Do you want to transform into a more focused, mindful and responsive individual rather than a reactionary person? Give meditation a shot! There are many different ways to meditate, but the basic components of meditation consist of setting aside time to calm the body and quiet the mind while focusing on an object — a word, mantra, movement or the breath.
Health professionals such as doctors, therapists and counselors often recommend meditation to patients who suffer from chronic stress or anxiety, but the truth is anyone can reap the benefits of meditation to improve their overall physical and mental well-being! According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, evidence suggests that meditation can reduce blood pressure, improve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, weaken flare-ups of ulcerative colitis, ease symptoms of anxiety and depression and treat insomnia.
Yet for many people, meditation sounds like a confusing, abstract practice with no clear directions. Luckily, technology has made it a lot easier for people to begin learning meditation! Here are four apps I personally recommend to those looking to invest in themselves and start their meditation and mindfulness journey.
- Billed at $69.99/year, with a 14-day free trial
- Billed at $12.99/month, with a seven-day free trial
With its huge array of content, adorable animated videos, visual appeal and user-friendly interface, Headspace is certainly one of the most popular meditation apps on the market. Headspace focuses on training your brain to ultimately adopt a mindfulness regimen. In addition to teaching you the basics of meditation, Headspace comes with many different courses dealing with a wide variety of topics, such as finding focus, dealing with distractions, grieving, coping with fear of the future and sparking your creativity. If there’s a mental health issue you’re personally struggling with in your life at the moment, Headspace probably has a video on how to address it. The app also comes with specifically designed SOS meditations for the times you may feel overwhelmed, flustered and panicked. Having trouble with insomnia? Try out one of Headspace’s sleepcasts (stories to help you fall asleep) or soundscapes (3D recordings from canyons, lagoons, forests and more). Want to exercise and move your body? Try out one of Headspace’s movement meditations, feel-good yoga, dance breaks or mindful cardio workouts. The app also comes with a group meditation feature so you can feel like you’re part of a larger group of meditators when you practice.
- Billed at $69.99/year, with a seven-day free trial
- One-time purchase at $399.99
Much like Headspace, Calm offers a multitude of different meditations for different areas of your life, such as stress, work, self-care, focus, emotions, relaxation and more. There’s also a plethora of resources to help you get better sleep, including sleep stories, meditations, music and soundscapes. When you first download Calm, it asks a series of questions to better understand what brings you to the app, whether it be to increase happiness, build self-esteem, improve performance, reduce stress, better sleep, develop gratitude or reduce anxiety. From there, Calm customizes your home page based on what type of content it believes you would like to see. Calm advertises that it uploads new content every week, so there’s always something fresh and new to try out. The app also contains a check-in feature, which acts as a digital journal with different prompts to help you reflect on your feelings and express gratitude throughout the day. Compared to Headspace, Calm appears to be more sophisticated and adult-like due to the app’s overall design and lack of animations, which may appeal to some users.
- Billed at $99.99/year, with a seven-day free trial
Similar to Calm, upon downloading 10% Happier, you are asked a list of questions to gauge what your personal goals are so that the app’s content can be personalized for you. Before unlocking the whole library of content, you have to complete “The Basics” course to build a foundation for mindfulness, which covers how to get started, clearing your mind, finding time, responding rather than reacting and the facing challenges of meditation. The app focuses on how to apply meditation in your day-to-day life. It’s separated into courses, singles, sleep and podcasts. Courses center on different areas of your life such as focus, emotions, performance, relationships and mindful eating. Singles are shorter meditations separate from the courses, but are still useful to do in conjunction as they follow many of the same themes. A unique feature of 10% Happier is that you have the opportunity to ask questions and seek guidance from an experienced meditation coach. The app also places an emphasis on accountability and tracking your meditation habits by displaying the number of days and amount of time you’ve meditated on a calendar.
- Billed at $14.99/month
- Billed at $119.99/year
Created by Sam Harris — a neuroscientist, philosopher, New York Times best-selling author and host of the Making Sense podcast — the Waking Up app’s approach is different from the previous apps mentioned in that it’s specifically geared toward helping you examine the underbelly of your own mind and understand your own consciousness. The basic structure of the app covers theory and practice. The practice side takes the form of daily meditations and additional meditation tracks for when once a day isn’t enough. The theory component takes the form of a 28-day introductory course to understand the theory behind the practice, scientific and philosophical talks regarding the mind and conversations with other teachers and scholars. One cool feature of the app is that it allows you to create and name your own meditation group, which then notifies each individual when it’s time to meditate so you can all do so synchronously.
Ultimately, the goal of meditation is for you to carry the same levels of clarity, focus, freedom and serenity from practice into your waking life. So, what are you waiting for? It’s time to begin your meditation journey and train your mind to be a sharper tool that serves instead of hurts you.