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Now, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress symptoms in the general population are on the rise globally. So it’s no surprise that meditation apps like Calm and Headspace — which offer a brief respite from chaotic news feeds — have seen subscriptions soar since the beginning of the pandemic.
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.
With hundreds of options to choose from, here are 10 of the best apps and websites to learn meditation on any budget.
Best free guided meditations
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Best paid guided meditations
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.