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Feeling a bit stressed? Anxious? Overwhelmed? These days, you can find relief for what ails right you in your pocket. All you need is your phone, a meditation app, and a couple minutes of peace and reflection.
“Meditation apps make it easier to start a practice since there are so many quick, simple options to start slowly,” says Debra Bennett, owner of Core Harmony, certified mind and body personal trainer and life coach.“They also make it easier to keep the habit going with the ability to set reminders and customize your program to your schedule and needs.”
The benefits of meditation are vast and well-documented—from the health benefits of managing insomnia, heart disease, and digestive problems, and boosting your immune system; to the psychological impacts of reducing stress, anxiety, depression, and even pain. Research also shows that those who meditate regularly experience ‘functional’ changes in the brain—how cool is that?
See more: Big Brain Benefits of Meditation
Meditation, along with deep breathing, signals to the central nervous system that it can relax, which in turn allows your body and mind to rest and repair. “Breathing practices and meditation can assist you with your daily tasks, such as staying focused,” says Amanda Sacks, therapist, yoga teacher, and founder of Work-Nomadic.com. “It also can aid with interpersonal relationships as you learn to take a moment to pause before responding quickly.”
Meditation apps make it convenient for you to practice on-the-go, while also normalizing the fact that mindfulness practices don’t need to take all day. Whether you’re new to meditation or are a lifelong practitioner, there is a meditation app on the market that will work for you.
Here, we’ve rounded up 12 of the best meditation apps out there, so you can find one that suits your needs—and budget.
The 12 Best Meditation Apps
Boasting over 100 million downloads, this popular app has something for everyone. “Calm has a massive library and offers several different types of mindfulness, from guided meditations to bedtime stories, music and different soundtracks,” says Jillian McLaughlin-Wirtz¸ a Chicago-based yoga instructor.
In addition to guided meditations of varying levels, lengths, and focuses, Calm also offers more than 200 “Sleep Stories,” which are narrated by recognizable voices such as Matthew McConaughey. “This is basically a calming bedtime story for adults. These sleep stories helped me kick the habit of watching TV in bed!” says McLaughlin-Wirtz. “They are a perfect way to wind down with a little bit of peaceful entertainment, and zero blue light.” The free version of the app has limited offerings—nature sounds, timed meditation options, one sleep story, and one breathing exercise—so to unlock all this app’s full potential, a premium membership is recommended.
Cost: Free version available; Premium costs $14.99/month or $69.99/year after a seven-day free trial.
If you’re no-fuss about your technology, check out this app, created by ABC News journalist and meditation skeptic-turned-devotee Dan Harris (he also has a popular podcast and book of the same name). Choose from different world-renowned instructors, such as Joseph Goldstein and Sharon Salzberg, to guide you through user-friendly meditations created to decrease stress and increase happiness. Ten Perfect Happier even launched a free, 10-day “Taming Anxiety Challenge” in June 2021, which included daily messaging and specific anxiety-reducing meditations. The dates for the next challenge have yet to be released.
Cost: Free version; paid memberships costs $99.99/year, following a free seven-day trial
If you’re serious about developing a consistent meditation practice, this is the app for you. Get started on your journey with the app’s five-day mindfulness program, which helps set the groundwork for a practice that can grow and advance over time. The app also offers reminders and timers that can support you in tracking your progress along the way. Plus, with a free version that includes meditations between 3–30 minutes and daily notifications, and a premium option that provides access to over 300 meditations from teachers such as Tara Brach and Eckhart Tolle, there is an option that will work for you, no matter your budget.
Cost: Free version available; premium version is $9.99/month or $59.99/year
For meditation newbies, Headspace is a great app to try, as it breaks down the basics through their 10-day and 30-day courses. It also approaches mindfulness and meditation with a focus on staying present, and less on spirituality, which allows for it to have a broader appeal. The free version has a range of diverse offerings that gives you a peek into the app’s vast library. But the Headspace Plus version includes anything you could ever look for in a meditation app—500-plus meditations, music playlists, sleep sounds, yoga classes, workouts, and more. McLaughlin-Wirtz shares that the app’s SOS section—short meditations to stop “meltdown moments”—is particularly helpful “on days when I’m feeling overwhelmed.” She also notes that you can now choose between a male or female voice guiding your meditation.
Cost: Free version available; Headspace Plus costs $12.99/month with a free seven-day trial, or $69.99/year with a free 14-day trial
The first thing you’ll notice about Aura is its cool interface of subtle, mystical colors. But it goes much deeper than that. Aura users start with a quiz that asks about age, stress levels, sleep patterns, and more. The app then builds a personalized experience, so you can get recommendations that directly target your needs. The free version of Aura is simple, offering a selection of short, 3-minute meditations. But you’ll want to get the premium version to experience the app’s full offerings, including longer meditations and inspiring stories from a diverse selection of meditation teachers, therapists, and even life coaches.
Cost: Free version available; Premium memberships costs $11.99/month or $59.99/year after a free seven-day trial. Lifetime subscription is $399, one-time charge
Buddhify’s goal is to help you fit meditation into your life, no matter how busy you are. The app’s unique wheel design allows you to choose which aspect of your life needs attention—without needing to swipe, click, or search—and immediately get started with meditations ranging from 5–30 minutes. While Buddhify recently launched a membership offering that allows you to deepen your practice, you don’t need to join to experience the full benefits of this app. Unlike the other services on this list, Buddhify charges a small upfront cost to download the app, and then you’re ready to find your zen.
Cost: The app is $4.99 to download on the Apple App Store and $3.99 on Google Play; the membership offering is $30/year
If you get bored easily and like lots of options to rotate into your meditation routine, this app will fit the bill. While most meditation apps are audio only, Unplug features more than 850 videos from 80-plus guides. There is a variety of practices to choose from—including hypnosis, soundbaths, and guided breathwork practices—as well as music, reminders, a gratitude journal, multi-day courses, and more. There’s even a section for kids and parents, as well as a “panic button” meditation series for when you need a quick and urgent reset.
Cost: $12.99/month or $69.99 per year after a free seven-day trial.
It’s become even more apparent in the last year-plus how important community is. Insight Timer taps into that human need for connection by making you feel like you are a part of a worldwide meditation community. But that’s not the only draw. “Choose from over 100,000 meditations under categories of sleep, anxiety, or beginner meditations,” says Sacks. “I love that you can join live meditations, where you sense the hundreds of people globally meditating alongside you from their personal spaces.”
The app’s free version is incredibly robust and offers access to all meditations—including from famous names such as Gisele Bündchen and YJ cover star Lalah Delia—as well as charts to track your progress, one free meditation basics course, and live yoga classes and other events (donations for the teachers are encouraged). With Members Plus, you gain access to more than 500 courses, as well as offline listening.
Cost: Free version available; Members Plus is $9.99/month or $59.99/year
If you’re goal-oriented, this app will feel immensely satisfying. With one click, you can easily choose your goal—from losing weight to feeling happier, to dealing with pandemic stress and falling asleep—and find content that will help you succeed. But it’s not all serious. With meditations that touch on real-life subjects and lighthearted names like “My Boss Is a Jerk,” Breethe makes mindfulness approachable and relatable. The free version of this app offers 90 meditations, but to enjoy all the offerings, including the learn-to-meditate programs, other courses, hypnotherapy, and more, you’ll need to become a member.
Cost: Free version available; after a free 14-day trial, membership is $12.99/month; $89.99/year; and lifetime membership is $179.99
Simple Habit wants to help you make meditation, well, a simple habit. With a motto “feel better in just five minutes,” this app offers a variety of short meditations that can quickly turn around your day or help with any situation. For example, you’ll find meditations for improving sleep, decreasing stress, prepping for a job interview, or getting through a tough day. No fuss, no bells and whistles—just meditations that are easy to find and quick to execute.
Cost: After a free seven-day trial, memberships are $3.99/week, $11.99/month, $69.99/year
How are you feeling today? Balance was created to personalize your meditation experience depending on what you’re facing each day. When you open the app, you’re prompted to answer questions about how you’re feeling, your mood, and generally what’s going on in your life. You can even choose to include a body scan to determine how your mental state is affecting your physical health. Based on those answers, you’re routed to meditations geared to help with exactly what you need. The more you share, the more the app learns about you, and the more tailored the offerings become. And right now, you can get the app for free for an entire year.
Cost: After the free year-long trial, membership is $11.99/month, $49.99/year
Download it now: Apple App Store / not available on Google Play
If you believe in the power of mantras and intentions, Shine is for you. “The Shine app understands that meditation and mental health go hand in hand” says Sacks. “You’re able to pick an intention each week and answer daily questions to check in with your emotional well-being.”
The free version of this app offers a daily meditation, article, and gratitude journal, but the premium membership includes more options, including 1,000-plus meditations personalized for you, the ability to log and track your moods, and a community page where you can express yourself and celebrate the wins of other members.
Cost: Free version available; premium membership is $64.99/year
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