Contents

8 Of The Best Meditation Apps For Beginners

Did you know that meditation can actually change the way your brain senses pain? Or, that just three 20-minute sessions a week could control your pain? Getting started with meditation is an important practice for pain patients. We’ll look at some of the benefits of meditation later in this post, but first here are our favorite meditation apps for beginners to get you started.

What is meditation?

Meditation is essentially a state of stillness. It’s a state of total awareness and total presence in the now that involves no thinking. Meditation practices, such as focusing on each breath in and then each breath out, are designed to guide us into this thoughtless state.

Other meditation practices include traditional exercise programs such as tai chi, qigong, or yoga. Non-traditional methods to fall into a state of flow might be painting or walking.

An immense variety of guided meditations are available which teach you to visualize yourself in certain locations or with light emanating from various places in the body. Sound meditations might use Tibetan bowls or other healing sounds to help you relax into the moment and forget about the past or future. One of the best ways to get into the practice today is with meditation apps for beginners.

During the day, we may have any number of thoughts running through our heads. “Remember to get milk. Remember to do the laundry. Oh gosh, that person is so annoying. I am so horrible at this task. Ugh, I wish I didn’t feel this way.” Does any of that sound familiar?

Most of life’s stress comes not from the events themselves, but from our thoughts about them. We react to things we don’t like, people who say something that offends us, or worry about horrible things that could happen, but probably won’t. Meditation practices help us unravel those thoughts so we can move through life a little lighter, with a little more pep in our step.

Meditation helps us realize that our power lies in our reaction to circumstances. We can’t control what happens on the outside, but we can control our reactions. This newfound power of presence can dramatically reduce stress, help with pain management, and increase creativity.

Through meditation practices and focusing on the breath or doing a guided meditation, we can begin to separate ourselves from our thoughts, find space between them, even if it’s just a second, and ultimately lengthen the spaces between those thoughts.

Practitioners learn to observe their minds and identify less with their thoughts. Just because you think something doesn’t make it true. For example, if you think you are not beautiful or not loved, that’s false because you’re both.

The best meditation apps for beginners

With free, freemium, and paid options, these are our favorite meditation apps for beginners.

1. Calm

This free app teaches you the “7 steps of calm” and offers seven guided meditations ranging in length from two to 30 minutes. The subscription option offers an additional 50 tracks, each with a different focus (sleep, energy, etc.). Available for iOS and Android phones.

2. Simply Being

Two dollars gets you one of the most popular apps in the iTunes app library. Meditations are designed by practitioners with over 30 years of practice and teaching experience. You can choose meditations from five to 20 minutes, listening with or without music or nature sounds. Also available for iOS and Android.

3. Headspace

This free app starts you off with “Take 10,” a daily series of ten, ten-minute meditations. You can download this meditation app for use offline, which can be helpful when you find yourself in an internet dead zone. Headspace also offers additional meditations for purchase as well as more specialized free meditations for better sleep and more energy.

4. Breathe2Relax

Breathe2Relax starts with the most basic of meditation techniques: breathing. The focus of this meditation app is learning how to breathe to manage stress and anger. Because focusing on the breath is a fundamental part of any type of meditation, this free app is a great place to start.

5. Mindfulness Training App

This iOS-only app features meditations from some of mindfulness meditation’s heavy hitters, including Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). Not only does this app guide you in learning how to practice mindfulness, but it also offers additional talks and conversations about the practice itself. Free.

6. Omvana

Omvana is free for both iOS and Android phones and takes a slightly different tack for meditation. This app helps to focus on specific areas of your life rather than simply guiding you to clear your mind. The library of options is extensive and in-app tools offer you the option of recording your mood to select the right meditation for you.

7. Smiling Mind

Smiling Mind’s slogan (“meditation made easy”) is just the first wonderful thing about this meditation app. Developed specifically for adolescents by a group of mental health professionals, Smiling Mind aims to help young people deal with depression, anxiety, and stress through simple mindfulness meditation practices. A free but invaluable tool for a lifetime of calm.

8. MINDBODY Connect

Less a meditation app and more an app for total-body care, MINDBODY Connect uses your location to help connect you with services from spas to yoga studios. You can book fitness classes and spa services like massage and reiki right through the app. The app is free, but the services are not.

What are the benefits of meditation for pain relief?

Meditation has been around for thousands of years, mostly within a religious or spiritual context, but increasing amounts of research are uncovering tangible benefits for this simple practice.T he idea of meditation helping chronic pain sufferers manage their discomfort and improve quality of life is relatively new, but rapidly gaining speed, especially as the dangers of opioid medications come into greater view.

From reducing stress to managing pain to increasing the ability to be mindful and present in life, meditation’s benefits are numerous.

1. Meditation helps manage chronic pain

Researchers at Harvard and MIT published research that showed how just eight weeks of meditation actually changed the structure of the brain to help relieve stress and pain. Christopher Moore, an MIT neuroscientist and senior author of the paper, says that it is thoughtful control of the alpha waves in the brain that give meditation its power to relieve pain:

“These activity patterns are thought to minimize distractions, to diminish the likelihood stimuli will grab your attention. Our data indicate that meditation training makes you better at focusing, in part by allowing you to better regulate how things that arise will impact you.”

Other research has shown that just three 20-minute sessions of meditation can help control pain. A review of studies on mindfulness meditation by Brown University found that consistent meditation helped patients locate and turn down the “volume knob” on sensations. It can be especially helpful for nerve pain such as that caused by fibromyalgia and diabetic neuropathy.

An article in The Atlantic explored the connection, noting that meditation could give new hope to people for whom no other remedies work, and cited a Forest Wake University study that found a group of meditators experienced a 40% reduction in pain. One theory about why meditation works to reduce pain is that it helps to reduce stress, according to The Atlantic.

However, studies now show that meditation might lead to changes in the brain. Brain sections related to the processing of pain and the regulation of emotions and behavior appear to alter their functioning with meditation, The Atlantic reports.

Those brain changes result in decreased activity in pain processing and increased activity in the others. So a person in pain who meditates could feel less anger or sadness, and be less likely to act out because of those emotions.

2. Meditation reduces stress

Perhaps one of the more commonly known benefits of meditation is stress reduction. Psychiatrist Dr. Elizabeth Hoge tells Harvard Health Publications that meditation is a wonderful antidote to anxiety. She says:

“People with anxiety have a problem dealing with distracting thoughts that have too much power… They can’t distinguish between a problem-solving thought and a worry that has no benefit.”

As an example, Hoge says anxious people might go from worrying about arriving to work late to fears about losing their job and the disaster that will unfold from there. She adds:

“Mindfulness teaches you to recognize, ‘Oh, there’s that thought again. I’ve been here before. But it’s just that—a thought, and not a part of my core self.”

3. Meditation alleviates depression

Psychologists link the idea of ruminating, running the same thought over and over again in the head, to depression. Depressed people tend to think the same, self-critical or negative thought over and over and have a difficult time escaping that negative feedback loop, according to Everyday Health.

Although people with depression often think that this inward focus and attempt at finding a solution will make them feel better, it tends to make them feel worse. Through the practice of meditation, people can learn to quiet those thoughts and move into a more positive mindset.

The key to unlocking meditation’s benefits is consistency. The practice takes time, and making the effort is key. Setting aside even five minutes each day and then perhaps increasing from there as needed can begin to shift your thoughts and help you enjoy all of meditation’s benefits.

4. Meditation enhances creativity

Dutch researchers at Leiden University found even beginning meditators experienced an enhanced ability to develop new ideas. The most effective type of meditation practice in the study was so-called open monitoring meditation, which involves staying aware of all thoughts and sensations that arise without responding to them. The other practice studied was focused attention meditation, which involves focusing on a specific thought—like a mantra—or object.

Enhanced creativity was discovered with divergent thinking, which asked study subjects to list as many uses as possible for an object like a pen. The other type of thinking was called convergent thinking. To study that type, researchers gave participants three unrelated words and asked them to find a common theme.

Meditation for pain relief is an accessible alternative treatment that is completely free of side effects. It requires no special equipment to get started. Download one of our favorite meditation apps for beginners to get started today!

GET FREE EMAIL UPDATES!

Weekly updates on conditions, treatments, and news about everything happening inside pain medicine.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

We will never give away, trade or sell your email address. You can unsubscribe at any time.

12 best mindfulness apps for meditation, keeping calm and help sleeping

Portal – Focus, Sleep, Escape: £3.99 to download, iOS

Do you ever find yourself sitting on the train home after a stressful day at work wishing you were actually in Hawaii listening to the waves crash against the beach? Or curled up next to a log fire in Switzerland? Well, this app can help with that. Portal is a mindfulness app with a difference. Instead of guided meditations, the app transports users around the world, helping them chill out with the assistance of some of nature’s most relaxing sounds.

We loved the concept and found it not only helped with us relax, but also sent us to sleep when the dreaded insomnia kicked in. From summer thunderstorms, to the rustle of palm tree leaves, there’s a sound to suit everyone – plus you can mix Portal’s audio with other apps to add a little extra ambience to your audiobooks or podcasts. There is also a “relax” function, which includes breathing exercises, and a “focus” section, where we found it helpful to write the one thing we wanted to concentrate on, boosting our productivity. We’ve also had a sneak peek of the next update, which includes even more content and dynamic imagery. Our only complaint was that we had to leave the app open and our phone unlocked to use the alarm function – but we’d recommend those looking for something a little different to look past this and give this app a go. You’re bound to feel on top of the world in no time.

Simple Habit: Free to download, optional subscription £38.99/year, iOS/Android

This app offers stress relief for busy people. It was set up by Yunha Kim, who recognised that many of us do not have time (or at least *think* we don’t have time) to squeeze yet another thing onto our to do list. To help combat this, the app offers audio meditations as short as five minutes, with good quality guided meditations that really do help to reduce stress and calm the mind.

The meditations themselves are well paced and offer good guidance. We found there was a little more space towards the end of each recording, which helped us really relax without the need for continual instruction. We were also impressed by the variety on the app. Users are asked to choose topics that interest them when they open it for the first time and there really is something for everyone – from meditations that will help you find your feet after a break up, to post-argument relaxation, stress-free commutes and pre-date mindfulness to help you get into the zone.

The app itself is clean and modern, with a simple feed and easy-to-use interface. Lots of the content is free to use, if you don’t want to pay for the optional subscription, but we also think the price is very reasonable for such a high quality app.

Stop, Breathe & Think: Free download, optional subscription £9.99/month, £54.99/year), iOS/Android

Unlike many other apps on the market, Stop, Breathe & Think asks you to “check in” before meditating. Using a choice of adjectives to describe how you’re feeling, both physically and mentally, we found this was a great way to get into the right mindset after a busy day in the office or on your feet. The app then uses this information to recommend short, guided meditations or yoga, from five-minute “joy” sessions, to longer practices to help you deal with anxiety or to relax, ground and clear your head. You get 30 free activities, with more than 100 others available if you upgrade to premium, including some acupuncture videos.

While the app describes itself as an emotional wellness platform for the under-25s, we found it was equally as effective for all ages and has all the standard features, allowing you to set reminders and track your progress. There’s a separate app for kids, while a handy “how to” guide on meditation is available if you need a little more guidance. Finally, if you want to do your bit while learning how to lead a happier and healthier lifestyle, the company supports Tools for Peace, a non-profit that teaches mindfulness skills to inner-city teens, by sharing 10 per cent of its net revenues.

10% Happier: Free one week trial, then £12.99/month or £87.99/year, iOS/Android

The 10% Happier app bills itself as “mediation for fidgety sceptics”. “Most of the meditation apps out there have a very traditional tone – very soft and gooey and loving,” co-founder Dan Harris told TechCrunch last year. “But we’re much more in the no-b******* category.” Harris, a television news anchor with the self-confessed “attention span of a three-year-old retriever” started meditating after he had a nationally televised panic attack.

For the most part, Harris has achieved what he wanted to; we liked 10% Happier’s relaxed nature, from the simple interface to the short video lessons, which teach users more about mindfulness. The guided meditations are very much “no frills”, which we found incredibly refreshing. As well as being asked how often you’ve meditated before, why you want to meditate (do you want to be happier or is it to reduce stress?) and how you’ve been feeling lately, you can also set reminders to ensure you never miss a session. Pay the subscription and you’ll get more than 500 guided meditations (including sessions such as “tooth brushing” and “in the shower”), as well as a number of packages, from the basics, to programmes centred on performance, relationships or – what everyone needs – how to be 10 per cent nicer. This app is great if you are keen to feel the benefits of mindfulness without wanting it to take over your daily routine – or if you’re a straight-talker who prefers no fuss.

MindU: Free one-week trial, then £58.99/year, iOS

Open MindU and you won’t be given a dropdown menu to describe how you’re feeling. Instead, you’ll be asked to place your finger on your phone’s camera to measure your “energy levels”. Ten seconds later, you’ll be told just how much energy you’ve got, along with how stressed and anxious you are.

We can’t guarantee it’s totally scientific – but it is certainly a unique feature in a crowded market, and we were pleased to see our stress levels went down as we used the app (thought we were slightly skeptical about the 18 per cent increase in energy after just one session). The meditations themselves are set to space-style music, with the beginners’ ones offering a slightly faster pace than we were used to. We found the phrasing repetitive at times and the app is also on the expensive side when compared to others. But overall it offers a good variety – and a quirky gimmick for those looking to start or continue their path to mindfulness.

Insight Timer: Free to download, optional subscription £55.99/year, Android/iOS

Insight Timer is more of a social network for meditators. As well as a world map showing you how many people are meditating at any one time, it allows you to see who is nearby and to invite friends to join in with you. There are also community groups where you are encouraged to join meetups throughout the UK, or discuss anything from poetry to Hinduism.

As for the content, Insight Timer says it’s the world’s most popular meditation timer, with a free library of guided meditations at 30,000 and counting. These range from beginners’ flows, to sessions focused on self-love, better relationships and conquering addictions. The customisable timer feature is perfect for short meditations when on the go and you can even choose whether you want ambient background sounds or ending bells.

This is a great app with lots of content – but it can be daunting for a beginner. We recommend sticking with it, though, if you’re willing to put the time in to find out what really works for you. If you need even more content, premium gets you extra courses, access to The Daily Insight, offline listening and Nightmode for early risers and night owls.

The Mindfulness App: Free one week trial, then £54.99/year, iOS/Android

This app does what it says on the tin. With a free download, not only do you get a five-day introduction to mindfulness, but there is also a range of guided and silent timed sessions to choose from – from a three-minute refresher, to deeper half-hour sessions. There are also daily reminders and statistics, so you can stay focused on your practice and keep up to date with your progress, as well as “Mindful Notices”, which help you stay grounded throughout the day (think: “become aware of the contact your body is making with the ground” popping up on your phone around 11am).

We didn’t get on that well with the standard voice, but we did love the traditional bell sound, which chimed at the beginning and end of each session. We also liked that we could save our favourite sessions to use when we’re offline (for example, on the tube).

Paying for the subscription will get you more than 200 additional guided meditations as well as courses on relationships, your body, sleep and more. Whatever you choose, this app has a really simple interface, so it’s easy to find what you want and save your favourites for next time. Overall, a great download.

Buddhify: £4.99 to download, iOS/£2.99 to download, Android

Buddhify boasts that it is the “only meditation app designed to fit into a busy modern lifestyle”. It’s certainly unique in its design, with a daily wheel divided into segments, from waking up, to going to bed. The colourful disc is designed to help you find relevant mindfulness and meditation exercises depending on the time of day, with plenty of short, spoken sessions for use on the go. We loved the “work break” exercises, which help you relax at the office, while the “travelling” segment was perfect for that dreaded journey into work.

Sessions range from four minutes to around half an hour, and there are also guided exercises if you can’t sleep or if you’re feeling particularly stressed. We liked the idea, but found that many of the other apps also had the variety we needed to fit them into our busy lives. This was also one of the only apps that makes you pay upfront – so if you’d rather try before you buy, then you might want to go for something else.

Reflectly: Free one-week trial, then £41.99/year, iOS/Android

Reflectly describes itself as a journal for happiness. More specifically, it claims it will enable users to “deal with negative thoughts and make positivity louder” as it teaches them about the science of well-being. It does this by asking easy-to-answer questions, enabling better reflection on the ups and downs of each day.

The idea is a good one. There are many people who would benefit from mindfulness but who do not necessarily want to follow guided meditations, or who can’t quite get on board with the over-the-top mantras that some apps on the market promote. This handy journal app allowed us to instead track our thoughts and feelings by asking questions like how our day was, why it was good (for example, because of food or work), and how we felt. Our answers were then saved as “stories”, which made up the wider “journal”. We found that even after a couple of entries, it helped us gain perspective, and also increased our gratitude for some of the little things in life.

At times, however, the app felt a little childish. The language is extremely simple (think “Nice to meet you! What do your friends call you?” and “super awesome”), while we found the options for the questions – some of which are answered via a sliding scale – slightly restrictive. If you’re after something a little different though, this app could be a good starting point for your mindfulness journey.

Smiling Mind: Free to download, iOS/Android

If you’re obsessed with data and don’t want to spend ages scanning through hundreds of programmes to find what you need, then this app is a great choice. From the moment you open Smiling Mind, you start inputting information to ensure you get a customised list of guided meditations. From asking you how much experience you’ve had before, to identifying what you’re interested in – from mindfulness in sport to improving performance and sleep (who isn’t interested in that?) – we liked the customisable element and found it saved time. Like some of the other apps, we also liked being able to check in and out before and after meditations to track our progress.

The guided sessions are easy to follow and offer a good balance between silence and narration (we particularly liked the Australian twang). Our favourite was the “body scan”, which encourages listeners to identify how parts of the body are feeling. It may not be as slick as some of the other apps on the market, but we loved it all the same. Even better, Smiling Mind is completely free, as it was set up by an Australian not-for-profit organisation, which wants to make mindfulness “an accessible tool for all”.

The verdict: Mindfulness apps

If you are looking for the right mindfulness app, it’s reassuring to know that there are plenty of great options out there. Calm was our favourite due to its variety – from the calming bedtime stories, to the easy-to-follow meditations. Headspace was a close runner-up and by the far the best app for beginners. We also loved Portal, which offers us a haven through our headphones, and the sceptical 10% Happier for its refreshing nature, while Stop, Breathe & Think really makes you “check in” with yourself. As most of the apps are free to download, make sure you try before you buy and find one that makes your daily routine easier, not harder.

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

15 Best Meditation and Mindfulness Apps for 2020

Last Updated on December 23, 2019

There might be affiliate links on this page, which means we get a small commission of anything you buy. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases. Please do your own research before making any online purchase.

1K Shares

There is an app out there for everything these days; even for meditation and mindfulness.

There are actually hundreds of these mindful apps available, promising to help users combat their anxiety, get better sleep, increase their focus, manage their weight, and more.

But how do you know which one is right for you, or the difference between the apps that have been designed by professionals in the field as opposed to those who are made up by someone who is new to the practice themselves?

To help you find the best mindfulness and meditation apps for your specific needs, we have compiled a list of our top 15 mindfulness app options, and noted why each app might be the right one for you.

​Sidebar: If you’d to learn more about building the mindfulness habit, I recommend checking out this year-long physical journal that has 365 daily prompts.

1. Aura

This mindfulness app provides the user with daily micro-meditations that last only three minutes apiece. Aura helps users relieve stress and anxiety with a technologically advanced, simple, and effective meditation platform. It was created by some of the best and most sought-after meditation teachers and therapists, and personalized by AI.

Aura allows users the option to keep a gratitude journal, track moods throughout the day, and listen to the sounds of nature. It even makes meditation into a game, as it allows you to level up as you learn and participate in daily challenges. This may be the right app for you if you have limited time throughout the day to practice your meditation.

Users love the simplicity of this app, and its ability to help create a sense of peace and well-being within one’s mind. Some people do not like the fact that you cannot replay meditation clips as many times as you want without purchasing the full app, but overall people have found the free version to be very helpful.

2. Breethe

Breethe is a free app that follows users throughout the day, from the time they wake up to the time they go to sleep. It provides them with supportive tools and guidance to help them stay on track with their meditation practices throughout the day. It offers five-minute meditations, along with tips for overcoming pressure, feeling love, and living with intention and inner peace. It is fully customizable, making it a user-friendly app to help support your practice.

This app includes a new “My Place” feature that puts all the app’s content at the user’s fingertips, allowing the user to set favorites, explore any new or popular features, and get relevant recommendations.

3. Buddhify

With this mindfulness app, meditation sessions are organized by theme according to where you are in your day. It is widely known to be one of the best apps for anxiety, and is personalized depending on what you’re up to, from waking up, commuting or taking a quick break at work to dealing with stress or having trouble falling asleep.

It comes with over 80 custom meditations for you to explore that have been created by experts in the field. Buddhify is great for people in the modern working world who tend to be on the go.

Some users have had this app for over three years and still consider it to be their favorite. The options within the app are high in quality, and the professionals who run the app are great teachers and leaders, constantly continuing to make improvements to the mindfulness app.

4. Calm

This app brings joy, peace, and a sense of clarity to your everyday life. Millions of people agree that this app is great for meditation, mindfulness, and changing your life in a positive way.

Calm provides the relaxing sound of falling rain automatically in the background, but you can also choose to be greeted by a crackling fireplace, crickets, or something called “celestial white noise.” Calm also includes some short meditations that you can use during a busy day. (Side note: If you’re looking for a white noise machine, we have rated the five best ones here.)

Users of this app say it is well worth the money. It gives you the desire to stay consistent with your meditation practice, and allows people to increase their focus during their everyday lives. People have found this app to have amazing results during these tumultuous times.

5. Headspace

Headspace provides the user with spoken-word exercises that are designed to be used for around 10 minutes a day, beginning with a 10-session pack that comes free with the initial download. It includes short meditations for people who are on the go and even SOS meditations that are useful during times of crisis. One of the best things about this app is that you can try it out before buying it. It really teaches users how to incorporate meditation into their own lives so that it works for them.

Headspace brands itself as being a gym membership for the mind. People note that they can feel the hard-to-quantify benefits from Headspace that have to do with their attention span, equanimity, sense of alertness, and the ability to deal with stressors in daily life. One user even claimed that this app cured his anxiety, even after using prescription drugs failed to do so.

The Headspace app has 350 hours of guided meditation lessons that are delivered by Puddicombe. While one can easily research the basics of mindfulness meditation, Puddicombe associates meditation with driving a car. He believes that it is helpful to sit next to someone while you are learning to drive so they can tell you what to do as you go along. Using noise-cancelling headphones with the Headspace app creates an intimate experience that is similar to having someone sitting next to you and directing your moves.

Each session is started with a “checking-in” routine, allowing the user to get settled in and ready to meditate. After taking some deep breaths, the user is then urged to become aware of various physical sensations surrounding them, such as their body weight and the feeling of their chair or clothes touching their skin. Attention is then drawn to the breath, which is counted with each inhalation. Puddicombe believes in savoring the breath and teaching that practice to his students.

6. iMindfulness by Mindfulness-MBSR.com

This app is available in English, Danish, and Norwegian. It is designed to be used by beginners to learn mindfulness meditation, and by professionals who just want to keep their practice relevant.

This meditation and mindfulness app contains three guided meditations, including power pause, breath meditation, and body scan. The app also comes with a timer so you do not need to worry about the amount of time that has passed since you began your meditation. The timer also allows the user to create a regular mindfulness practice routine, with reminders available to practice. Users can keep a record of how long and how often they have practiced their meditation, allowing for people to track their progress.

There are also a variety of in-app purchases to help the user further explore mindfulness. These extras cover specific areas to help support one’s well-being, from being kind to yourself to recognizing your inner strengths. There are also some practices that are designed specifically to help people in times of difficulty and anxiety, and allow people to take a step back to get a new perspective.

7. Insight Timer

The app features over 4,000 guided meditations from over 1,000 teachers, on topics such as self-compassion, nature, and stress, in addition to talks and podcasts. If you prefer a quieter meditation, you can always set a timer and meditate to intermittent bells or calming ambient noise.

This free app has developed into a community that can provide the user with daily meditation, and focuses on the fact that meditation is a privilege, not a product.

Once you became a member of Insight Timer, you are prompted to meditate for as long as you feel is necessary. With no fees or commitments, this is an app that you can use as you wish, whenever you feel like it can benefit you.

8. Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics by Dan Harris (of 10% Happier)

This mindfulness app provides training for people who are skeptical of meditation, and is presented by Dan Harris, a meditation advocate and author of the book 10% Happier. The content is firmly based on neuroscience and omits the spiritual components that are present in many other apps. If you are new to meditation or have never really understood the point of it, this app might be a good fit for you.

Users of this meditation app have noted that they are able to feel calmer and relaxed throughout the day after using it. While many had their reservations before downloading it, they are surprised at the positive results they were able to experience.

People who use this app appreciate that it allows people from any religion or background to begin learning about mindfulness. They note that the program really allows them to get to know themselves better. With an approachable space, Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics takes philosophical ideas and applies them in practical, everyday language, allowing the user to become more aware overall.

9. Mindfulness Daily

This is another mindfulness app that will only take a few minutes of your time each day and provide you with invaluable benefits. The app supports quick, effective guided practices to reduce stress and anxiety, improve performance, and enhance sleep (along with the growing list of other evidence-based benefits of mindfulness, like pain management).

The team behind this app collaborates with some of the world’s most sought-after scientists, physicians, researchers, trainers, and coaches to create their a format that works great on mobile devices. This allows the users to fully integrate the method into their lives in just a few minutes each day.

People who use this app especially love its ability to reduce stress and promote sleep. The extended body scan promotes a sense of relaxation that allows you to set aside your worries from the day and get a good night’s sleep.

10. Omvana

Omvana provides its users with over 500 of the world’s most effective transformational audio tracks to help improve every area of your life. Some of the most popular categories include body, mind, productivity, lifestyle, relationships, and hypnosis. The “6 Phase Meditation” guides you through different practices over the course of 20 minutes, including forgiveness, gratitude, and connection.

You can get started with this mindfulness app for free to see if it is the right one for you. Its versatility is attractive to most users, as well as its ability to provide motivation for the everyday person.

Users say that Omvana is a brilliant idea that allows people to transform the way they meditate in order to make their practice more effective. Some claim that even just the first few sessions are very effective. This app allows the user to create new meditation sequences depending on what works best for them.

11. Sattva

Along with the standard components of pre-loaded guided meditations and chants, timers, and mood trackers, Sattva also allows users to check their heart rates and receive “trophies” for taking on new challenges. Sattva will help you find the best version of you with its inspiring daily meditations.

You can link up with your friends using Sattva so you can meditate with people you already know, or you can join a group of people who you don’t know and try to learn something new. This app even allows you to create events where you can chat with other users and share your experiences.

Competition is a great way to keep people motivated to keep up with a habit or routine. This app allows people to look forward to meditating because it makes it a game where you can interact with your friends while playing. This might be a great app for you if you love social media and like to communicate with people in different ways.

12. Simply Being

Simply Being is a solid, affordable app that features voice-guided meditations as well as relaxing nature sounds. Used by both beginners and professionals, this app allows you to meditate easily with step-by-step guidance. You can decide how much time you want to dedicate to your meditation session, from 5 to 30 minutes, and choose to listen to music, nature sounds, or silence. Simply Being urges users to deeply relax and experience the present moment.

Sattva on iO​​​​S

Sattva on Android

Users love this mindfulness app because it is truly free. Once it is downloaded, you can pick your background sound and the length of your meditation. Even the five-minute meditation is extremely helpful. The voice is calming and forgiving if your mind begins to trail off. The voice even wakes you up after the meditation is over, so you will be re-energized and ready to continue on with your day.

13. Smiling Mind

Smiling Mind’s programs are divided by age, starting at 7-11 years. If you have children who are struggling with their emotions, this app may be a helpful addition to the current methods you and they are using. The company behind this app is 100% not-for-profit. They are seeking to create a positive change in the world for every generation.

Using the proven benefits of mindfulness meditation, this free app incorporates a fun and easy program for both children and adults. It is used by over two million people worldwide, with thousands of those being teachers who use the app during school programs to teach their students.

They have also provided teachers with additional intensive professional development so they can increase their skills and incorporate mindfulness into their classrooms more often.

14. Stop, Breathe, & Think

Stop, Breathe & Think might be the best app for you if you need more structure and motivation to jump start your meditation habit. Using short activities, this app is great for children who are being newly introduced to the concept of meditation and mindfulness, but equally as effective for adults who have been putting off learning about the practice for a long time.

This app can be connected to an Alexa device to allow you to get reminders and help you meditate while you are away from your phone.

15. The Mindfulness App

The Mindfulness App was started by two yoga and mindfulness professionals and enthusiasts who had the goal of sharing the benefits of mindfulness with the general population. They wanted to make the world a friendlier, healthier, and more lovable place to be.

The Mindfulness App is one of the most accessible apps, offering a decent catalog of meditation tracks with and without narrators. These tracks range from 3 to 30 minutes and can be personalized to your individual needs.

If you try an app and it doesn’t seem right for you, don’t be afraid to jump ship and choose another. This is a trial-and-error process that will benefit you in the end when you find the app that works for you. You may even want to download a few apps to have on hand so you can switch up your routine a bit throughout the week. The important thing is that you are able to find a system that works for you so you will stick with it.

Final Thoughts on These Mindfulness and Meditation Apps

Building a mindfulness and/or meditation practice is a great way to reduce stress and anxiety, relax yourself, and live in the present moment. Even if you do it for just a few minutes a day, you’ll find yourself calmer and better equipped to handle the daily challenges of modern living.

To get started, I recommend checking out one or two of the apps that we listed on this page and then use it to build a regular practice.

Next, if you’d like to learn more about mindfulness and meditation, then we have a wide selection of resources on this page. Specifically, here a number of blog posts that you might find interesting:

  • How to Practice Mindfulness (a Step-by-Step Guide)
  • What is the Difference Between Mindfulness vs. Meditation?
  • 71 Mindfulness Exercises to Live in the Present Moment
  • 17 Mindfulness and Meditation Podcasts
  • 20 Top Mindfulness Books
  • 14 Tips to Quiet Your “Monkey Mind”
  • How to Create a Mindfulness Jar (for Children)
  • 7 Ways to Practice Mindful Listening

​​Finally, if you need extra help with building the mindfulness habit, I recommend checking out this year-long physical journal that has 365 daily prompts.

Found this mindfulness apps roundup helpful?

Be kind and share it with on social media!

1K Shares

12 of the Best Free Guided Meditation Sites in 2018

A free guided meditation track a day, keeps the doctor away.

You’ve no doubt heard about some of the potential health benefits associated with meditation:

Reduced stress, better decision making, decreased blood pressure, improved mindfulness – it’s almost become an essential part of living a healthy lifestyle.

But why is forming the habit of sitting still for 10-20 minutes a day way easier said than done?

Like many of you out there, I’ve wrestled with meditation for many few years. Sometimes I go through phases where I’m on point, practising daily. Everything’s good, and I almost feel like a Jedi knight.

Other times, I struggle to be consistent, and whenever I do make the time to sit quietly, I just wanna be somewhere else.

Recently, in an attempt get myself back on track and make the pesky meditation habit stick again, I started playing around with guided meditation. Since starting, I’ve been on a roll, meditating daily without many hiccups.

It’s partly due to the massive amount of awesome free guided meditation resources I’ve stumbled across whilst delving through the depths of the internet. Today I thought I’d share my favourites, so you don’t have to search far and wide like I did.

Ready to get mindful? Let’s do it!

Before you scroll down, give this short 5 minute guided meditation a go!

The Best Free Guided Meditation Sites

Get those chakras aligned.

1. Do Yoga With Me

Do Yoga With Me is one of my all-time favourite sites.

I’ve used it for quite a few years now, mainly for their collection of free yoga class videos (hip flexor heaven is a personal favourite).

Along with yoga vids (check out some my favourite stretching routines here), they also have a great library of guided meditation tracks too. There’s a wide range of styles and high quality recordings for you to dive into. Namaste.

2. The Free Mindfulness Project

Again, many different types of mindfulness meditation by various teachers. All tracks are free to download and distribute non-commercially, which is really cool.

One slight downfall is that it doesn’t seem to be possible to listen to the meditation tracks online – you have to download them. It just makes previewing the audio slightly more difficult, but it’s really not a big deal.

It’s still a solid resource.

Don’t forget your free report: Stay mindful on the move – to get access to our free guide to Ten of the Best Meditation Apps (That you Probably Haven’t Heard of)

3. Chopra Centred Lifestyle

The Chopra centre is the brainchild of Deepak Chopra and David Simon, two MDs with the goal of improving the health and wellbeing of body, mind and spirit.

Amongst other things, the site hosts a wide range of meditation styles with high quality audio.

The dude who guides you through the meditation script has a deep, gravelly voice that I really wasn’t expecting at first, but you get used to it after a while…

4. UCLA Meditation

  • Number of tracks: 8
  • Meditation styles: Loving kindness, mindfulness, sleep.
  • Length: 3 – 12 mins.
  • Download: Yes, free.

Simple and clear.

Most meditations tracks are pretty short, but that’s ideal for beginners who are just getting into forming the meditation habit.

A side note:

It’s really cool to see universities recognising the benefits of meditation and mindfulness! Definitely a step in the right direction

5. Fragrant Heart

Fragrant Heart is one of my favourite free guided meditation sites, partly because of its cool name, but mainly because of the quality of the guided meditations. The tracks are separated into clear categories, with lots of different styles. Each meditation is available with or without background music too, which is a nice touch.

Some tracks are as short as a minute, which is great for beginners, and they also provide a free guided meditation course too.

(You might want to check out my interview with Elisabeth Blaikie, the founder of the site.)

6. Tara Brach

Tara has a massive library of at least a hundred guided meditation tracks to keep you going, various styles, with a new one added each week.

The site is really user-friendly, and the tracks are all good quality too. No music, just a calming voice guiding you through.

Nice and simple.

7. Meditation Oasis

One of the most popular meditation podcast on iTunes right now.

It’s not updated all that regularly, but there’s still plenty of episodes in the catalogue to work your way through.

Again, there’s a wide variety of meditation styles available. The ‘healthy body’ meditation is a good one to work up to.

8. The Meditation Podcast

  • Number of tracks: 28
  • Meditation styles: Mindfulness, relaxation, healing, grief, sleep.
  • Length: 8 to 25 min (average 20 mins)
  • Download: Yes, free

Another great podcast with lots of different meditation styles to choose from, and all are free to download.

Headphones are recommended when listening, because the tracks are layered over binaural beats, which affect your brainwaves and make you extra mindful.

Groovy.

9. Audio Dharma

  • Number of tracks: 40
  • Meditation styles: Mindfulness, relaxation, loving kindness, body scan.
  • Length: 5 to 50 min (average 20 mins)
  • Download: Yes, free

Audio Dharma is a massive resource, with around forty free guided meditations available from a variety of teachers, as well as a shed load of interesting talks and videos on mindfulness.

They also have a pretty good podcast, if you’re a fan of listening on the move.

Well worth checking out if you really want to dig into many different meditation styles, and take your mindfulness game to the next level.

10. Calm

  • Number of tracks: 5
  • Meditation styles: Mindfulness, calming.
  • Length: 5 to 20 min
  • Download: Yes (on mobile)

Calm.com is a bit different to the rest of the sites I’ve mentioned.

You can either choose the simple guided meditations (which range from 2 to 20 mins) or go solo and use the meditation timer. You also get to select your background noise from a range of natural environments.

Calm is available online, or as an app for your iPhone or Android device.

11. Headspace

  • Number of tracks: 10 (100s in paid version)
  • Meditation styles: Mindfulness, relaxation, loving kindness, body scan, stress, anxiety, productivity, healing.
  • Length: 10 min (10 – 60 minutes in paid version)
  • Download: Yes

Developed by former buddhist monk Andy Puddicombe, and his business partner Rich Pierson, Headspace is the meditation app and website taking the mindfulness world by storm.

The ten day ‘Take Ten’ series is free to try out, but after that it’s a yearly subscription fee.

It’s definitely one of my favourite apps, and I can’t recommend it enough. I actually upgraded to the paid version, and I now use that every morning.

12. Dharma Seed

  • Number of tracks: 1000s
  • Meditation styles: Everything.
  • Length: 5 to 120 min
  • Download: Yes, free

I stumbled upon Dharma Seed after a comment from a reader a while back (thanks Gil).

It’s an incredible resource, with literally thousands free guided meditation tracks and talks from teachers from all around the world.

I’ve not delved too deep into the library yet, but from what I’ve heard so far, it’s a great site with a shed load of useful content.

First, Get Your Free Mobile Guided Meditation Report: If you’re a mobile phone user and you wanna stay mindful on the move, click here to download our free guide to Ten of the Best Meditation Apps (That you Probably Haven’t Heard of). All you need to do is sign up to The Hero Academy to get access to this and loads of other free resources. Join here.

What are some of your favourite free guided meditation sites? Any you would add to the list?

Let me know in the comments section below!

JOIN THE MOVEMENT

AT THE HERO ACADEMY

Resources to help you eat, move & live better. Healthy eating plans, strength and mobility workouts, habit changing guides, giveaways and much more.

The Best Meditation for Beginners

If you are interested in the best meditation for beginners, then you probably want to know ‘How to Meditate’.

But I first need to tell you that there are many different ways to meditate.

But don’t worry, it’s all very simple and will be clear by the end of this page.

I will give brief explanations about the different meditation techniques, with free meditations you can try, and links to more specific information.

To get yourself on the right track, you need to start by clarifying, “Why do you want to meditate?”

The most common answers for meditation beginners are;

  • I want to relax
  • I want to beat the negative effects of stress
  • I want to find peace in my mind – because it’s really busy in there!

Now if you fit into one of those categories, there is little point trying to sit motionless for hours, without conscious thought, in search of the doors to Nirvana and eternal enlightenment.

You don’t need to tie-dye all your clothes, buy a Kombi van and eat mung-beans!

I imaging your life is already pretty busy, with pressure from the responsibilities of work and family, and you are looking for a simple way, in which you can introduce meditation into your life, to see what benefits meditation can do for you.

Meditation Classes

I’m a big fan of beginners joining a regular meditation class. It’s a great way to join like-minded individuals in a safe and supportive environment. Look in local newspapers, notice boards, or walk into a hippy crystal shop and ask.

The best thing for meditation beginners is that by joining a weekly class you are making a commitment to yourself, in an environment in which you can grow.

With a good instructor, you will be introduced to meditation theory and practice at a pace to suit your abilities. If you have a question – you can ask. And if you have never meditated in a group, you mightn’t quite understand, but there really is a wonderful ‘group energy’ that consumes you, and supports you to float blissfully on a cloud of peace.

But if your life is already busy, busy, busy, and adding another event to your already hectic social schedule would make your week more stressed – not less, then it is not the meditation solution for you.

There is no point rushing across town to your meditation class, squeezing in as much relaxation as humanly possible into shortest possible time, and then rushing home to continue with your chaos filled existence.

Meditation should not become another chore – and you shouldn’t have to beat yourself up over missing a class, or not having the time or money to go to a retreat.

And for these reasons, the next meditation technique I would like to suggest is Guided Meditation.

Guided Meditation for Beginners

Guided meditation is the best meditation for beginners as you just need to follow the instructions! The guide talks you through every step of the journey.

You can play a guided meditation from your computer, CD player, MP3 player, iPod or phone.

There are many free guided meditations you can listen to on Explore Meditation, but to download them to your computer you will need to buy a meditation package.

Guided Meditations usually start with an introduction explaining what the meditation is about, before giving you some time to make yourself comfortable. The guide usually draws your attention to your breath, systematically relaxes the muscles of your body – and then when you are in this relaxed state, takes you on a journey in your imagination.

“Imagine you are walking along a rainforest path… The sunlight is flickering through the leaves… The birds are singing praise to the blue sky above…”

Listening to a short guided meditation gives you an amazing escape from your day.

You return with a mindset that gives you greater perspective on any problems or concerns you are facing. You feel refreshed and revitalized…

Start your journey here with one of Brad Austens’ Free Guided Meditations.

Free Relaxation Meditation for Beginners

Please click play to listen to this free relaxation meditation.

Please share your experience in the comments selection below.

Thank You! I resonate with your thinking and thoroughly enjoy these emails that arrive in my inbox. Many thanks and much love.

– Michelle

The benefits of meditation are many – and the bonus with Guided Meditation is that you can use them at any time you feel the need or have the desire. It gives you the ability to fit regular meditation practice into your busy schedule without it being a burden.

Advanced Guided Meditations

As you gain confidence you can move beyond the “breathe and relax” style meditations into more advanced titles, such as; creating White Light Protection or Meeting your Spirit Guide.

Advanced meditations are a natural and easy progression if you have experienced and enjoyed beginner meditations.

Indian Yogis and Tibetan Buddhists can spend a lifetime training to sit in silence…

But for the rest of us who have to schedule relaxation into our busy lives, Guided Meditation is the Best Meditation for Beginners, and is a great introduction to the many benefits that meditation provides.

  • Reduced stress
  • Clarity of mind
  • Connection to your true-self

Other Meditation Techniques

Guided meditation is just one technique at your disposal. If you enjoy it, you can then broaden your horizons by exploring the variety of Traditional Meditation Techniques available for you to practice.

These different techniques have arisen in different parts of the world throughout history, but most have similar goals in mind…

To become more relaxed – and to become more aware.

To learn more about Buddhist Meditation, Zen Meditation, Transcendental Meditation, Taoist Meditation, Vipassana Meditation, and the relatively recent addition (1970’s) taking advantage of developing technology Binaural Beats, please click Meditation Techniques.


Listen to Guided Meditations for Relaxation and Spiritual Growth. Explore your interests from this meditation menu.


to your computer. Burn them to CD or transfer them to iPod, Tablet, Phone or MP3 player.

Explore Meditation aims to provide you with the best quality information and resources to assist you to be the best person that you can be.

I have a confession to make. I’ve been trying (with varying levels of success, depending on my mood) to develop a meditation practice for the past several years. For the uninitiated, meditation can seem like it comes so easy to those who do it regularly, and yet for us normal people it’s almost like magic (i.e. it seems really cool but also impossible). I have a group I meet with once a week (in theory…I often make excuses to not go because my life is just “SO BUSY”), but finding the time for a home practice is especially daunting. There are Book Riot articles to write, cats to pet, impending deadlines to fret over and do nothing about…the list of other things to do endless, rather than turning off one’s mind completely.

So, with all of this in mind, it is for entirely selfish reasons that I have chosen to compile this list of mindfulness and meditation books for beginners. And yet! I know I’m not alone out there. I know there are several of you reading this who also want to find easy, practical ways to work meditation and mindfulness into your everyday routines. We all have our varying reasons for needing meditation in our lives, so I have tried to include books below that address myriad approaches to meditation and mindfulness.

From the spiritual to the practical to the scientific, one of these meditation books will work for you.

The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation by thich nhat hanh

The Miracle of Mindfulness shows up on a lot of lists for meditation books, and for good reason. In this book, Thich Nhat Hanh offers practical suggestions and accessible anecdotes to help anyone learn to practice mindfulness. With a healthy mixture of spirituality and practicality, this book offers practices for every part of your life, from eating a tangerine to washing the dishes.

how to meditate: a practical guide by kathleen macdonald

You don’t get more straightforward than a book entitled How to Meditate, and this book is pretty straightforward. Author Kathleen MacDonald is a Western Buddhist nun with plenty of experience teaching and practicing meditation, and in this book she offers an easy and approachable guide to meditation. How should you sit? What should you think about? MacDonald has the answers to all of your burning meditation questions.

the myth of freedom and the way of meditation by Chögyam Trungpa

Author Chögyam Trungpa is a meditation master, teacher, and an artist. For those interested in the more spiritual side of meditation, Trungpa explores Buddhist philosophy and the ways in which our daily routines and preconceptions can chain us to unhealthy repetitive patterns. The concept of spiritual materialism might at first seem a bit advanced for a newbie meditator, but Trungpa’s approach is clear and approachable.

the mindfulness workbook for addiction by rebecca e. williams

If you’re turning to meditation to deal with grief, anger, stress, or addictive behavior, this workbook is here to help. Stop postponing your healing by numbing the pain with drugs and alcohol. Stop using life to distract yourself from what’s truly bothering you. Author Williams is a clinical psychologist specializing in addiction and recovery from mental illness, so she is coming at mindfulness and meditation from a less spiritual and more psychological perspective.

how to meditate: A Practical guide to making friends with your mind by pema chödrön

Chödrön is the author of a few popular books about meditation, including When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times. I would recommend any of them, but I specifically chose How to Meditate (the second book on the list with this title) for this list because it’s a great one for beginners. In this comprehensive guide, Chödrön breaks down the practice of meditation into easy-to-follow steps so that you can develop your own longterm practice.

mindfulness in plain english by Henepola Gunaratana

This book is exactly what the title says it is, an simple guide to mindfulness in plain easy-to-understand English. Gunaratana is a Sri Lankan Theravada Buddhist monk who has done missionary work in India, so his approach is highly spiritual in a friendly and approachable way.

meditation for beginners by jack kornfield

Meditation for Beginners is a quick (like, under 100 pages) and dirty guide to meditation so that you can get started on your practice right away. This book comes with a CD of guided meditations, and as a beginner, I have to say guided meditations are so helpful for keeping focus and really dedicating yourself to the full practice without any interruptions.

search inside yourself by chade-meng tan

The cover of this book is reminiscent of Google’s lettering, which gives you an idea of the type of reader author Chade-Meng Tan is attempting to reach with this guide to meditation. Tan actually works with Google as one of the company’s earliest engineers, and he has also worked to spread mindfulness as an important practice for other Google employees in the workplace and beyond. Now readers can gain the same mindfulness techniques as those at Google. So if you’re looking to build a practice perfect for a busy person in the technological age, this book is for you.

Why Can’t I meditate? by nigel Wellings

So you’ve tried to start a meditation practice before and you’ve been underwhelmed or even frustrated by the results. In this book, Wellings explores the reasons why a successful meditation practice can be so hard to maintain in the modern age. This book directly addresses all of the roadblocks standing between you and developing/maintaining a successful meditation practice.

8 minute meditation by victor davich

A lot of these books encourage you to develop a practice that involves committing to 20-ish minutes a day. Not so with Davich’s 8 Minute Meditation, which, you guessed it, suggests you can gain a lot from meditating from just 8 minutes a day. I don’t know about you, but that sounds a lot more doable to me. The book includes clear step-by-step instructions to setting aside 8 minutes per day to clear your mind and destress. This could be a good first step before tackling more ambitious guides.

meditation now: A beginner’s guide by elizabeth reninger

If short meditations are your thing, Reninger’s Meditation Now is full of 10 minute meditations for beginners. These meditations cover ways to practice mindfulness in all sorts of situations from traffic jams to presentations. In addition to this, the guide includes 3 focused 28-day meditations plans, guidelines for overcoming typical roadblocks in your practice, and much more.

turning the mind into an ally by sakyong mipham

Sakyong Mipham has made a career out of presenting Buddhist principles in a way that Western audiences can easily understand. This introduction to meditation is a clear example of Mipham’s ability to infuse Eastern ideals with Western sensibilities. The author’s explanations of every aspect of meditation are detailed and yet never overwhelming.

zen mind, beginner’s mind by Shunryu Suzuki

This book is full of little vignettes about Zen meditation and practice. Suzuki was a Sōtō Zen monk and teacher who helped popularize Zen Buddhism in the United States, so hearing about Zen Buddhism in his own words through his personal stories and words of advice is enlightening.

Real Happiness: The Power of meditation by Sharon Salzberg

Salzberg’s book is a practical 28-day program to developing a meditation and mindfulness practice. This book’s approach does not focus on the spiritualism of meditation but rather looks at meditation as an exercise. Salzberg covers the basics of posture, breath, scheduling, blocking out distractions, and so on. Furthermore, this book gets into the details of not only how to meditate but also the scientific and practical reasons behind why meditation works.

finding the still point: A Beginner’s guide to zen meditation by John Daido Loori

Here’s another beginner’s guide that comes with a guided meditation CD. In this book, Loori covers the basics of meditation from where to sit and how to posture the body to the whats and whys of Zen meditation practice. The included CD has guided meditations lasting from 10 to 30 minutes and a brief talk by the author about the benefits of meditation.

10% Happier by dan harris

This book is Dan Harris’s personal journey to discovering meditation and mindfulness. Nightline anchor Dan Harris had a televised panic attack, and that’s when he realized he had to make major changes to his lifestyle. This book is perfect for meditation skeptics, as Harris was once skeptical himself, thinking that meditation was either useless or impossible, if not both. In a tone both humorous and informative, Harris chronicles his development of his meditation practice and covers the scientifically-backed benefits of meditation that even the most skeptical skeptic cannot deny.

wherever you go, there you are by jon Kabat-Zinn

Jon Kabat-Zin is internationally known for his work as a scientist, writer, and meditation teacher, and in this book, his goal is to bring meditation as a practice to mainstream Western society. This book covers the ideals of mindfulness without getting to deep into the spiritual side of things that might turn some Western readers off. If you’re looking for something that’s less of a step-by-step practical guide to meditation and more of an examination of the principles behind mindfulness, get this book.

open heart, Open mind by Tsoknyi Rinpoche

Rinpoche is a Tibetan Buddhist meditation master, and in this novel, the author examines typical problems people run into with their meditation practice and how to overcome them. This book isn’t just a how-to, though. In this book, Rinpoche recounts his own spiritual journey as he renounced his monastic vows to get married and start a family of his own. Balancing the needs of the heart and one’s spiritual needs is central to the author’s journey, and there’s a lot to learn from the ways Rinpoche finds to bridge the gap between the modern world and the ancient Tibetan Buddhist teachings.

a fIErce heart by spring washam

More hearts! In A Fierce Heart, Spring Washam includes personal stories, stories from her family/ancestors, and anecdotes from people around the world to express the teachings of the Dharma to the widest audience possible. This book is a nice mixture of stories and practical advice, both with the intention of leading the reader towards mindfulness, wisdom, loving kindness, and compassion.

the heart of the revolution by Noah Levine

One more book with “heart” in the title. Noah Levine is writing about meditation and mindfulness for young, cool, punk rock readers (clearly I’m not punk rock enough, because someone who was truly punk rock would never describe themselves in this way). This book is very much rooted in the teachings of Buddha, but Levine writes about Buddhism in a way that will interest even those who are the most disinterested in any form of organized religion.

practical meditation for beginners by benjamin w. decker

Are you more of a Zen meditator or a Vipassana meditator? Did you even know there was a difference, because I’m not sure I did before I picked up this book? Every person’s meditation practice is different, and so of course there’s more than one way to meditate. In this book, Decker covers 10 different methods of meditating to help kickstart a 10-day meditation practice. This book encourages journaling your experiences as you work through the meditations, and it includes daily prompts to record your insights on your own meditation practice.

These are the 21 meditation books I would start with when beginning your meditation practice, but if 21 books aren’t enough for you, there’s more where that came from. Check out these Book Riot articles: 9 Books for Those Looking to Master Mindfulness and Perhaps Ascend to a Higher Plane and Books for Building a Mindful Habit.

Namaste.

Sign up to receive Check Your Shelf, the Librarian’s One-Stop Shop For News, Book Lists, And More. By signing up you agree to our Terms of Service

What is mindfulness?

Getting Started with Mindfulness

You have questions about mindfulness and meditation.
Mindful has the answers.

Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.

While mindfulness is something we all naturally possess, it’s more readily available to us when we practice on a daily basis.

Whenever you bring awareness to what you’re directly experiencing via your senses, or to your state of mind via your thoughts and emotions, you’re being mindful. And there’s growing research showing that when you train your brain to be mindful, you’re actually remodeling the physical structure of your brain.

The goal of mindfulness is to wake up to the inner workings of our mental, emotional, and physical processes.

Meditation is exploring. It’s not a fixed destination. Your head doesn’t become vacuumed free of thought, utterly undistracted. It’s a special place where each and every moment is momentous. When we meditate we venture into the workings of our minds: our sensations (air blowing on our skin or a harsh smell wafting into the room), our emotions (love this, hate that, crave this, loathe that) and thoughts (wouldn’t it be weird to see an elephant playing a trumpet).

Mindfulness meditation asks us to suspend judgment and unleash our natural curiosity about the workings of the mind, approaching our experience with warmth and kindness, to ourselves and others.

How do I practice mindfulness and meditation?

Mindfulness is available to us in every moment, whether through meditations and body scans, or mindful moment practices like taking time to pause and breathe when the phone rings instead of rushing to answer it.

VIDEO: “YOU ARE NOT YOUR THOUGHTS”

Jon Kabat-Zinn, creator of the research-backed stress-reduction program Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), explains how mindfulness lights up parts of our brains that aren’t normally activated when we’re mindlessly running on autopilot.

“Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally,” says Kabat-Zinn. “And then I sometimes add, in the service of self-understanding and wisdom.”

The Remarkable Brains of Long-Term Meditators

Researchers suggest that people with an advanced meditation practice might operate at a different level of awareness — and it shows in their brainwaves. Read More

  • Nicole Bayes-Fleming
  • September 14, 2018

How Meditation Protects the Aging Brain from Decline

A string of recent research suggests regular meditation practice may boost mental flexibility and focus, offering powerful protection against cognitive decline. Read More

  • B Grace Bullock PhD
  • August 3, 2017

The Basics of Mindfulness Practice

Mindfulness helps us put some space between ourselves and our reactions, breaking down our conditioned responses. Here’s how to tune into mindfulness throughout the day:

  1. Set aside some time. You don’t need a meditation cushion or bench, or any sort of special equipment to access your mindfulness skills—but you do need to set aside some time and space.
  2. Observe the present moment as it is. The aim of mindfulness is not quieting the mind, or attempting to achieve a state of eternal calm. The goal is simple: we’re aiming to pay attention to the present moment, without judgment. Easier said than done, we know.
  3. Let your judgments roll by. When we notice judgments arise during our practice, we can make a mental note of them, and let them pass.
  4. Return to observing the present moment as it is. Our minds often get carried away in thought. That’s why mindfulness is the practice of returning, again and again, to the present moment.
  5. Be kind to your wandering mind. Don’t judge yourself for whatever thoughts crop up, just practice recognizing when your mind has wandered off, and gently bring it back.

That’s the practice. It’s often been said that it’s very simple, but it’s not necessarily easy. The work is to just keep doing it. Results will accrue.

How to Meditate

This meditation focuses on the breath, not because there is anything special about it, but because the physical sensation of breathing is always there and you can use it as an anchor to the present moment. Throughout the practice you may find yourself caught up in thoughts, emotions, sounds—wherever your mind goes, simply come back again to the next breath. Even if you only come back once, that’s okay.

A Simple Meditation Practice

  1. Sit comfortably. Find a spot that gives you a stable, solid, comfortable seat.
  2. Notice what your legs are doing. If on a cushion, cross your legs comfortably in front of you. If on a chair, rest the bottoms of your feet on the floor.
  3. Straighten your upper body—but don’t stiffen. Your spine has natural curvature. Let it be there.
  4. Notice what your arms are doing. Situate your upper arms parallel to your upper body. Rest the palms of your hands on your legs wherever it feels most natural.
  5. Soften your gaze. Drop your chin a little and let your gaze fall gently downward. It’s not necessary to close your eyes. You can simply let what appears before your eyes be there without focusing on it.
  6. Feel your breath. Bring your attention to the physical sensation of breathing: the air moving through your nose or mouth, the rising and falling of your belly, or your chest.
  7. Notice when your mind wanders from your breath. Inevitably, your attention will leave the breath and wander to other places. Don’t worry. There’s no need to block or eliminate thinking. When you notice your mind wandering gently return your attention to the breath.
  8. Be kind about your wandering mind. You may find your mind wandering constantly—that’s normal, too. Instead of wrestling with your thoughts, practice observing them without reacting. Just sit and pay attention. As hard as it is to maintain, that’s all there is. Come back to your breath over and over again, without judgment or expectation.
  9. When you’re ready, gently lift your gaze (if your eyes are closed, open them). Take a moment and notice any sounds in the environment. Notice how your body feels right now. Notice your thoughts and emotions.

A 3-Part Focussed Attention Meditation Series

Explore this guided meditation series from editor-in-chief Barry Boyce to gently work with your wandering mind. Read More

  • Editor-in-Chief Barry Boyce
  • June 11, 2019

Mindful Practices for Every Day

As you spend time practicing mindfulness, you’ll probably find yourself feeling kinder, calmer, and more patient. These shifts in your experience are likely to generate changes in other parts of your life as well.

Mindfulness can help you become more playful, maximize your enjoyment of a long conversation with a friend over a cup of tea, then wind down for a relaxing night’s sleep. Try these 4 practices this week:

1. A Simple Breathing Meditation for Beginners

5-Minute Breathing Meditation

  • 5:00

This practice can help reduce stress, anxiety, and negative emotions, cool yourself down when your temper flares, and sharpen your concentration skills.

2. A Body Scan to Cultivate Mindfulness

3-Minute Body Scan Meditation

  • 3:00

A brief mindfulness meditation practice to relax your body and focus your mind.

3. A Simple Awareness of Breath Practice

An 11-Minute Awareness of Breath Meditation

  • 11:00

One of the oldest meditation practices is also one of the simplest: Sit, and know you’re sitting.

4. A Compassion Meditation

Breathing Compassion In and Out

  • 20:00

A loving-kindness meditation to reduce negative emotions like anxiety and depression and increase positive emotions like happiness and joy.

5. A Guided Meditation for Easing into Sleep

A Guided Meditation for Sleep

  • 20:00

A 20-minute bedtime practice to help you stay settled and less caught up in your thoughts, as you fall asleep.

6. A Meditation Practice for Anxiety

A 30-Minute Meditation for Working with Anxiety

  • 30:00

This meditation combines breath awareness, the body scan, and mindfulness of thoughts to explore sources of stress and anxiety.

7. A Loving-Kindness Meditation for Deep Connection

Loving-Kindness Heartscape Meditation

  • 47:00

Jon Kabat-Zinn leads this heartscape meditation for deep healing of ourselves and others.

Common mindfulness questions

1. Is there a wrong way to meditate? A right way to meditate?

People think they’re messing up when they’re meditating because of how busy the mind is. But getting lost in thought, noticing it, and returning to your chosen meditation object— breath, sound, body sensation, or something else—is how it’s done. That’s about it. If you’re doing that, you’re doing it right!

2. Are there more formal ways to take up mindfulness practice?

Mindfulness can be practiced solo, anytime, or with like-minded friends. But there are others ways, and many resources, to tap into. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy, and other mindfulness-based trainings are available across North America. We’ve organized a list of centers here.

Daily guided meditations are also available by smartphone app, or you can practice in person at a meditation center. Read more about the types of programs currently available.

3. Do I have to practice every day?

No, but being that it’s a beneficial practice, you may well find that the more you do it, the more you’ll find it beneficial to your life. Read Jack Kornfield’s guidelines for developing a daily practice here.
4. How do I find a meditation instructor?

If you want to make mindfulness a part of your life, you’ll probably want to consider working with a meditation teacher or instructor. You can even do that online using a video chat format of some kind, but even then the same principles apply. Here are 4 questions to consider when looking for a meditation teacher: 1) Do you have good chemistry with them? 2) Are they open and accessible? 3) Do they have a deep understanding of the practice? 4) Could they regard you like a friend?

5. How do yoga and mindfulness work together?

There are a number of yoga poses that will help you with your mindfulness meditation practice. Here are 10 simple yoga exercises to reduce stress, improve well-being, and get you primed for a sitting meditation session—or anytime.

What are the benefits of meditation?

Of course, when we meditate it doesn’t help to fixate on the benefits, but rather just to do the practice. That being said, there are plenty of benefits. Here are five reasons to practice mindfulness.

  • Understand your pain. Pain is a fact of life, but it doesn’t have to rule you. Mindfulness can help you reshape your relationship with mental and physical pain.
  • Connect better. Ever find yourself staring blankly at a friend, lover, child, and you’ve no idea what they’re saying? Mindfulness helps you give them your full attention.
  • Lower stress. There’s lots of evidence these days that excess stress causes lots of illnesses and makes other illnesses worse. Mindfulness decreases stress.
  • Focus your mind. It can be frustrating to have our mind stray off what we’re doing and be pulled in six directions. Meditation hones our innate ability to focus.
  • Reduce brain chatter.The nattering, chattering voice in our head seems never to leave us alone. Isn’t it time we gave it a little break?

Your Breath is Your Brain’s Remote Control

A new study has found evidence to show that there is actually a direct link between nasal breathing and our cognitive functions. Read More

  • Crystal Goh
  • February 16, 2017

How to Fight Stress with Intentional Breathing

This simple yet effective form of deep breathing defuses the stress feedback loop and teaches your brain and body to relax. Read More

  • B Grace Bullock PhD
  • February 6, 2017

How Your Breath Controls Your Mood and Attention

New research explores the relationship between the pace and intentionality of your breathing, and the brain networks involved in mood, attention, and body awareness. Read More

  • B Grace Bullock PhD
  • September 5, 2019

More Audio Mindfulness practices

A Basic Meditation to Tame Your Inner Critic

  • 12:00

An in-the-moment exercise for confronting the nagging voice in your head.

A 5-minute Gratitude Practice: Savor Through the Senses

  • 5:00

A mindfulness practice for cultivating life’s small delights as you move through the senses.

A Mindfulness Practice for Preschoolers

  • 4:00

A practice for teaching preschool children the basics of mindfulness by drawing on the elements of nature.

A Mindfulness Practice for Kids: Coming Back to the Positive

  • 8:00

A simple practice to help kids take some time to notice what has gone well and see what happens next.

A Mindfulness Practice for Teens and Tweens

  • 8:00

A simple meditation, appropriate for older kids, that uses counting breaths to cultivate mindful awareness, decrease mind wandering and negative thought loops, and improve mood.

Video: mindful movement practice

Mindful movement can help you tap into that space beyond your busy mind where you are already calm and clear. By focusing on the breath while doing some simple movements you can synchronize your mind and body with breath and rhythm. What happens when you do that, even after just a few minutes, is you begin to pause and start to focus.

Why Practice Mindfulness?

Some of the most popular ideas about mindfulness are just plain wrong. When you begin to practice it, you may find the experience quite different than what you expected. There’s a good chance you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Mindful’s editor-in-chief, Barry Boyce sets the record straight regarding these 5 things people get wrong about mindfulness:

  1. Mindfulness isn’t about “fixing” you
  2. Mindfulness is not about stopping your thoughts
  3. Mindfulness does not belong to a religion
  4. Mindfulness is not an escape from reality
  5. Mindfulness is not a panacea

Mindfulness Is About More than Just Stress Reduction

Stress reduction is often an effect of mindfulness practice, but the ultimate goal isn’t meant to be stress reduction. The goal of mindfulness is to wake up to the inner workings of our mental, emotional, and physical processes.

Mindfulness trains your body to thrive: Athletes around the world use mindfulness to foster peak performance—from university basketball players practicing acceptance of negative thoughts before games, to BMX champions learning to follow their breath, and big-wave surfers transforming their fears. Seattle Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll, assisted by sports psychologist Michael Gervais, talks about coaching the “whole person.” As writer Hugh Delehanty illustrates, players learn a blend of mindfulness, which Gervais calls tactical breathing, and cognitive behavioral training to foster what he calls “full presence and conviction in the moment.”

Mindfulness boosts creativity: Whether it’s writing, drawing, or coloring, they all have accompanying meditative practices. We can also apply mindfulness to the creative process.

Mindfulness strengthens neural connections: By training our brains in mindfulness and related practices, we can build new neural pathways and networks in the brain, boosting concentration, flexibility, and awareness. Well-being is a skill that can be learned. Try this basic meditation to strengthen neural connections.

go deeper

Explore Mindful

Mindful has many resources to help you live a more mindful life and tap into the best of who you are:

  • How to Meditate
  • Guided Meditation
  • Meditation for Anxiety
  • Sign up for Mindful Newsletters
  • Mindful Magazine Subscription
  • Special Edition Guides
  • Mindful Online Learning

Mindfulness Apps

Free Mindfulness Apps Worthy of Your Attention

Mindfulness apps are trending in a big way. Here are five we’re happy we downloaded. Read More

  • Kira M. Newman
  • November 18, 2019

How Do Mindfulness Apps Work?

Research on mindfulness apps is limited, but here’s what we know so far. Read More

  • Kira M. Newman
  • June 26, 2018

Four New Apps to Keep You Mindful

The Mindful editors share their latest app discoveries — and a major electronics company launches a well-being initiative. Read More

  • Mindful Staff
  • March 14, 2018

Train Your Brain to Build Resilience

Getting back up when you stumble may seem easier for some than it does for others. The good news is, resilience is a like a muscle—here’s how you can strengthen yours over time. Read More

  • Linda Graham
  • September 15, 2019

12 meditation apps for better sleep and less stress

Getty Images

Meditation apps have become one of the most accessible ways to maintain a mindfulness regimen. Whether you prefer deep breathing exercises, guided meditation or calming sleep stories, meditation can be a huge added benefit to your daily wellness regimen.

Research suggests that the benefits of meditation can include a reduction in stress levels, anxiety, depression and insomnia. And don’t forget the physical benefits: Meditation and deep breathing can also reduce blood pressure and improve your heart rate variability, a metric that can tell you how well you handle stress. In addition, many studies show sleep meditation can calm your mind and help you get a more quality night’s sleep.

For many people, finding the time or energy to commit to a regular practice is difficult, and though in-person visits to a meditation studio are a great option for some, for others they may not be a practical approach to consistent meditation. With a little help from the right app, zen could be as little as three minutes away. Here are the best meditation apps of 2020 to improve your mindfulness practice and relax your mind.

Read more about mental health:

  • How to find a therapist online
  • 5 life hacks for relieving anxiety
  • How to take a mental health day
  • It’s time to start saying “no” to things you don’t want to do
  • How to calm social anxiety

1. FitMind

Cost: One-week free trial, $11.99 per month, $84.99 per year

Nicknamed “CrossFit for the Mind,” FitMind was developed by Liam McClintock after meditation helped him get off of medications and therapy for OCD and ADHD. McClintock believes that “mental fitness,” a world in which we care for and train our minds, is the next major health revolution — and it’d be a good thing if he was right.

FitMind helps you master meditation via a 30-day mental fitness challenge complete with charts and graphs so you can visualize your progress toward mindfulness. The app has daily challenges and other features typical of a meditation app, but what I really love about FitMind is that it offers point-blank scientific explanations about why the meditations work: If you’re a meditation skeptic, FitMind might challenge your beliefs (in a good way).

  • iOS

Read more: 7 important signs you have burnout, and how to fix it

2. Unplug Meditation

Cost: One-week free trial, $7.99 per month, $59.99 per year

Born after the immersive Unplug Meditation Studio in Los Angeles became a massive hit, the Unplug Meditation app offers more than 700 videos that range from as short as one minute to nearly an hour. You can filter meditations by mood, outcome, length or teacher. The Unplug app has a unique dashboard on which you can view your total days, hours, minutes and seconds spent meditating, as well as set goals and write in a gratitude journal.

Unlike some guided meditation apps, all of the sessions on the Unplug app are filmed at the Los Angeles studio, so it really feels like you’re in an immersive class with an instructor. This app is great for people who need a lot of structure when it comes to meditation and enjoy visuals in addition to audio. If you prefer to meditate on your own, however, you can choose one of Unplug’s ambient soundtracks and set a timer.

  • iOS
  • Android

3. Meditation Studio with Muse

Cost: $7.99 per month, $17.99 per quarter, $49.99 per year

There’s meditation, and then there’s electroencephalogram (EEG)-guided meditation. Muse is a high-tech headband that connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth and measures your brainwave activity, breathing rate and pulse. Its seven sensors collect data and translate it into easily comprehensible stats about your mental health.

With the Muse headband and app, you can learn how your brain and body respond to particular meditation tracks, as well as how seemingly simple things — like your posture — affect the quality of your meditation session. Muse also analyzes your body metrics (pulse, breathing rate, and brainwave activity) and turns them into sounds that train your brain to focus and relax.

Muse partnered with the Meditation Studio app to bring guided meditations from expert mindfulness teachers, with activity-based meditations such as “falling asleep” and “morning intentions.” Meditation studio is also compatible with Alexa. You don’t need the wearable Muse headband to have a great experience with Meditation Studio (they can be used separately), but it certainly offers a unique element for those who are interested in getting the absolute most out of their daily meditation sessions.

  • iOS
  • Android

4. Apollo Neuro

Cost: The app is free; Apollo wearable costs $199 (preorder), $360 (list price)

Apollo Neuro is different in that it isn’t intended solely as a meditation app, and you’re not meant to use Apollo while doing nothing. Instead, Apollo is a wearable experience that looks to offset symptoms of stress and anxiety and restore your body to equilibrium. Developed by physicians and neuroscientists at the University of Pittsburgh, Apollo works by sending gentle waves of vibration to your body through your sense of touch, quickly improving your heart rate variability and signaling safety.

You wear Apollo on your wrist or ankle. From the app, choose the outcome you need in that moment — energy, focus, mindfulness, sleep, relaxation, socialness, or recovery — and set a timer for up to 30 minutes. Apollo will vibrate with frequencies that help your body achieve that outcome. You can choose to continue doing whatever you’re doing or take a moment to focus on the vibrations.

Read more: 7 wearables that do so much more than count steps

5. Calm

Cost: $14.99 per month, $69.99 per year, $399.99 lifetime subscription

Calm app’s wide range of guided meditations is mainly designed to assist people in relaxing (or calming down) in comparison to some other meditation apps that are designed to inspire deep thought or creativity.

Meditation length varies from 3- to 25-minute sessions. If you’re keen on developing a daily meditation practice, try Daily Calm, the app’s 10-minute program you can practice before the beginning or end of your day. Calm has a knack for creating interesting partnerships with celebrities — for example, the newly released “Train Your Mind” series focuses on mental fitness with LeBron James.

Calm also offers breathing exercises, sleep stories and soothing background tracks to help you get a good night’s sleep. The premium subscription includes all that and more, including Calm Body programs, monthly Calm Masterclasses and exclusive music. This is perhaps one of the best meditation apps for a newcomer looking to relax, reduce stress levels and get better sleep.

  • iOS
  • Android

6. Headspace

Cost: Free trial, $12.99/month, $19.99/month (family plan), or $69.99 for an annual plan

A “best guided meditation apps” list wouldn’t be complete without Headspace, the mindfulness app developed by sports scientist-turned-Buddhist monk Andy Puddicombe. Originally an events company, Headspace now encompasses guided meditations, animations, articles and videos to assist beginners and experts alike in their meditation practice and has become one of the best known and most popular meditation apps in the category.

You can test out Headspace with the free Basics course, which offers 10 meditation sessions to teach you the foundations of meditation and get you in a mindful rhythm. You can also try a free session from many of the app’s collections of meditations.

  • iOS
  • Android

Oh, and if you’re a runner, check out the guided runs with Andy Puddicombe on Nike Run Club — if your run is the only time to fit in your meditation, these guided tracks are a good way to do it.

Read more: Nike Run Club, Strava, Daily Burn: The 7 best running apps

Now playing: Watch this: Moona heats your pillow at CES 2019 for a better night’s… 1:15

7. Wave

Cost: $9.99 per month or $99 per year; Wave hardware costs $199

Another immersive meditation experience, Wave utilizes beats from music to enhance meditation. The patent-pending Wave Bolster, a memory foam cushion that supports your head and back, is infused with technology that allows you to feel the beat of a soundtrack through vibrations. It also includes a pair of over-ear headphones and connects via Bluetooth to the Wave app, which is a subscription-based experience designed to look and feel like a music app, rather than a meditation app.

The Wave app features more than 80 music-driven meditation tracks, all designed with the intent for you to feel the meditation rather than just hear it. You can adjust the vibration intensity to suit your mood and sensitivity. This app and pillow combination is great for people who feel like meditation is a bit woo-woo and want something that doesn’t seem as spiritual.

  • iOS

8. Simple Habit

Cost: $11.99 a month or $96 a year

Burnout is real — seriously, the World Health Organization designated burnout an official medical diagnosis in May 2019. The meditations on Simple Habit focus on daily stress relief, and the developers know you’re busy, so they make it as easy as taking five quick minutes for meditation time. In fact, the app even offers a special playlist just for burnout symptoms, with topics like “stay calm with a busy schedule” and “relieving morning anxiety.” There’s even a guided meditation program just for commuting.

  • iOS
  • Android

9. The Breathing App

Cost: Free.

As you might gather from its name, The Breathing App focuses just on breathing and the physiological benefits you get from slowing your breath down — increased pulmonary function, decreased stress and anxiety, lower blood pressure and improved emotional balance, just to name a few — all of which are beneficial for overall health and sleep patterns.

Developed by Eddie Stern and author Deepak Chopra, The Breathing App is simple and perfect for those who want the benefits of mindfulness without delving too deep into spirituality. You can only modify two settings for the meditation program: length of practice and breath ratio.

  • iOS
  • Android

10. Declutter the Mind

Cost: 5-day free trial, $7.99 per month, $79.99 per year

Declutter the Mind is a no-frills meditation app that focuses on one simple thing: Pushing out unnecessary, chattery thoughts. Most people are familiar with the feeling of bouncing around from one thought to another, not really able to focus on a single task at hand or concentrate on one important thought.

Declutter the Mind aims to help you learn how to draw yourself back into that one thing you’re supposed to be focusing on and training your brain to quit all that jumping around. You can search guided meditations by topics, of which there are many: stress, anxiety, body scan, depression, sleep, relaxation, concentration, clarity and cravings, to name a few.

  • iOS

11. Soundly

First there was functional fitness; now there’s “functional music.” Soundly helps you sleep, focus and relax with soundtracks that go beyond just a good jam: These tracks are designed purposefully with ambient noise, soothing narrators, and soundwaves scientifically proven to help calm brain activity.

This functional music concept isn’t entirely new — people have been using music to help them focus and crush workouts for pretty much forever — but Soundly newly applies it to meditation. You can discover mixes based on function, save your favorite mixes, create playlists with multiple tracks, speed or slow the narrator’s words, and much more within the app.

  • iOS
  • Android

12. Mindwell

Cost: $9.99 per month or $49.99 per year

Mindwell blends isochronic tones, solfeggio frequencies and spoken words to induce creativity and focus, which differs from the main goal of many other meditation apps that aim to promote relaxation.

Mindwell offers meditations to help you recover from stressful or upsetting moments that occur throughout the day. For example, say you experienced a client meeting at work that didn’t go well — you could use a Mindwell meditation specifically designed to dampen negative emotions and help you move forward with your day.

The app also offers a feature called MoodShift, which maps your mood over time and allows you to track your mood and meditation progress.

  • iOS
  • Android

Bonus: Breathe

Cost: Free with in-app purchases.

I included this breathing and meditation app because it’s even more convenient than iPhone ( $870 at Walmart ) or Android apps for busy on-the-go folks. Breathe is the mindfulness app for Apple Watch ( $399 at Apple ) that allows you to squeeze in short meditations without ever pulling out your phone.

Using one of three presets — classic, focus or calm — you breathe in rhythm with the animation on the screen. If you answer a call or text or move around too much during the exercise, your watch won’t give you credit for that session.

Breathe is a native app on the Apple Watch Series 4 and Series 5, so it doesn’t show up in the iTunes store. Breathe isn’t compatible with Android devices.

Read more: Forest bathing: How nature can help you de-stress and get healthier

How I picked these apps

This guide to the best meditation app picks is a list of meditation, mindfulness and breathing apps that claim some of the best ratings on the App Store and Google Play.

In addition to ratings and favorable reviews, I looked for apps that offer more than just audio meditation. Throughout this list, you’ll find options for customizable meditations, background music without words, engaging activities, inspirational push notifications and supplemental meditation or relaxation podcasts. Some apps go hand-in-hand with immersive experiences, such as a vibrating anklet or multi-sensor headband that translates body metrics (like your pulse) into sounds.

Lastly, nearly every app on this list was developed by a person or company with strong ties to meditation and mindfulness — not just someone who hopped on the meditation train to make a few bucks, but rather touts formal training or developed their app after a personal revelation tied to meditation and mindfulness.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.

5 Best Meditation Apps to Get Your Om On

  • Meditation sounds simple enough, but it’s not so easy to quiet distracting thoughts.
  • That’s where meditation apps come in. They’re like a little guru in your pocket, guiding you into a state of zen.
  • Meditation carries all kinds of benefits. If you’re feeling anxious, down, or in pain, meditation can help — dozens of studies show that it works.
  • The best meditation apps on the market: Headspace, Calm, Insight Timer, The Breathing App, and 10% Happier. Discover the pros and cons of each.

Meditation sounds simple enough — find a quiet place, cross your legs, and breathe. But if you’ve ever tried it, you probably know that it’s not as easy as 1-2-3 Ommm. Those pesky thoughts start crowding in, and before you know it you’re planning dinner and wondering whether to buy those black jeans you’ve been coveting. That’s where meditation apps come in. They’re like a little guru in your pocket, guiding you into a state of zen.

Related: This Yoga Nidra Routine Will Make You Feel Like You Got a Full Night’s Sleep

Why meditate?

Meditation carries all kinds of benefits. If you’re feeling anxious, down, or in pain, meditation can help — dozens of studies show that it works. Meditation actually rewires your brain, firing up specific areas that calm your nervous system. Here are some of the benefits of meditation:

  • Promotes better sleep
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Improves mental focus
  • Eases anxiety
  • Reduces pain
  • Increases happiness
  • Slows aging
  • Boosts heart and immune health

Read on to discover the best meditation apps on the market, and the pros and cons of each.

Related: How to Meditate More Effectively

Headspace

Headspace, created by Andy Puddicombe, a former Tibetan Buddhist monk, boasts 30 million members and 1 million paying subscribers. It’s the Apple of meditation apps — cool, trendy, and user-friendly. It seems everyone and their mother is using it — Olympic athletes, movie stars, and reigning queen of wellness Gwyneth Paltrow.

You can try the meditation app out for free with a “basics” pack or a mini meditation, like a one-minute guided breathing exercise. You have to pay to access the app’s library of hundreds of meditations.

Cost: Subscription options start at $12.99 a month, or you can pay a one-time fee of $399 for lifetime access.

Pros:

  • Headspace offers a free 10-day trial pack, consisting of 3-5 minute meditations a day. This gives you the chance to see if you actually like it, before coughing up the cash for a subscription.
  • You have a lot options: you can choose a single meditation session, or get “packs” that offer up to 30 sessions on any given area you want to work on, like health, work, or happiness. Within each category you can get more specific — under “happiness,” for instance, you can choose a 30-session pack on self-esteem.
  • Simple design with fun animations and a well-organized library of classes.
  • You can monitor your progress on your profile page, which records the average length of your meditation sessions, the number of days you’ve practiced, and the amount of hours you’ve meditated.

Cons:

  • While the app isn’t prohibitively expensive, it’s not cheap either. Sure, if you’re disciplined and use it everyday, then it’s a fair payoff. You could give up your Netflix subscription to justify the cost, but no one’s telling you to do that…
  • Puddicombe voices all the meditations on Headspace. Many people love his clear, no-nonsense tone and Bristol accent (he’s UK-born) — but if it doesn’t appeal to you, you’re out of options.
  • All of the meditations are guided — there’s no option to hit a timer and simply savor the silence or soothing ambient sounds.

Calm

Apple’s pick for app of 2017 offers a nice mix of guided meditations, soothing nature sounds, and music.

Like Headspace, you get a free trial to test out Calm. This one’s 7 days, a fair amount of time to see if it’s worth continuing.

Cost: A flat fee of $60 a year, or $299 for lifetime access.

Pros:

  • The yearly cost is $30 cheaper than Headspace’s annual fee.
  • It offers a nice mix of guided meditations and less structured ones, so it’s easy to customize.
  • Here’s something different — you can listen to a bedtime story to help you drift off to sleep. You may recognize some of the narrators — nod off to the soothing sound of Stephen Fry reading you a story set in Provence. You can actually smell the lavender fields and watch as the golden light settles across the valley as you listen.
  • The app goes beyond meditation — you can tune in to a master class from health and wellness experts like Elizabeth Gilbert and Shawn Achor.
  • The design isn’t as straightforward as other apps like Headspace, and it can be a little confusing — especially if you’re a beginner — figuring out the best meditation to pick.
  • The sign-up process also isn’t intuitive, and there isn’t a clear breakdown of the different subscription options.

Related: How to Rewire Your Brain for Focus and Calm

Insight Timer

You may not hear about Insight Timer as much as much as you do its venture-backed cousins, but don’t be fooled by its low-key status. Insight Timer is the little meditation app that could, with nearly 5 million people signed up and over 11,000 guided meditations from top teachers around the world.

The app gives you two options — you can either pick a guided meditation (ranging anywhere from one minute to an hour or more) or you can use the timer option — you choose how long you want to meditate for, then pick a bell sound to signal the beginning and end of your meditation. You can also opt for ambient sound like raindrops or choir music to play while you’re in zen mode.

Cost: Free

  • It doesn’t cost a thing — who wouldn’t want that?
  • The design is simple and easy-to-use. There is truly something for everyone here, and you can pick from topics like grief, stress, forgiveness, sleep, and self-love.
  • You can set goals and track your progress using the “stats” tool.
  • You’re joining a community — you can interact with other users on one of the app’s more than 5,500 forums. Topics run the gamut from mindful eating to lucid dreaming to women meditators — there’s even a passionate discussion going on about Rumi’s poetry.
  • Every time you open the app, you’re shown a map of all the people using Insight Timer around the world. It’s a great motivating factor and gives you a sense of community.
  • The sheer number of options can feel a little overwhelming. Do you pick “Zen Guitar” or “Moonlight” as your ambient sound? And which of the thousands of guided meditations do you choose? Luckily you can narrow down your choices by filtering the meditations by most popular and staff picks.

The Breathing App

Created by bestselling author Deepak Chopra and yogi Eddie Stern, The Breathing App, like its name suggests, focuses only on breath. It’s a specific kind of breathwork called resonant breathing. The goal? To breathe at a rate of 5 to 7 breaths per minute, instead of the typical 15 to 18. It’s the pace that Buddhist monks enter into while meditating, and research shows it can calm the nervous system, lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation, and improve heart rate variability — the changes in time between heart beats.

When you open the meditation app, you first choose your breathing ratio. That’s the number of seconds that you breathe in, and the number of seconds that you breathe out. There are six to pick from, and the app has a guide to help you figure out the best ratio for you. If you’re a beginner, for instance, it recommends 4:4 (4 seconds in, 4 seconds out).

You then get to choose how you want to time you’re breath, and you’re given a few options:

  1. You can watch as a ball gets bigger (that’s when you inhale), then gets smaller (the exhale). The ball is so mesmerizing, you’ll feel instantly more zen just by looking at it.
  2. A clock, that counts up on the inhale, and down on the exhale.
  3. Musical sound — you breathe in when the sound gets louder, and out when it gets softer. This one’s useful if you’d rather meditate with your eyes closed.

You set a timer using a sliding scale at the bottom of the screen, and away you go.

Cost: It’s free!

Pros:

  • If simplicity is what you’re after, this is the app for you. There’s no sign-up process — you can start meditating within seconds. Unlike other apps out there, you only get a handful of options — appealing if you’re on-the-go and need something quick that will get the job done.
  • It’s free — enough said.
  • When you use the sound option to meditate, you open up the possibility of brain entrainment — when your brain waves synchronize with rhythmic sounds. This relaxes you and puts your brain in the same frequency as when you’re in deep sleep.

Cons:

  • You won’t find any guided meditations here. Guided meditations are helpful for beginners — it’s nice to have someone holding your hand and showing you how it’s done. With breathing exercises, it’s easier to get distracted by passing thoughts.

Related: Use This Guided Meditation to Clear Your Mind and Find Happiness

10% Happier

If you’re ready to dive deeper into your meditation practice, 10% Happier is one to try. Based on the book by ABC news anchor Dan Harris, this meditation app offers over 350 guided meditations, as well as video courses with meditation experts. A bonus? You can also message meditation coaches and ask them any questions you have about your practice.

Cost: Intro videos are free, but it’s $14.99 a month for full access, or $99.99 for a yearly subscription.

  • Like a lot of other meditation apps, you get a free trial — this one is a week, so that gives you time to see if it’s a good fit.
  • If you’re at all interested in the science behind meditating, or how best to maximize your practice, the app’s library of video courses will appeal.
  • You have real-time access to experienced meditators (they need to have at least 10 years of meditating under their belt) — you chat them as you would a Whatsapp message.
  • This one costs quite a bit more than other meditation apps on the market.
  • If all you’re looking for are straightforward meditations, the addition of video courses could be off-putting and feel unnecessary.

Join over 1 million fans

JOIN DAVE’S EMAIL LIST FOR THE LATEST NEWS
AND EXCLUSIVE TIPS ON HOW TO BE SUPER HUMAN

As a tapped-in mother of two with a plate full of freelance work, I’m under more pressure than ever. And although science suggests that social media is a ticking stress bomb that contributes to anxiety, depression, and insomnia, I’m unwilling to part with my feeds or my phone.

So, in the same way I’d solve any other problem, I turned to my device for help: I tried five of the highest rated meditation apps with the hope that research on the calming effects of meditation would take all my worries away—all without taking me away from my phone.

But because meditation is highly personal, my favorite app (Stop, Breathe, & Think) might not be yours. Here’s the one you should try based on your specific needs:

If you want to create a daily habit, try:
HEADSPACE

Free 30-day trial; $13/month or $95/year
iTunes Google Play

Founded and narrated by a trained Buddhist monk with a pleasant English accent, this accessible app offers hundreds of guided meditation tracks that tells you exactly what to do—i.e., “feel your body relax, the weight of your arms and legs release”—so you’re not left in the lurch with your own breath.

“After my 5-minute morning sessions, I definitely felt calmer.”

The app’s simple interface, which features cheeky animations, allows you to browse through sessions easily: There are three 10-day meditation packs to help users learn the basics through 3-, 5-, or 10-minute meditations, and many other packs of 10 or 30 pre-recorded meditations on specific topics, like managing anxiety, productivity, or mindful eating, most of which last between 10 and 15 minutes.

There are also single sessions for various situations, like falling back asleep, taking a city walk, or cleaning your place; 1-minute mini-sessions for different states of mind like “panicking” or “flustered”; meditation sessions for kids; and animated videos to help you troubleshoot if the whole meditation thing just isn’t working for you.

Based on the idea that fitting new behaviors into existing routines is the best way to make sure they stick, the app serves up daily meditation reminders at the time of your choosing.

If you just need to take a moment, try:
STOP, BREATHE, & THINK

Free 30-session trial; $9.99/month or $58.99/year for premium subscription
iTUNES GOOGLE PLAY

To take the guesswork out of choosing what kind of guided meditation suites you at any particular moment, this app prompts you with physical, mental, and emotional check-ins before curating a selection of themed audio tracks such as, “Relax, Ground, and Clear” or “Gratitude.” Sessions vary in length, lasting between 2 and 15 minutes.

“The visualizations are more fun than sitting quietly.”

With cues such as “close your eyes, feel the weight of your body, and take deep breaths,” offered in both male and female voices, you can pick the sounds that sooth you most, or toggle between them. Unique features include visualization exercises to help you pretend you’re, say, on a white sand beach; a breathing timer that guides you through inhales and exhales; and a meditation timer that provides a free nature scape to listen to and look at during unguided, freestyle sessions, with an alert (choose from zen sounds like a gong or bowl) when the time you’ve allotted—up to four hours, lol—is up.

If you seriously need help sleeping, try:
CALM

Free 7-day trial; $60/ year
iTUNES GOOGLE PLAY

Be warned that you can’t use this app until you “take a deep breath” as per the opening screen’s prompt—meaning it’s helpful from the get-go. Once you reach the app’s home screen, which features a pretty image of a valley and mountains reflected in flowing water, you can sort through meditation sessions that range from 3 to 35 minutes led by a male or female—your preference—on topics such as focus, stress, and inner peace.

“The old French guy’s story about a winery in France immediately put me to sleep.”

There are also kids’ sessions and mostly silent meditations, in case instruction irks you, plus an extensive music section with sounds like “nightlight” and “water falling,” all of which will make you forget where you are.

The most impressive feature is the assortment of sleep stories, which include classic children’s books like The Velveteen Rabbit, completely random readings in soothing voices, and a Bob Ross painting soundtrack thrown in for good measure. While these audio experiences don’t necessarily teach mindfulness, they’ll calm you down and help you doze off, without a doubt.

If you want to master mindfulness, try:
SMILING MIND

Free
iTUNES GOOGLE PLAY

Run by an Australian not-for-profit, this app offers structured mindfulness training programs with audio lessons ranging from roughly 90 seconds and to 20 minutes.

“The sessions are easy to follow each day to help you really get good at your practice.”

While there are many programs designed for children of all ages, adults can jump into a 42-session mindfulness curriculum categorized topically by modules such as breath, sounds and tastes, and stress with sessions that vary in length but typically last no more than 5 or 10 minutes. (And yes, they all feature an Australian accent!)

Alternatively, you could dip your toes into 1- to 3-minute bite-sized sessions like “exploring thoughts” and “internal weather”; or try the app’s 12-session commuting program, which helps you practice mindfulness while in transit. An in-app dashboard can help you track improvements in your mood, which you’re prompted to report on before each session. A cool function is the meditation player screen itself, which features a pulsing orb play button that visually cues inhales and exhales to relaxing effect.

If you prefer to crowdsource recommendations, try:
INSIGHT TIMER

Free
iTUNES GOOGLE PLAY

This app’s name refers to its simplest feature: Its timer, which can be used to add ambient sounds, interval alerts, and an ending bell to unguided meditations. But the scale of its meditation library is even more impressive: It offers more than 11,000 free guided sessions of varying lengths from more than 2,000 teachers. To make your selection, you can sort through the most popular options based on the amount of time you have.

“It felt the most hippy-dippy, but I felt like I was jumping into some secret digital world of mega-meditators.”

In addition to the free timer and meditation tracks, you can pay $4.99 for 10-minute courses on Ted-talk-like topics such as “The Art of Timefulness: Transform The Way You Manage Time” and “Overcome Obsessive Thinking”—and get a sense of if other users are feeling them: The app’s unique social integrations include a map to show you where other users are based; a real-time newsfeed that shares which users are listening to which sessions; and a feedback system that encourages meditators to leave comments and up to five stars—perfect if you’re picky.

With additional reporting by Elizabeth Narins.

Jenna Autuori Dedic Jenna Autuori Dedic is a freelance writer who specializes in fitness, health and parenting stories.

Meditation for beginners app

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *