Emotional & Mental Health
Best Meditation Apps of the Year
Get Your Calm On
It’s pretty easy to recognize the physical signs of stress— increased heart rate, quickened breathing, and a feeling like the whole world is on your shoulders. When stress won’t let up, day after day, it can have lasting effects on your health. Being stressed out increases your risk for heart disease, sleep problems, depression, and a number of other health conditions.
You might not immediately consider your smartphone an aide to relaxation, but there are a number of apps that can actually help you unplug and focus on your inner mind. If haven’t yet tried meditation, or you just need a little help getting started, these apps can pave the way towards calmness.
The Mindfulness App
Designed for everyone from the novice to the experienced meditator, the Mindfulness App guides you through a complete meditation practice. Or, you can choose to sit in silence while bells ring at various intervals. Design your own personal practice for any length of time you choose. And schedule messages to remind you throughout the day when it’s time to meditate.
If you find it hard to focus your mind enough to meditate, use this app as your guide. Choose from one of four different meditation lengths—5, 10, 15, or 20 minutes. Then relax as a gentle voice guides you through your practice.
You can add soft music or the soothing sounds of nature—the ebb and flow of ocean waves, the patter of rain, or the gentle burble of a stream.
Headspace was designed not only to help you relax during the day, but to calm your mind so you can sleep better at night. The app features 10 unique daily meditations, as well as several targeted programs on topics including stress, eating, and sleep.
Set reminders to help you stay on schedule with your meditation practices. And, track your progress over the weeks and months using Headspace’s dashboard feature.
Tired of constantly having to peek at the clock to know when your practice is over? Meditate is an app that times your meditation sessions for you.
Choose from three different programs: traditional meditation, meditation with affirmation, or fall-asleep mode. Close your eyes, relax, and meditate to the sounds of authentic Tibetan singing bowls, known to invoke a deep state of relaxation.
Either follow along to one of the app’s preset meditations, or program your own session length. The Meditate app will also let you track your sessions so you can follow your progress over time.
Have you always wanted to try meditation, but weren’t sure how to get started? Mindfulness meditation is the perfect app for beginners. This eight-week program will teach you how to meditate and get on the road toward inner peace.
Created and narrated by Stephan Bodian, author of Meditation for Dummies, Mindfulness Meditation includes six different guided meditation sessions, ranging from 5 to 40 minutes. Bodian includes eight inspirational talks to help you incorporate mindfulness into your every day.
Through this program you’ll also learn mindfulness-based techniques to ease stress.
iPhone—4 stars with 70 ratings—Free to download, but the programs are subscription-based, ranging in price from $4.99 to $9.99)
Every day comes with a variety of trials and tribulations—traffic jams, work stresses, kids who won’t stop clamoring for your attention. When you need to escape for a few minutes, just click on the Calm app on your iPhone.
Choose from seven different guided relaxation sessions, ranging from 2 to 30 minutes. Whether you only have time to sneak away from your desk for a few minutes, or you can devote your entire lunch break to relaxation, there’s a program for you.
Breathing might seem like a no-brainer, but there’s a lot more to it than just the basic inhale and exhale motions. With Breathe2Relax app, you’ll discover how to harness the power of breath to combat stress, control anger and anxiety, and improve your mood. By going through a variety of exercises, you’ll learn the difference between mouth, nose, and diaphragmatic breathing, and learn to use each one for a greater sense of calm.
Buddhist Meditation Trainer
Android—4.7 stars with 11,452 ratings—Free
One of the foundations of Buddhism is the quest to achieve enlightenment— a state of supreme knowledge and understanding. The Buddhist Meditation Trainer is your digital guide along the path to enlightenment.
Each day you’ll get a reminder to meditate, along with quotes to meditate on, and a sound to let you know when your session is finished. The app promises that if you meditate for just 5 minutes a day, within 10 days you’ll achieve a measurable sense of relaxation—and illumination.
iPhone—4.5 stars with 135 ratings—Free
Android—Available in early 2014
Meditation is so much more than just deep breathing and repeating the “om” mantra. The Omvana app is based on the idea that every meditation session should be as unique as the person who’s meditating.
This app includes thousands of different sounds to help you meditate. Whether you’re inspired by a quote from a famous speech or book, or you’d rather meditate to the soothing sounds of nature, Omvana contains a vast library of tracks to choose from. You can even personalize your meditation by combining existing tracks with Omvana’s mixing tool, or record your own voice to self-guide your meditation sessions.
Take a Break!
When the workday overwhelms you or you just need to escape for a few minutes, Take a Break! will take you away from it all. This voice-guided meditation program features a 7-minute work break relaxation and a 13-minute stress relief meditation. To go along with each meditation, choose from soft, gentle music or the natural sounds of the ocean, rain, or a stream.
We selected these meditation apps based on their potential to aid people with meditation practice. Additional factors considered in selecting these apps included user ratings, affordability, accessibility, format, functionality, and relevance. Together, this collection represents the gamut of helpful iPhone and Android apps that are successfully designed to help promote meditation practice.
- Meditation: An Introduction. (2010, June). National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Retrieved January 2, 2014, from http://nccam.nih.gov/health/meditation/overview.htm.