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A national survey of more than 26,000 U.S. adults conducted by the Centers for Disease Control found that the use of meditation increased more than threefold between 2012 and 2017, from 4.2 percent to 14.2 percent, making it the second most used complementary health technique after yoga.

The benefits of meditation are consistently being tested, measured, and tracked. Researchers from John Hopkins University found that general meditation programs can help to ease symptoms of depression, anxiety, and pain related to stress. So it’s no surprise that meditation apps like Calm and Headspace — which offer a brief respite from daily chaos — are continuing to see subscriptions soar.

While you can practice unguided, silent meditation on your own without any technology, many people find it helpful to have a facilitator to guide them, especially as a beginner.

“Meditation is a mind and body practice that has a long history of use for increasing calmness and physical relaxation, improving psychological balance, coping with illness, and enhancing overall health and well-being,” according to the National Institutes of Health.

During a guided meditation, a narrator walks you through a series of steps. These might include getting into a comfortable posture, breathing exercises, mental imagery, and focusing your attention on the sensations in your body.

These techniques help cultivate mindfulness, or the ability to focus on the present moment and allow your thoughts to come and go without judgment.

While meditation shouldn’t be used to replace medical care, studies have shown that mindfulness-based interventions have a host of physical and psychological benefits.

It can reduce symptoms of chronic pain, improve sleep, prevent mind wandering, and alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety.

With hundreds of options to choose from, here are 10 of the best apps and websites to learn meditation on any budget.

Mindfulness can have a positive effect on our bodies both mentally and physically. Both have been proven to help reduce stress and control anxiety.

A meta-analysis including approximately 1,300 adults found that meditation can decrease anxiety, with the strongest results in those with the highest levels of anxiety.

Another study also found that meditation may be able to help control job-related anxiety. Employees who used a mindfulness meditation app for 8 weeks experienced improved feelings of well-being and decreased distress and job strain compared to those in a control group.

Mindfulness has also been utilized as a way to prevent age-related memory loss. A 2014 review found that multiple meditation styles can help increase attention, memory, and mental quickness in older people.

Additionally, if you’re experiencing trouble sleeping, then meditation may be able to help you. Using a guided meditation may help you redirect racing thoughts. One study compared mindfulness-based meditation programs and found that people who meditated before bed stayed asleep longer.

To select the best apps or websites for guided meditation, we researched different guided meditation platforms that utilize verbal and video as ways to guide meditation. It was also important for us to consider that each platform is user-friendly. We included a variety of paid and unpaid facilitated meditation guides that covered a range of different price points.

The variety of guided meditations picked also suits a variety of people, depending on whether or not they are beginners or consistent meditators.

Price guide:

  • $ = under $10
  • $$ = $10–$15
  • $$$ = over $15

Best free guided meditation apps

Insight Timer

Cost: $

Insight Timer offers more than 70,000 free guided meditations, daily live events, and soothing sessions hosted by celebs like Gisele Bündchen and Russell Brand.

The app’s Circles feature is a great way to connect with others — you can chat and meditate live with groups of friends, colleagues, or strangers. You can also find curated playlists with themes like releasing guilt, practicing compassion, and anxiety relief.

Pros

  • Guided meditations are available in 50 different languages. Some courses are also available in languages other than English like Dutch, Spanish, and Portuguese.
  • There’s the option to join in a group with your friends. You can meditate together and share your experiences.
  • Workplaces can subscribe to an Insight Timer work/business plan. Insight Timer charges $99 each month for an entire organization to utilize. This includes live events, group meditation, over 1,000 courses, and offline listening.

Cons

  • There are user-reported technical glitches. These include being unable to enter some live events or the app not updating individual milestones.
  • The app is difficult to navigate. Many users find that the app is difficult to navigate and is not as user-friendly as others.

UCLA Mindful

Cost: $

Researchers at the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center developed the free UCLA Mindful app and website on the principle of “radical accessibility of mindfulness practices.”

You can stream or download basic meditations in English and Spanish, and access special wellness meditations that were developed for people with challenging health conditions. They also host a weekly podcast, free online live events, and paid courses for those who want to do a deeper dive into mindfulness.

Pros

  • All the content is free. It’s one of the more affordable meditation apps on the market.
  • It’s a great meditation app for beginners. For anyone new to meditation, UCLA Mindful is geared toward those who want to begin understanding meditation and learning more about the process.

Cons

  • Glitches and slow loading times. Some users and reviewers complain of very slow loading times and glitches that need you to reload the app.
  • Content is only available in two languages. Meditation content on the app is only available in English and Spanish.

Smiling Mind

Cost: $

Smiling Mind develops evidence-based meditation and mindfulness exercises for both kids and adults, with the goal of alleviating stress and improving focus at work and in the classroom.

Pros

  • Their meditation programs are suitable for schools and education. Smiling Mind acts to help reduce emotional reactivity and behavioral issues in school-aged kids.
  • They have a weekly podcast available on Spotify. Their weekly podcast is conducted by their CEO and a clinical psychologist where they interview other mental health experts.

Cons

  • Not all of their content is free. Their workplace program requires a paid subscription.
  • Their content may not be suited to those above the beginner level. Their family and education content is most suited to kids aged 3 to 7, but if you want to develop meditation practices more advanced than that, there aren’t as many options.

Best free guided meditation websites

Mindfulness Exercises

Cost: $

This website features a broad selection of mindfulness exercises, including more than 2,000 free meditations, worksheets, videos, and e-books. Resources range from short meditations to more in-depth online courses like the 28-day mindfulness challenge or 10-day Vipassana course.

Pros

  • There are plenty of free meditation exercises. There are over 5 categories of free meditation material ranging from free downloads, free courses, applied mindfulness, and their YouTube channel and Spotify albums.
  • They break down their meditation material. The homepage breaks down where users should start depending if they are a beginner, intermediate, or intermediate-advanced user.

Cons

  • Some of their content is hidden behind a paywall. Although they have a lot of free content, they also have worksheets, retreats, toolkits, and programs that require paying. The prices can range from $9 a month to a payments of more than $1,000 for a course.
  • Some pages on their website are difficult to read. If you’re looking for specific meditation content, their website may require you to sift through a lot of content to find it.

University of California, San Diego Center for Mindfulness

Cost: $

The University of California, San Diego, hosts free live events and guided mediation sessions ranging from 20 minutes to an hour. If you can’t join a live session via Zoom, check out their vast collection of recordings on Soundcloud. Topics range from “Taking a Breath to Reduce Anxiety” to “Giving and Receiving Compassion.”

Pros

  • Anyone can access their meditation schedule on their website. They set up their schedule ahead of time, with session topics and times for anyone to access.
  • Other resource and tools are available. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the University’s Center for Integrative Health provide resources broken down into categories such as ‘supporting youth and family members’ or ‘for healthcare workers.’

Cons

  • They have limited meditation resources in other languages. The only two languages they provide resources in other than English are Spanish and Japanese.
  • Other more extensive courses and programs are not free. Their Center also offers a Mindful Self-Compassion program offered in two different formats. Prices for this range from $470 to $620.

Best paid guided meditation apps

Headspace

Cost: $$

Headspace is well-known for its expansive library of guided meditations and natural soundscapes, but its “Move Mode” makes it a standout among the rest.

Get your blood flowing with workouts and mental fitness exercises inspired by professional athletes. Sessions are led by expert trainers, including Olympians Kim Glass and Leon Taylor.

Pros

  • Users have the option of downloading meditations and listening to them offline. Once you download a meditation you can listen to it without internet connection wherever you go.
  • Include others through the buddies feature. Add your friends or work colleagues to the buddies feature and have the option of letting them see your progress.
  • They have multiple subscription plans to suit everyone’s needs. Subscriptions are available for individuals, students, and family memberships.

Cons

  • Limited content for children. Compared to their competitors, Headspace has much less child-centered content.
  • Their monthly subscription is pricier than other meditation apps. At $13 a month, their monthly subscription for the app is higher than other meditation apps. They also don’t offer a one-time, lifetime purchase, like other paid apps.

Chopra

Cost: $

Developed by world-renowned mindfulness experts, the Chopra website and app offer self-paced programs designed to fit any schedule. Members have access to self-care tools and nearly 500 meditations ranging from 5 to 30 minutes.

You can also take your meditation to the next level and sign up for masterclasses that cater to your personal health goals, like a mantra-based meditation course taught by the legendary Deepak Chopra.

Pros

  • Their meditations are rooted in Ayurveda. The Chopra app distinguishes itself from other meditation apps by focusing on the ancient Indian health practice of Ayurveda.
  • Some meditations are unguided. For those who prefer unguided meditation there’s also the option of meditating to silence or music.
  • The app allows you to customize your goals. Users are able to specify their goals before selecting a variety of meditation practices that align with them.

Cons

  • Some people have found the updated version of the app in 2020 is difficult to navigate. People who purchased the 21 Day Meditation program have found that the move over to the new app has meant that they’re not able to access it and listen offline.
  • This app is more suited for specialized meditations. Since they specialize in Ayurveda, there’s less options for those looking for the more generic types of guided meditation practices.

Calm

Cost: $

A third of U.S. adults report not getting enough sleep, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Calm is a favorite among the sleep-deprived crowd.

Drift off with a selection of sleep stories narrated by a star-studded cast, including Idris Elba, Matthew McConaughey, and Priyanka Chopra. In addition to sleep, the app offers a wide range of specialized meditations designed to soothe anxiety, alleviate stress, and stretch your body.

Pros

  • It’s great for people who are new to guided meditation. If you’re unfamiliar with meditation, the Calm app is an educational app that provides accessible practices.
  • New content is always being added. Subscribers and members don’t need to worry about running out of new content on the app as there are frequent additions.
  • You have the option of being soothed to sleep by a celebrity. Calm’s sleep stories are always being updated with new stories to help lull you to sleep. You can listen to A-list celebrities such as Matthew McConaughey and Harry Styles while you’re trying to doze off.

Cons

  • There are reported subscription issues. Some find that the app will automatically renew your subscription without a warning notification or email.
  • Unable to add friends on the app. Calm doesn’t allow you to meditate with a group or add buddies.

Best paid guided meditation websites

Yogi Approved

Cost: $$

If you’re looking for a subscription with variety, Yogi Approved can help you “find your om at home” with hundreds of HD yoga, fitness, and meditation videos ranging from beginner to advanced levels.

New programs are added weekly, and you can access classes on the website, through the app, or download and watch them offline.

Pros

  • Find other tips and tricks on their website. While they do offer classes on their website, they also have a blog section where they provide content such as healthy recipes and tips on mindful habits.
  • They are dedicated to helping the environment. They’ve partnered with Trees for the Future to plant a food-producing tree for every yoga class their members complete.

Cons

  • You only receive yoga classes. For $15 a month, members are only granted yoga classes compared to other meditation memberships which may offer virtual classes, recordings, or other forms of guided meditation.
  • The classes are only approximately 35 minutes long. If you’re looking for something longer than 35 minutes, you’ll have to watch multiple videos.

Sattva

Cost: $$$

The principles of Vedic meditation are based on sacred religious texts that date back thousands of years, and the creators of Sattva drew from these ancient roots to create their library.

Members have access to a comprehensive collection of guided meditations, ancient chants, mudras, and mantras delivered by Sanskrit scholars.

Pros

  • They involve Sanskrit scholars in meditations. There are Sanskrit scholars narrating the mantras, chants, and meditations.
  • Mudras are easy to incorporate. Mudras are hand positions or gestures that facilitate the flow of energy in the body and release blocked energy. They can easily be incorporated into the different guided meditations available on Sattva.
  • Listeners have the option of a variety of different playlists. These are curated based on mood, desire, or the time of day.

Cons

  • There are no offline listening options. Listeners will have to be connected to the internet to listen to any meditations.
  • It’s one of the pricier meditation subscriptions. Priced at $50 a month or a one-time payment of $400, this is one of the more expensive meditation subscriptions available.

How do I start meditating?

Meditating is a different process for everybody, so everyone needs different things to get started. However, one of the most important things to start with is to make yourself feel comfortable. This means sitting in a position that’s comfortable and in an environment that makes you feel relaxed.

If you have never meditated before, starting small would be best. Try starting with 10 minutes of meditation a day so that you can fit it in with your schedule. From there, you can build up as you wish.

What are the advantages of practicing guided meditation as opposed to meditating on your own?

When practicing guided meditation, you’re able to be guided by a narrator or teacher who can walk you through what to expect from your mind and body. You can also learn how to apply what you learned from meditating to your day-to-day life.

If you’re meditating on your own, you’re relying on yourself to guide yourself through the meditations.

If you’re a beginner or tend to lose focus while meditating, guided meditation will most likely help you focus and bring you back to the present moment.

What are some other types of meditation?

While guided meditation is based on someone walking you through a set of steps or techniques, there are other types of meditation that focus on other aspects.

Some other popular types of meditation are:

  • mindfulness meditation
  • spiritual meditation
  • focused meditation
  • movement meditation
  • mantra meditation
  • transcendental meditation
  • progressive relaxation
  • loving-kindness meditation
  • visualization meditation

Spending just a few minutes a day on meditation can have big benefits for your mental health. So, sit back, take a deep breath, and let the soothing sounds of a guided meditation calm your busy mind.