Stress and anxiety are all too prevalent in busy modern lives. Mindfulness and meditation training can help put things into perspective and calm your mind. We’ve rounded up the best meditation apps to help you relax and refocus.
Now, using your smartphone to help you be mindful might sound like a contradiction. A lot of advice for feeling calmer and more restful ties into “switch your smartphone off” and for good reason. They’re great tools, but they’re also massive distractions that can leave us feeling out of control when it comes to a never ending stream of notifications.
Despite those potential issues, they’re also a fantastic source of quality mindfulness and meditation apps. After all, they’re almost always with you, which means you can quickly pull your phone out and have a few moments of calm, no matter where you are. It’s a potentially very calming presence, even if you’re in an awkward place physically.
Many of the apps listed here start out as free with a subscription or in-app purchase scheme available in order to unlock more content. The nuances of each app can get overwhelming pretty quickly, however, so below you’ll find a careful run down of what to expect from each app. We’d hate for you to waste your time and money in pursuit of the perfect app to help you decompress and refocus.
That said, we understand meditation and mindfulness is a very personal thing so we’ve looked at numerous apps in a bid to find one for every different situation and mindset. Here’s our favorites.
Best Overall: Headspace (iOS/Android)
You’ve probably heard of Headspace before. That’s because it’s the leading app for both iOS and Android when it comes to mindfulness and meditation. It offers hundreds of guided meditations on a variety of different subjects. They include how to get through moments of panic or anxiety, how to sleep better, or simply focus more on the task at hand.
Each day, there are new daily meditations and ‘mindful moments’ to keep you present throughout the day. If you’re short on time, there are 2-3 minute mini meditations, as well as SOS sessions for when you’re in dire need of mental assistance.
The Basics course is completely free, but you’ll need to subscribe to get the rest of the package. It costs $12.99 per month or $94.99 per year, with a lifetime subscription costing $399.99. It might seem expensive but there’s a reason why Headspace is so popular—it’s simple to use but highly effective at getting your brain back on track. Try out the Basics course and see how you feel before investing.
Best for Extensive Options: The Mindfulness App (iOS/Android)
The Mindfulness App works a lot like Headspace, and is also available for both iOS and Android. It has a series of guided meditations as well as information on how it’ll help you. There are statistics too so you can keep track of your meditations, even if that does sound a little counter intuitive to the idea of simply being present each day.
The beauty here is that there’s a huge wealth of options for you. For free, you’re given a five day guided practice and introduction to the concept of mindfulness with that leading onto the paid service. There are timed sessions—both of the guided and silent variety—ranging from 3 to 30 minutes. The premium section offers up over 200 guided meditations and courses, and you have a choice of how to pay for them.
You can either subscribe for $9.99 per month or $59.99 per year, and have unlimited access to everything possible, as well as the ability to use the app offline. Alternatively, you can buy certain courses for $2.99 each. If you’re keen to strengthen your work focus or to work on your emotions or even pain management, there’s a course here for you and at a low price too. Such flexibility ensures The Mindfulness App is ideal if you’re not quite sure what you’re looking for.
Best for calming interface: Calm (iOS/Android)
Available for iOS and Android, Calm lives up to its name. It looks remarkably calming and serene. With a focus on guided meditation sessions, there’s something for everyone here. From learning to sleep better to even working on one’s self esteem or general happiness, Calm sounds immensely promising. And you know what? It kind of is. It teaches so many lessons that we could all do with taking on board, right down to being able to forgive people to avoiding judging people too harshly.
Each session is available in lengths of 3, 5, 10, 15, 20 or 25 minutes, so there’s something for everyone’s free time. Such flexibility is a huge bonus when you’re juggling a tight schedule. Plus, there’s a new Daily Calm 10 minute program added each day to keep you ticking along.
The app works on a free trial basis with the full course costing $12.99 per month or $59.99 per year. The trial’s a little limited so expect to pay up in some form if you find you fancy the app.
Best for Regular Checkins: Stop, Breathe & Think (iOS/Android)
At its simplest, mindfulness is frequently about stopping to take a minute, breathe, and simply allow your thoughts to leave your mind in a calm, measured manner. So, it stands to reason that Stop, Breathe & Think focuses on those core elements. Available for iOS and Android, with a web app also available, the app uses a conversational style to get to the point of your ailment.
Kind of like a chat bot, you soon feel like Stop, Breathe & Think is actually listening to you and your needs. Personalized recommendations are offered based on how you feel with short activities offered for those low on time. It’s simply done but that belies a relatively powerful way of doing things. It ensures you feel in control of what you’re doing. Also, a tracker provides daily streaks, weekly settledness, and top emotions, so you know roughly how you’re doing over time.
It’s free to use the basic, foundational meditations with the premium membership unlocking full content, and priced at $9.99 per month or $58.99 per year.
Best for Free Content: Insight Timer (iOS/Android)
Many of the apps here involve a subscription fee to get the most out of them. Insight Timer isn’t like that. It provides over 10 new free guided meditations every day, proving perfect for many different topics. Improving your sleep, reducing stress, and dealing with relationship anxiety are just some of the subjects covered here. In all, there are thousands of different meditations to try, with a course feature allowing you to follow a particular path.
It’s possible to select meditations according to time, if you’re short on it, as well as to follow certain teachers whose style appeals to you. Community features are also available, along with discussion groups.
The Insight courses cost $4.99 as a one-off fee, and it’s possible to buy offline access for $2.99 but, for the most part, Insight Timer is free, and easily the best dollar value option here. It’s available for iOS and Android.
Best for Families: Smiling Mind (iOS/Android)
Smiling Mind treats mental health and mindfulness like any physical condition—by regularly checking in with you and encouraging you to complete activities. Where it truly stands out is through its extensive support for children and teenagers.
Besides offering programs for adults, it has specific courses tailored for 7-9 years old, 10-12, 13-15, and 16-18 years old, ensuring there’s something for everyone. After all, stresses are often very different depending on your age.
In addition, there’s support for creating sub accounts for your family, appreciating that meditation and mindfulness is a personal thing that needs to be separated accordingly.
Best for Skeptics: 10% Happier: Meditation (iOS/Android)
Cynical about how much meditation could help you? Give 10% Happier: Meditation a shot. Available for iOS and Android, it’s designed for skeptics. It keeps things straight forward, ensuring its reputation as the most direct meditation app of the lot.
The app offers daily videos and guided meditations to keep things simple, along with other content on how to cope with anxiety and even political stress. There’s new content every week too.
To get the full wealth of services, you’re going to need to subscribe. It costs $9.99 per month or $79.99 per year, but the free trial gives you insight into what you’re getting so it’s worth checking out. Even more so if you’re not too keen on the more spiritual side of meditating.