With the ever-increasingly popularity of yoga and the growing awareness of the importance of maintaining good mental health, it’s not really any surprise that the last few years have seen a boom in the availability of mindfulness and meditation apps.
If all you know about meditation is robed monks sitting cross-legged in silence you might a) not be very interested, and b) wonder how on earth an app could help, but there’s actually plenty to it.
Whether it’s guided meditations, with a voice to talk you through the various steps to relax your mind, or just soothing sounds like rain or the sea, mindfulness apps can help ease you into a more meditative state.
Plenty have introductory courses to help beginners grasp the basics or themed sessions to deal with specific situations or stresses, and a few include customisable alerts and timers so that you can remind yourself to meditate throughout the day.
And if you want to supplement that meditation with a few apps to help de-stress you throughout the day, take a look at our guide to the
best apps for reducing anxiety.
Meditation is a lot more than just sitting still and trying not to think about anything. Depending on the time of day, where you are, and what you’re doing, you might want to try different techniques – what helps when you’re relaxing on a Sunday morning might do the trick when you’re stressed from work.
Buddhify understands that, and so it’s 80+ meditations are all separated up by locations, settings, and states of mind. In addition to a few basics billed as ‘Just Meditation’, there are sections dedicated to travelling, trying to sleep, feeling stressed, and more.
Want to meditate in the bath? There’s a track for that. On a long flight? There’s one for that too. Cooking, chores, walking, eating – they’re all covered.
All the meditations are guided, and range roughly from five minutes to 30, featuring a few different voices – male and female, American and British, so hopefully you’ll find a few you like.
Unlike most meditation apps, Buddhify doesn’t charge a monthly subscription or offer a mix of free and paid tracks – instead you simply pay a single up-front fee (£4.99/$4.99) which gives you permanent access to the full app.
Smiling Mind stands out from the competition for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it’s entirely free – it’s made by an Australian not-for-profit aiming to add mindfulness and meditation to the national curriculum, and all of the various guided meditations are free to use.
That curriculum aim is linked to Smiling Mind’s second distinguishing feature: a lot (though not all) of the meditations are aimed at kids and teenagers, with courses split up into age ranges: 7-9, 10-12, 13-15, 16-18, and adult.
That means Smiling Mind could be a great way to introduce your kids to mindfulness through guided meditations written for their level, with both tone and topics designed to be age-appropriate.
Don’t think that means the app is no good for the rest of us though. The adult section of the app still has 42 sessions included, working up from basic techniques and eventually covering specific situations like trying to sleep or dealing with relationship problems.
You can add courses to your collection, or even favourite specific sessions for quick access, and the app also includes a dashboard that tracks your progress. You’re also encouraged to respond to a quick survey on your mood before and after each meditation, so you can track that too.
The selection of meditations might not be the most comprehensive out there, but between the great app design and the unbeatable price, Smiling Mind is easy to recommend.
Mindfulness is either frustratingly thin on content or one of the most comprehensive meditation offerings out there – it all depends on whether you’re willing to cough up the £54.99/$59.99 fee for an annual premium subscription.
On the free side of things, you get five brief introductory guided meditations to teach you the basics, along with a meditation timer you can use to set up some simple custom sessions for yourself. Other than setting timed meditation reminders for yourself, that’s all you get without paying.
But if you’re willing to spend a little more, there’s plenty to appreciate here. There are more than 200 guided meditations of various lengths, split up into broad themes like stress relief, sleeping, or relationships.
Each is provided by a specific mindfulness expert, so you can get to know the techniques and styles you prefer, and even follow longer multi-part courses delivered by your favourites.
One of the app’s best other features is available to both free and premium users though: it includes a selection of soothing sounds, from rainfall to a babbling stream, which you can play alongside each meditation, with a volume slider to set your preferred balance between the voice and the background noise.
If you’d rather not pay for your meditation guidance, Insight Timer is a good option.
Despite the name, it’s much more than just a meditation timer (though it does that too), and it offers a library of 5,000 free meditations to choose from. They’re delivered by various different mindfulness experts, and vary in length, style, and admittedly quality.
That’s helped by Insight Timer’s social element, as users are encouraged to fill out profiles and rate each meditation they try. Slightly more strangely, the app also shows you other nearby meditators, and even who else was meditating at the same time as you, which seems less social and more sinister to us.
Other perks to Insight Timer include the ability to sort meditations by language – non-native English speakers will no doubt appreciate access to tracks in other tongues. Still, the selection isn’t always comprehensive – if you speak Icelandic, you’d better hope you enjoy the single session available on the service.
Mixed in with the guided meditations are also some pieces of music and recordings of chanting and mantras if you’d rather that than a fully guided session.
The only major downside to the app is that there’s no easy way to browse by topic or style (though you can filter by length and language) so it can be a bit harder to find new sessions to try.
Omvana is another meditation app that’s free to use, but that you really won’t get much out of if you’re not willing to spend a bit.
It doesn’t charge for either the app or a subscription, but instead has a library of various guided meditations, some of which are paid and some of which are free. You can add specific sessions to your personal library and download them to your device, and when you first load it up the app gives you a handful of freebies to try out.
The store splits sessions up into a variety of different categories to browse through, as well as ranked lists like ‘top paid’ and ‘top free’, so it’s easy enough to find something new to try. Paid options are quite expensive though – single tracks tend to range from $4 to $8, so it probably wouldn’t take long to spend enough to rival the subscription fees on some of the other apps out there.
There are also a few tracks of ambient music, and a mixer that lets you pair a track with a meditation and adjust the relative volumes to suit you.
It’s also worth noting that there are a few hypnosis tracks in the library too, so it’s not all strictly meditation – the sort of things with slightly suspect names like ‘Millionaire Mindset’ and ‘Law of Attraction Hypnosis’.
Stop, Breathe & Think
Stop, Breathe & Think is all about tapping into your emotions, encouraging you to evaluate your current emotional state and picking guided meditations based on how you’re currently feeling.
You select up to five emotions from a pretty comprehensive selection (this is a lot more in-depth than just ‘sad’ or ‘happy’) and the app will offer you a selection of meditations on varied topics based on your responses.
If you already know what you want to do – or just don’t feel like telling an app how you’re feeling – you can also browse the list yourself to choose what you want.
The base app is free, and comes with a decent selection of meditations, but you can unlock more with a premium subscription from £9.99 per month (less if you pay for a whole year at once).
The app is a byproduct of Tools for Peace, a nonprofit devoted to teaching meditation and mindfulness to inner-city teens, and 10 percent of all proceeds still go to the organisation, so if you do decide to pay at least you know your money will be put to good use.
Calm is another app that pairs a free base service with a paid premium subscription, luring you in with a selection of freebies before promising you more if you can afford to pay up.
If you don’t want to pay, you get access to a seven-day taster course which introduces you to the basic concepts and techniques.
Pay for the subscription and you’ll get access to similar seven or 21-day courses, like ‘7 Days of Managing Stress’ or ‘7 Days of Self Esteem’.
You can also pick from a variety of single guided meditations, setting the length to your preference, and each day there’s a ‘Daily Calm’ on a specific theme, encouraging you to try something new.
By default, the app has an annoying tendency to bother you with notifications every now and then, but you can turn this off if you don’t want it to remind you to meditate every day.