Have you been feeling overwhelmed, depressed, anxious, or just exhausted? This past year has pushed many of us to our limits, and has kept us in a survival mode that can keep us from having the energy to solve problems or try to make even small lifestyle changes. A solution for so many of these issues, from missing sleep to low self esteem, can be found in the simple practice of mindfulness. Meditation can seem alienating and intimidating to newcomers even as it becomes more and more popular. Luckily, a variety of apps is always working to make meditation an approachable and helpful tool whether you’ve practiced for years or have never tried it. Whether you’d like to build a community with others trying to heal, need a simple reminder to check in with yourself or even just want to start making time to separate yourself from your daily stressors, meditation apps have something to offer everyone. If the coming of the new year has made you crave a change, using a meditation app can be the perfect way to find a new start and give yourself space to breathe among the distractions and stressors of daily life.
Insight Timer is one of my favorite apps; it has some of my favorite speakers and meditations that I return to time and time again. I love the meditations by Sarah Blondin, Jennifer Piercy, Kenneth Soares and Jonathan Lehmann. Lisa A. Romano’s meditations for healing from narcissistic abuse were hugely helpful to me while I was recovering from my own experience with narcissistic abuse. If you have experiences with chronic pain, I recommend Carrie Suwal’s meditations on extreme pain meditation. Even though Insight Timer does offer a premium subscription for $9.99 a month, they also have thousands of meditations that are all free to listen to.
One thing I love about Insight is that it’s not just an app but it’s also a community. You can connect with other users who are listening to the same meditations. You can leave encouraging messages for people going through similar struggles and truly feel less alone when you’re going through something. Whether you’re looking for guided meditation, an ambient soundtrack to usher in a moment of peace, or even a yoga practice, Insight Timer has an incredible range of experiences.
Whether you’re looking for a 10 minute dose of daily calm that updates every day, walking meditations, help focusing your attention or sleep stories to help you rest better, Calm has a variety of options. A limited free version or an unlimited $70 version are both available to fit your needs. If you’re feeling lost, Calm offers a good place to start: their introductory 7 days of Calm course invites you back to the app each day to explore the basics of meditation one day at a time.
3. Ten Percent Happier Meditation
Ten Percent Happier is on a mission to win over people who are skeptical of meditation. With simple, pragmatic and goal-oriented meditations like “Getting Out of Your Head” or “Ten Good Breaths,” this app wants to show you that meditation can have a visible positive impact on your day-to-day life. The app can also connect you with real life meditation experts for any coaching you need in your journey. A subscription with Ten Percent happier costs $11.99 a month or $99 a year.
Buddhify’s most distinctive feature is its “wheel” of meditation options which lets you intuitively gravitate towards options that suit your needs and state of mind. Whether you’re feeling intense stress or just need a work break, the wheel will lead you to different meditation choices to give you the best experience for your moment. As you get more familiar with the app, you can even customize your wheel for the options you use the most, adding meditations for specific emotions, sleep aids, pain management and anything else you need. Buddhify even lets you give meditations to your loved ones, so if you come across a meditation someone in your life would find helpful they can listen to it even if they don’t have the app. Best of all, the app costs $4.99 to download but doesn’t charge any subsequent fees for subscription or any features.
Shine’s goal is to help users with their mental and emotional health on a daily basis with motivational messages, meditations and journal prompts all infused with a sense of humor. The Shine app features a today tab with an easy-access toolkit of actions users can take; “The app essentially is meant to be your daily self-care check-in,” founder Marah Lidey told Popsugar last year. The simple checklist of options and choices can take a lot of indecisiveness out of the process and help you easily find the right experience for you whether it’s a morning boost, a quick life coaching session or a story to help you sleep at night. Because Shine was created to help increase representation and help for Black mental health, there’s an entire section of its library devoted to topics like burnout, racial equality, and healing from trauma. Shine’s subscription costs $7.99 a month or $59.99 annually.
Headspace calls itself “Your personal meditation guide to pretty much everything.” Explore a library of options from work and productivity to happiness and self esteem. There’s also an essential meditation section if you don’t know where to start and a bar on the home screen tracks your progress so you can work to build streaks of mindfulness stretching over days and weeks. Headspace even has guided imagery exercises that work to incorporate all five senses for a more mindful experience. A subscription to Headspace Plus costs $12.99 a month or $69.99 annually.
Happify is a great app if you’re intimidated by the process of starting meditation for the first time. Instead of using traditional meditation prompts or guided meditations, Happify uses games to help get you into a positive, meditated state. For instance, in one game balloons will drift by your screen with different words written on them and you are tasked with only choosing the positive words; this will help create more positive connections in your mind. If you love playing games then you’lll love this app. When I first started my journey with chronic illness, I experienced a lot of depression and worry that I wouldn’t be able to live a full life. I wasn’t ready to share about my depression and a tool like Happify that allowed me to help myself was so important. I did this app every single day and it was truly so helpful to me. If you’re not sure where to find help, this app might be a helpful place to start for you too. Meditation can be an intimidating practice to start and a more game-centered, lighthearted experience might be a great alternative to working towards happiness and mindfulness.
For newcomers, meditation can seem unapproachable, intimidating, and can even make you think you’re not the right kind of person for meditation. Luckily, there’s such a wide range of meditation apps that can offer a form of meditation to fit everyone, from the deeply spiritual to the chronically busy to the sleep-challenged. Whether you need a checklist to keep you accountable, a community to love and support you, or an endless library of thoughtful sessions, there’s something in meditation that can serve you and improve your life today.
Looking for more meditation tips? Read expert Cyia Batten’s tips for meditating here.