem to improve peoples satisfaction with life, flourishing in life, or negative feelings.
There is still a lot we dont understand about how mindfulness works, and how much mindfulness practice is needed for certain benefits to emerge, Economides says.
Specifications Of The App
The cost to develop a mindfulness and meditation app will depend on the app size, features to be included, and functionalities of the app. After analyzing all the above factors, a rough cost estimate can be given. So, in case you are planning to develop a unique, full-fledged, and custom app, the budget that you need to invest will certainly be more.
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Meditation Apps That Are Worth The Price Tag
Thinking about signing up for a subscription-based mindfulness experience? Here are our four favorite premium mindfulness apps to considerplus, two extra self-care apps that caught our attention.
Prioritizing self-care has been on the rise for years, leading a cultural shift toward paying attention to our well-being in a fast-changing world. Hop onto Instagram and there are 25.9 million posts tagged #mindfulness. More and more people are exploring the practice, with apps being one of the main ways were diving in. Quartz recently reported that more than 2,500 meditation apps have launched since 2015, and while their popularity was already growing steadily, the number of downloads these stress-relieving apps get has soared during COVID-19.
Ironically, the abundance of options can be overwhelmingso weve done the research to narrow it down to the apps that will offer the greatest value, with practice options galore, acclaimed teachers, and appealing, simple-to-use interfaces. While there are a number of great free apps to help boost mental health, subscription-based mindfulness apps offer certain bells and whistles that may elevate the overall journey and can allow you to customize your practice to find what feels best for you. Plus, for some, paying for a monthly service can incentivize us to keep up a regular mindfulness practice.
How We Picked And Tested
Just as there are many different ways to meditate, there are numerous meditation apps to choose from. We specifically targeted those that focus on mindfulness meditation because this is among the best-studied and most popular options used by apps today.
We set out to find apps with features to suit a variety of usersfrom novices to seasoned meditatorsfocusing on the following criteria:
In 2018, Alex Arpaia researched 21 apps and identified 12 that fit these criteria. She then narrowed those down to six options for testing, based on their offerings and the number of positive customer reviews posted in the app stores. In 2021, I re-tested those 12 apps and tried six new ones.
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When Your Favorite Mindfulness App Says Its Based In Science Check Twice Few Actually Are
Be prepared to be bored.
This is the gist of one of the notifications you receive before you try the body scan meditation from Mindful Mood Balance, a web-based program currently being piloted in a version for therapists. The app allows users to take Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy at a distance using their phone, tablet, or computer.
Once you complete the 30-minute exercise, you navigate to a video featuring a group of people whove also just tried it. A few admit the experience was not incredibly riveting at times.
Its something you dont often hear from a mindfulness app: You might not enjoy this.
It smacks up against the wonder-drug version of mindfulness were so often sold.
In a time when there are so many brain-training apps drumming up excitement for their products through marketing, others have taken to the labhow else, they argue, can you try to make good on promises of cognitive gains?
Lumosity preyed on consumers fears about age-related cognitive decline, suggesting their games could stave off memory loss, dementia, and even Alzheimers disease, said Jessica Rich, the director of the FTCs Bureau of Consumer Protection, in a statement. But Lumosity simply did not have the science to back up its ads.
When apps target vulnerable populations
The company was fined in part due to unfounded claims that its games reduce or delay cognitive impairment associated with age or other serious health conditions, according to the FTC ruling.
The Wild West of apps
Meditation For Fidgety Skeptics By 10% Happier
iOS: free*, Rating: 5.0 stars
Heres training for meditation skeptics by meditation advocate Dan Harris. This apps content is firmly based in neuroscience and omits the spiritual components present in many other apps. The free seven-lesson course teaches basics of meditation, with access to more advanced meditations and courses for a subscription of $9.99 per month, or $79.99 for a year. Unfortunately, Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics is not yet available for Android.
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Best For Meditation On The Go: Buddhify
- Why we chose it: Buddhify may be suitable for those with mental health conditions, and individuals can choose meditation sessions for specific events or situations.
- Cost: Around $5 to download.
- Annual membership: Around $30.
Buddhify is an app focusing on meditation and mindfulness for those with busy lifestyles. The app primarily features on-the-go meditations. Buddhify aims to keep costs low to make it more accessible to a wider audience.
The meditation sessions fall into categories to match a persons daily activities. For example, individuals can choose sessions for when they are walking, at work with colleagues, or going to sleep. There are also 60 meditation sessions specifically for children.
Buddhify has a rating of 4.8 out of 5 in the Apple app store, from more than 5,000 ratings. Positive reviews comment on how the app makes it easy to fit meditation into everyday life. However, some people report that downloading media from the app can take a long time and use up device storage.
Best For A Shorter Meditation Practice: Simple Habit
- Why we chose it: Simple Habit may best suit people with busy schedules, as they can access short meditation sessions.
- Monthly subscription: Around $12.
- Annual subscription: Around $90.
- Lifetime subscription: A one-off payment of around $300.
Simple Habit is an app that offers more than 2,000 meditation sessions, and individuals can download the programs to listen to without an internet connection.
People can also join a community where they meet other people who enjoy meditation.
Some meditation sessions target those who want to overcome panic attacks and reduce symptoms of stress.
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Best For Focus: Unplug
Have to pay to keep using the app
Unplug is the self-professed “meditation app for people who dont have time to meditate but want to experience all the benefits.” The app offers short and long meditations that help address anxiety and stress through calming, easy-to-follow, expert-guided meditation.
With over 100+ world-renowned guides and 1,000+ videos filmed in itsLos Angeles meditation studio, Unplug surely has a meditation to fit your schedule and needs. Classes include mindfulness, guided imagery, sound baths, hypnosis, breathwork, and more.
If you want to make meditation a part of your daily routine, commit to the 30-day challenge. If you find yourself so immersed in meditation that you want to become a teacher, Unplug offers teacher training through its website as well, starting at $3,500 for a five-week course.
Here Are The Top Premium Mindfulness Apps Youll Want To Check Out:
Available for iOS and Android
Price: $14.99 per month or $53.99 annually available with 7-day free trial
The Shine app is like having a supportive companion who checks in every day to see how youre doing. Shes easy to confide in and her guided meditations are like hanging out with a friend over a cup of tea.
When you log in, youre welcomed with an option to listen to a Daily Shine, a new guided meditation for the day. You can also jump right into My Daily Check-In to explore your mood and feelings. Depending on your selections, the app will recommend a specific meditation, or you have the options to read an inspirational article, free write, or Talk it out using their interactive chat feature. In this feature, you can share your thoughts and feelings and get responses from other Shine members in real-time to help you self-reflect and boost awareness.
Dont feel like doing a daily check-in? Skip through and head straight over to the apps library of meditations, which is organized into nine sections: Featured, Stress & Anxiety, Sleep, Daily Shine, Resilience, Daily Rituals, Confidence, Productivity, and Sounds. In Resilience, for example, you will find a three-part meditation series to Lean In to Loneliness. Most of Shines meditations are relatively shorttypically less than 15 minutes and many around 5 minutes longso if youre in need of an extended meditative break, their sound and sleep meditations may be the ones to tune in to.
Available for iOS and Android
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Best For Kids: Smiling Mind
Children will need a phone or tablet to use the app
Email address is required at signup
Australian accent may be distracting for some children
Smiling Mind was developed by psychologists and educators in Australia to help bring mindful balance to children and adults. The app’s creators believe “accessibility and inclusiveness are key to empowering a new generation to thrive. We approach everything we do in an open, curious, and non-judgmental way.”
Smiling Mind meditations is perfect for children 3 and older thanks to programs like The Bubble Journey, Smiling Starfish, and the Snow Globe. There are also guided meditations for older children that focus on being a better student, being more present, and how to use mindfulness to excel while playing your favorite sports.
Meditation and mindfulness can help lead to better attention, memory, regulation of emotions, and self-awareness. In turn, improvements in these areas can bring about reduced stress, anxiety, and depression, as well as better academic skills, social skills, and self-esteem.
The Us Meditation Market Is Anticipated To Be Valued At $208 Billion By The Year 2022
According to mindfulness facts and statistics, American users are found to be spending heavily on these meditation applications, which earn money by subscription and other such monetization strategies. In fact, it has been found that the USself-care app market will be worth $2.08 billion by the end of 2022.
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How To Adjust Or Turn Off Mindfulness Reminders
You can also adjust the haptics of your reminders or tap Weekly Summary to receive a notification on Monday with the previous week’s Mindfulness activity.
What To Look For In A Meditation App
Below are a few factors to weigh before downloading any of the above-mentioned apps to ensure you get the most out of them:
- Pricing: The above-mentioned apps range in price from totally free to $200 for an annual subscription. Balance your financial investment with your time investment so you don’t blow your budget on an app you don’t have the time fully explore.
- Devices: Even though all the apps on this list are available for iOS and Android, that doesn’t mean they will work with all of your devices. If you want an app to work with your smartwatch or tablet, make sure it’s available on those devices before you download it.
- Expert Involvement: Apps geared toward improving mental health should have research-based information and expert-driven techniques. Better yet, look for apps with meditations guided by experts.
- Programs Offered: As you can see from this list, meditation apps don’t just target meditation. Find an app that meets your needs and offers a few additional options you are interested in, like breathing techniques, soothing soundtracks, sleep stories, self-help activities, and more.
- Time Investment: Some apps offer one- to five-minute guided meditations, while others have 20-30 minute sessions. Consider the amount of time you are comfortable committing.
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Why You Should Trust Us
As an associate staff writer on Wirecutters sleep team, Ive covered various health- and self-care topics and written a range of guides on everything from body razors to sunscreens to silk pillowcases. For this guide, I spent over 10 hours familiarizing myself with the practice of mediation through various apps, YouTube videos, and podcasts. I completed the beginner courses for our paid picks, Calm and Headspace, and tried many more courses across 18 different apps total. I also interviewed David Nichtern, a senior Buddhist teacher in the lineage of Chögyam Trungpa Dr. Judson Brewer, director of research and innovation at the Mindfulness Center at Brown University and Diana Winston, director of mindfulness education at UCLAs Mindful Awareness Research Center and the author of The Little Book of Being.
Are There Any Free Apps Like Headspace
Other interesting free alternatives to Headspace are Medito, Declutter The Mind, Calm.com and GrowApp. Headspace alternatives are mainly Meditation Tools but may also be Journaling Apps or Audio Players. Filter by these if you want a narrower list of alternatives or looking for a specific functionality of Headspace.
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How Much Do Meditation Apps Cost
You neednt pay anything to meditate. Experienced meditators may need nothing at all even a cushion may be dispensed with on occasion.
But when you are first beginning meditation, or need some support, its really helpful have guidance and structure. Whilst you can find guided audio meditations online for free, a well designed app can make it so much easier to integrate into your life.
When your budget allows, it can make sense to pay for an app that has had thousands of hours of work put into it to help you get the most out of the time you can put aside to practice meditation.
Our pricing filters allow you to narrow down the list to one of the following:
What To Know About Headspace
Started in 2010, Headspace simplifies meditation and mindfulness, making it less serious and even fun. Co-founder Andy Puddicombe, a former Buddhist monk, narrates most of the meditations. With millions of users worldwide, Headspace aims to improve your health and happiness.
And so far, studies conducted by Headspace and independent researchers suggest that it can do just that. For example, using the app for 10 sessions increased participants positivity and well-being, and reduced stress and irritability.
found that Headspace reduced stress and boosted job satisfaction.
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Meditation & Relaxation Apps Reviewed
Meditation promotes inner calm and helps to connect the mind and body. Science is still investigating the physiological and psychological effects of meditation. But some studies suggest that practicing meditation may be helpful for a variety of conditions ranging from insomnia and high blood pressure to anxiety and low back pain.
Check out the meditation video featuring NBA-star Chris Paul at end of this article.
You can sit down right now and try meditating, but it usually takes training and practice to achieve the benefits. Fortunately, numerous mobile apps are available to support your meditation practice, or even help you learn to relax in the moment.
Here are brief descriptions of 14 of the most popular relaxation and meditation apps for Android and iPhone .
About the list:
- Star ratings 15 are based on user reviews. We rounded them to the nearest half star.
- When free is followed by an asterisk that means premium features, subscriptions, or other upgrades are available for purchase.
- The apps are not ranked in any way, but see the list below if youre looking for something in particular.
Looking for something specific? Try:
- Guided meditations and meditation training for beginners: 1 , 2 , 5 , 7 , 8 , 10
- Meditation timers with or without a soundtrack: 3 , 4 ,5
- Apps for relaxing and centering, not necessarily meditation: 11 , 12 , 13 , 14
- Apps that focus on neuroscience instead of spirituality for those who have a skeptical nature: 6 , 9