Mindfulness can be the calming antidote to the many distractions of modern life, and may even have benefits for fertility and pregnancy. There’s not only an app for that, but literally hundreds of mindfulness apps. The good news is many of them are well rated by users, so there are lots of solid choices. But being confronted with so many choices might make you feel the opposite of serene. It will help to go into it knowing what kinds of features you want.
So read about these eight different types of mindfulness apps, download one to try out, and set your smartphone to Do Not Disturb.
For the beginner
Headspace (free basics pack, $12.99/month, $94.99/year)
If you’ve wanted to start meditating or tried it before and didn’t stick to it, Headspace offers a compelling and gamified regimen of meditation that you can customize. Choose a pack in one of five categories (foundation, health, relationships, performance, and Headspace Pro), and a length for your program (10 days or 30 days) and meditations (10, 15, 20 minutes), then off you go. Headspace is widely acclaimed, and some companies have even bought subscription packages for their employees.
For the skeptic
10% Happier (free basics, $9.99/month or $79.99/year)
You may be concerned this mindfulness stuff is spiritual mumbo jumbo, or that it won’t come naturally to you, or maybe even that it’s a waste of time. See for yourself with this secular meditation app designed with skeptics in mind. Guided meditation, video lessons, and a live personal coach to help you follow through are all part of the package. This app doesn’t claim that mediation will solve all your problems, just that this app may make you 10% happier with regular use. There’s a 10% Happier podcast and book, too, for ambitious people seeking enlightenment.
For the indecisive
Not sure if you want to commit to longer meditation programming, or if you’ll stick to this long enough to warrant a subscription? A more recent arrival to the mindfulness app selection, Aura offers mindfulness for stress and anxiety. Driven by artificial intelligence, it asks how you are feeling each day, then produces a new, 3-minute meditation exercise daily to improve your happiness. No need to choose your exercise, and there is no content longer than 3 minutes. It has features to track your mood progress, get reminders for mindful breathers, and express gratitude daily.
Two for those with health goals
Eat Right Now (free basic, Premium $24.99/month or $129.99/year) or Craving to Quit! (3 days free, 24.99/month Premium)
The diet/weight loss and quitting goals categories are popular features on the general mindfulness apps, but these two apps are focused entirely on health goals. Eat Right Now is a 28-day program that uses mindfulness to combat food cravings with an in-the-moment cravings feature, as well as help choosing the right foods and daily reminders. The premium version has a community of experts and other app users, and you can track your moods to become aware of how they are tied to cravings.
Eat Right Now was created to curb food cravings after the success in clinical trials of its sister app, Craving to Quit! App, a 21-day program developed at Yale University that is effective at helping people quit smoking. It has daily training videos, in-app coaching, a cigarette tracker, daily goals and stats, reminders, and an evening reflection feature. The support community is moderated by an expert in mindfulness training for addiction.
For the tracker
Spire (app free, wearable tracker $129)
A breath and activity tracker that works using a wearable device, Spire can see and alert you when your tension is rising so you can use breathing exercises to nip it in the bud. You can also track your stress levels by location, time, and event for awareness about their triggers.
Committed and mindful on a budget
Calm (free basic, $12.99 per month, $59.99/year )
The problem with the free and free basic versions of most mindfulness apps is they often have limited content. If you’re keeping up a practice for the long haul, you’re probably going to want variety. And if you don’t have $80 to $130 to spare per year for mindfulness, Calm offers one of the cheaper annual subscriptions. You’ll get hundreds of programs for beginning through advanced users of varying lengths and topics, plus your Daily Calm, a new 10-minute meditation for every day. Other features include 7 day and 21 day programs for beginners and advanced levels, breathing exercises for relaxation. You can also track your daily progress and time spent meditating. Bonus: 30+ nature sounds and scenes, and dozens of soothing “adult bedtime stories”, like essays about the sequoia and the waterfall.
For the musically and socially inclined
Insight Timer (free 5-day introduction, $9.99/month, $24.99/3 months )
This app has 10-minute meditation programs centered around self-esteem, relationships, success and creativity, plus SOS emergency sessions, with new content monthly. Insight Timer also has a feature allowing you to mix and match sounds for a customized meditation melody, plus a meditation community where you can find and share sound mixes with other users.
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