I tried all the best meditation apps so you don’t have to

Meditation is a term constantly being thrown around and marketed as a life-changing practice that helps to bring more peace of mind, but it can be difficult to know where to start. With a plethora of mindfulness apps, it can make choosing something that is supposed to bring you to calm an overwhelming process. I tried some of the highest rated mindfulness apps so you don’t have to, and below are all of them ranked. These were just my favorites but they may not fulfill every person’s needs. Plus with everything mental health related it is okay to move and change routines as it is important to find the best fit for you. All of these apps either have free options or free trials making it easy to find which one best fits your lifestyle.

1. Shine

Shine was created by a Black and half-Japanese woman after she felt left out in the realm of wellness as it is often geared towards the privileged who have the time and money. This app however, strives to make everyone feel at ease, with inclusivity Shining through. I thoroughly enjoyed this app. The design allows for easy access to guided meditations, eliminating the stress of searching. The Shine app comes with daily meditations and three quick meditations for the morning, afternoon and evening. Having the daily meditations made practice easy and entertaining, as every day had a different style. This app feels the most connected to reality as the daily instructors are very focused on current events, creating practices based on the latest news. The meditations draw connections from everything to big events like the BLM movement or more minute affairs like the latest celebrity drama. There was even a daily meditation based on a quote from the then recent Serena Williams interview. Shine also feels connected through its efforts in fostering a community, asking questions of the listeners and responding to its community. There are also optional daily check-ins made to look like a texting app. There is an extensive library of wellness practices that can be searched by keywords or through categories, from courses, daily-check ins, articles, and even sleep stories that retell famous 90s movies to help you drift off into the evening’s repose. The app is available on IOS and Google Play for free, or for $12/month or $54/year with more access to other meditations.

2. Headspace

Headspace, like Shine, also includes daily meditation. Headspace is one of the more well-known meditation apps and even has its own Netflix movie. Aesthetically it was both pleasing to the eye and calming to the mind, as it included a thoughtful design filled with cohesive colors and cartoons. The meditation library is very organized creating easy access to meditations for just about anything your heart desires. Headspace takes a more traditional outlook on meditation but still caters to more specific needs like grief or anxiety around politics. There are also SOS meditations for when you are in the middle of a crisis. The meditations were all very calming and the sleep meditations all felt very gentle which is perfect for both the beginner and the experienced meditator. I found myself returning to the sleep stories and found the visualization to be a very enjoyable sleep strategy which is great for daydreamers who love to create their own realities. Even if I would lose my concentration, its gentle music, sounds and voice provided a good background noise that my mind could always return to when it was ready. The app is available on IOS and Google Play for $13/month or $70/year.

3. My Life

My Life is perfect for people who are indecisive or struggle with knowing how they feel. The app does not utilize the most calming colors and aesthetically pleasing design but by far it has the most simple design. There are check-ins that have you breathe for 10 seconds and then have you choose your top five emotions, allowing you to connect with your needs. Naming emotions is also helpful in defusing some of their power. The app’s algorithm then recommends a few meditations based on your emotions. There are extra options for a male and female voice and duration if you would like to customize your practice further. After you complete the meditation you log your emotions again to see if anything has changed. These check-ins stay in a library which you can look back on. Having your emotions change after the practice even subtly can act as a motivator to continue to show up for yourself. The only downside is that the app feels rather relatively new as the meditation library is not as extensive as the other apps but it still provides a safe atmosphere with all the essentials. The app is available on IOS and Google Play for $10/month or $59/year.

4. Insight Timer

Insight Timer has an extensive library with over 80,000 different meditations and music tracks for free. The whole app is entirely free and has meditations consistently added every day. Insight Timer feels the most traditional and every practice leaves you seeing the world in a different light. There are live meditation sessions almost every hour which look like an Instagram live stream. The apps’ teachers are all very experienced with some big names in the wellness world to less widely known creators. With a paid membership the app gives half of the income to the teachers, allows you offline access to the meditations, and other features such as higher quality sound. There are also options to support these creators through donations. The app does lack some cohesiveness which the other apps provide as there are many instructors with different ways of practicing. Despite the professionalism of the app, the design can feel rather overwhelming at times as there are so many meditations that are not categorized, leaving you to go out searching into the abyss for meditations, which could create an even more stressful experience. Insight Timer’s unlimited library for free does definitely outweigh the cons. The app is available on IOS and Google Play for free, $10/month or $60/year.

5. The Tapping Solution

The Tapping Solution is an app that utilizes Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) or tapping. EFT uses methods from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, acupressure and exposure therapy to help reduce stress and anxiety and manage Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The Tapping Solution feels more akin to a therapy session as it asks you questions about yourself and makes you face your negatives in order to leave more room for positive thinking. This is unlike the other apps which focus more on the positive. The Tapping Solution’s library has a variety of sessions from support for insomnia to support for physical ailments such as arthritis or cancer. Although The Tapping Solution may feel like therapy, it is not as daunting since you are in control of when and how long you do it and what your focus is. I felt foolish tapping at first but it was oddly comforting and was able to keep my attention on the present moment as I was focused on tapping on a specific body part. This app is perfect for people who struggle with concentration during meditation or who just want to try something new. If you are skeptical it doesn’t hurt to get the free trial and try it out for yourself. The app is available on IOS and Google Play for $11/month or $47/year.

6. Calm

This app caters to the trendy person as the app’s design strives at making meditation “cool.” Calm resembles a social media platform and features meditations, music and sleep stories from a star-studded cast from LeBron James, Harry Styles and Sam Smith. The app has music by popular artists and award winning composers. What I enjoyed most about this app were the sleep stories which include childhood stories like the Velveteen Rabbit, myths or even non-fiction stories like Colombia’s Lost City. The app’s colors are very cohesive and provide categories that make finding a practice easy. Despite all the professional big names being instructors on the app, the app did not feel completely professional. For example, I found myself jumping around from sleep story to sleep story either because the instructor was too loud or spoke too fast. The app’s meditations are less structured compared to the sleep stories included on Headspace and Shine and the practices did not always include traditional meditation practices such as breathing or other things to help you relax. The app having instructors who were not professionals in meditation made the app feel more akin to an Audiobook or music app rather than a meditation app. The app is available on IOS and Google Play for $15/month or $70/year.

7. Ten Percent Happier

Ten Percent Happier was made for all those skeptics out there. The app was created by Dan Harris who used to not believe in meditation but found solace in the community and started a podcast, which turned into an app. The app includes world renowned meditation experts and a chat feature where you can ask questions about meditation. Because the app focuses on those who loathe meditation, it concentrates on the benefits of meditation. The videos of the experts telling you of the benefits felt more like those promotional videos that try to convince you to buy a product or program, in this case being a meditator. The app made meditation feel less of spiritual practice but more of a commodity being marketed as insider secrets used by big business CEOs. The app is a good fit for someone who appreciates a more methodical approach to life. The app is available on IOS and Google Play for $15/month or $100/year.

Another Option: Youtube

Youtube doesn’t really count as a meditation app but it does include a wide variety of mindfulness practices completely free of charge if you don’t consider apps “charge.” It can be a bit difficult to use Youtube to be mindful, as you may be on one meditation and then be easily distracted with the countless number of unrelated videos recommended according to your taste. You also have to search up certain practices and sift through the many creators but you may find a hidden gem and find a small creator to support. What I like about Youtube is it allows access to less mainstream mindfulness practices which may not be included in the apps. Here are some things to look up on Youtube for some different mindfulness practices: Pranayama breathing, Qi Gong, Yoga, Loving Kindness Meditation, Guided Journaling, Shamanic Journeying or just find your favorite music to dance to. 

 

By the end of reviewing these apps I actually found myself looking forward to meditating. As a person who has made many short lived attempts at meditating, I know how hard it can be to stick with it. That is why it is so vital to find which style of mindfulness best fits you. It is okay to be uncomfortable at first, but you shouldn’t be dreading your practice. There are many options and styles out there that I didn’t get to mention. Mindfulness can often be glamoured as part of a “perfect life.” If you feel guilty about not following through or missing some days, these apps will always be here for when you are ready to return to them. They may even have more content the next time you open the app up. It takes time to create a habit, just as it takes time to undo one. Mindfulness practice is called a practice for a reason. It is important to be gentle with yourself in your process to find the perfect balance for you.