Breathe in. Breathe out.
Most of us are not particularly mindful of our breathing. Who has the time? Breathing is one thing you shouldn’t have to think about.
But as the stress of daily life increases, it can be beneficial to take a few minutes to yourself and (hopefully) emerge a calmer, better, more enlightened soul. But how?
Like most things, meditation is best learned with expert guidance along the way. But not everyone has the time or money to track down their own personal meditation guru. There is a solution much closer at hand, though. One that’s probably in your hand right now.
It sounds counterintuitive, but the very device that demands your attention and buzzes with texts, tweets, and emails at all hours could be the thing that brings you calm. Meditation apps are a welcome window into a world of gentle bells, chirping birds, and encouraging words. Beyond the peaceful imagery, the ceasing of the mind’s worry with meditation can have tremendous health benefits, easing anxiety, depression, and pain.
So breathe a sigh of relief that we’re here to share with you a few of our favorite ways to get our om on.
- Mindfulness: An Everyday’s Guide To Being Mindful For Better Sleep And A Balanced Life
- Meditation and Sleep
Smiling Mind (iOS, Android) is an incredibly thorough and comprehensive app—and it’s free. There’s a three-step introduction to mindfulness and meditation that prepares beginners for the many modules and programs from which they can then choose. Smiling Mind has meditations for children sorted by age groups and for the classroom; meditations for adults sorted by issues and events like stress, relationships, sleep, and difficult emotions, as well as for sports performance and the workplace; and meditations for those who feel confident in meditating with limited guidance. You can keep track of your progress, set reminders, download sessions to listen to offline, and save your favorite meditations to access them easily.
($8.99 monthly, free five-day trial)
Deepak Chopra regularly extols meditation and offers 21-day meditation experiences via email and on his site. Those who want Chopra’s meditation guidance year-round can use Ananda-Personalized Meditations (iOS, Android), which gives users a vast array of meditations that are designed to enhance creativity, well-being, romance, sleep, relaxation, and travel. The meditations are led by Chopra as well as other instructors from The Chopra Center, and you can create playlists to keep your favorite meditations easily accessible. The meditations in Ananda are much more atmospheric than those of most other apps.
Buddhify (iOS, Android) is out to change every part of your day. It asks you what you’re doing at the moment and gives you a variety of meditations to accompany that activity. It’s particularly useful for busy city dwellers who can do the meditations, eyes open, while they’re on public transportation or walking on a busy sidewalk. If you’re into quantifying your relaxation, then there’s a stats tab to do just that. Buddhify includes a timer for those who want to do non-guided meditation on their own.
The Mindfulness App
(Free, Premium is $9.99 or $59.99 annually)
The Mindfulness App (iOS, Android) has instructions and tips for beginners so you don’t stress about meditating. There’s a five-day program of short sessions that cover how to focus on your breathing, let go of tension, filter out sounds, calm the mind, and develop appreciation. You can choose from meditation sessions of one, three, five, or 15 minutes—guided or silent. There are a selection of nature-themed background sounds you can add to any meditation. If meditation is something that easily slips your mind, you can set reminders. For those who like to keep track of their progress, there’s a profile section with stats. Premium users get access to meditations for challenges, travel, sleep, relationships, stress relief, emotions, body awareness, focus, and relationships.
Stop, Breathe & Think
(Free, Premium is $9.99 monthly or $69.96 annually)
When your mind is aflame, you need to stop, breathe, and think. That’s what the Stop, Breathe & Think app (iOS, Android) does, asking you to check in with how you feel physically and emotionally before you meditate. Once you do that, you get a choice of three meditations that suit your current state and a choice of a man (Grecco) or woman (Jamie) to guide you through the practice. If you want to choose your own meditation, click Explore Activities. There’s also a section with the basic steps on how to meditate for beginners and charts to keep track of your progress. There are enough free meditations in Stop, Breathe & Think to use the app regularly without having to pay for the premium version, but if you fork over a few bucks, you get additional meditations.
(Free, Premium is $7.99 monthly or $59.98 annually or $399 lifetime)
Every day is a new meditation on Aura (iOS, Android). Tell Aura what mood you’re in and you’ll get a customized, three-minute track. (If you like the meditation, you can save it.) When you’re done, you can give feedback so the app’s algorithm adapt to your needs and preferences. A premium subscription lets you listen to as many meditations whenever you want and also gives you seven- and 10-minute sessions.
(Free, Premium is $12.99 monthly or $59.99 annually or $299.99 lifetime)
Living up to its name, Calm (iOS, Android) is an oasis among apps. Against a serene backdrop and nature sounds, you can choose from one of three ways to bring some peace into your life. Unfortunately, serenity ain’t free; there is little you can do in the app without a subscription. With the Breathe section, you get a timer that tells you when to breathe in, hold the breath, and breathe out. If you choose Meditate, you can follow a daily meditation that leads you through the app’s 7 Days of Calm program. Beyond that, you have to pay for a subscription to select other programs or even meditations for activities like walking or commuting. The section Sleep Story lets you select a tale designed to guide you into sleep with nature-based stories that take you on an auditory experience of different destinations (one or two of which are free).
(Free to $2.99)
Ever wish Sean Connery was there to calm you with his soothing voice whenever you needed it? He essentially is with Andrew Johnson’s apps (iOS, Android. The Scotsman and clinical hypnotherapist has a variety of apps for relaxation, deep sleep, confidence, positivity, weight loss, success, and even to disconnect from your dependence on devices. It’s very easy to be lulled into sleep by these meditations but Johnson says your mind will still process them.
($12.99 monthly or $94.99 annually or $399.99 lifetime)
Change where your mind is with Headspace (iOS, Android), which the app creators tout as “the gym membership for your mind.” The guided-meditation app is a pretty comprehensive education in meditation. There’s a 10-day free trial to see if Headspace’s brand of mindfulness is for you. If you subscribe, there are meditations for health issues, emotions, challenges, and productivity.
(Free, some in-app purchases)
Those practiced in the art of meditation can use Insight Timer (iOS, Android) to give their practice the sweet, deep sound of Tibetan singing bowls for timing. The not-so-experienced can gain practice with a library of guided meditations and the support of the Insight Connect social community. You can buy a collection of timer bells if you want to hear something other than the singing bowls or a wood block, as well as a few extra meditations, though there are so many offered for free that you really don’t need to.