- The recent outbreak of COVID-19 has everyone feeling anxious, stressed, and panicked.
- With everything from job loss and slowed business to making rent and paying bills hanging over many people’s heads, it’s natural to experience a feeling of uneasiness and tension – and you’re not alone.
- Meditation can help lower stress and anxiety, providing temporary respite during a troubled time.
- We tested some of the most popular meditation apps currently available to find the ones best-suited for a wide range of users, including newcomers, those who prefer inspirational quotes, and even skeptics.
If you’re feeling stressed, anxious, or even panicked over the current global health crisis, you’re not alone. The shifting landscape of the COVID-19 outbreak left us all with plenty of uncertainty, especially with the fluidity of the pandemic and situation.
Many are worried about the status of their jobs, whether or not their businesses will survive, or if they’ll have the funds to pay bills and rent in the coming months. Every concern is a legitimate one as the country proceeds through an indefinite period of quarantine and social distancing.
One of the best methods for managing anxiety and stress is through meditation. Not only can regularly meditating help reduce the effects of troublesome feelings but it also reduces depression, improves memory function, and boosts your well-being.
And it can be done by anyone, too, whether you’re a beginner or a full-on meditative pro. Aside from practicing meditation on your own, there exist plenty of smartphone apps dedicated to its various techniques. To find the best, we tried dozens of the most popular meditation apps and picked a few of our favorites.
Not only did we choose those that delivered feelings of relief but the apps below worked so well, we didn’t want to stop meditating (and they still currently occupy real estate on our smartphone). Give it a shot yourself and see if they’re able to help you feel a little less stressed, anxious, or panicked during this very uncertain time.
Here are our picks for the best meditation apps:
- Best meditation app with daily takeaways: Headspace
- Best meditation app for sleep: Calm
- Best meditation app for variety: Insight Timer
- Best meditation app for skeptics: Ten Percent Happier
- Best meditation app for newbies: Simple Habit
The best meditation app with daily takeaways
If calming music and silence don’t do it for you, you’ll love Headspace’s narrator that talks to you through each meditation.
Headspace’s basics meditation course introduces you to the app, as well as to the world of meditation. You’ll get course explanations, including what they are, how they work, and how exactly each is able to benefit you. This helps you better understand the end goal of feeling calm and centered.
The app also features a Recommended for You section full of curated sessions. These range from topics like appreciation, breathe, and happiness. Some are courses with multiple sessions, while others are single-session meditations. Every day there’s a group meditation, too, that’s listed with timing on the homepage and where you can join others using the app.
One of its most unique aspects is the Sleep section which includes sleep casts or audio experiences, wind down guided exercises, sleep sounds, and a moonlight library all aimed to help you get better shut-eye.
Headspace currently offers a free meditation hub called Weathering the Storm. This features a selection of meditation, sleep, and other experiences to help support the public during this pandemic.
Any Headspace Plus subscription is also free to healthcare professionals throughout 2020 to address rising levels of stress and burnout. There is even Headspace for Work tools to help businesses around the world, too.
Price: $12.99/month, $95/year
Pros: Lists the time of each meditation, uses a helpful narrator, free Weather the Storm meditations designed specifically for troubling times
Cons: Must complete basic meditations to have access to more advanced sessions
The best meditation app for sleep
Calm tailors its suggested content and meditations to your specific goals and needs, which it asks about upfront.
Calm starts off by having you answer a simple question: “What brings you to Calm?” The answers include anything from reducing stress and improving performance to reduced anxiety or better sleep. You’re even able to notch down a desire to develop gratitude or build self-esteem.
The app then recommends content based on your goals and needs. This lets you practice guided meditations, breathing exercises, or enjoy relaxing music and soundscapes. There are over 100-guided meditations for anxiety, stress, and sleep, and a robust library of sleep stories (perhaps its best feature). They even offer walking meditations if you’re on-the-go.
Calm’s Masterclasses series offers classes taught by world-renown meditation experts, as well as doctors. I enjoyed listening to these, as they provided background on the expert and it allowed for a bigger sense of trust in what they were discussing or teaching.
The app layout is extremely intuitive, too, so finding the content you’re looking for isn’t an issue.
Price: $12.99/month, $59.99/year, $299.99/lifetime
Pros: A beautifully designed, aesthetically appealing layout, easy to navigate, masterclasses offered by world-renowned experts, specializes in sleep meditation
Cons: Pricier than other meditation apps
The best meditation app for variety
- Insight Timer/ Instagram
The Insight Timer app offers one of the deepest wells of content, giving your meditations some variety – and it’s completely free.
This app has over 12 million users, thanks largely to its extremely diverse library of content – it has over 35,000 free guided meditations. Keeping track is easy, too, as you’re able to bookmark your favorites, allowing you to easily find and revisit them later.
Though the meditations come from over 6,000 teachers, anyone is able to publish content on the app, so keep that in mind as you search. We recommend thoroughly reading the descriptions of each or quickly trying them out before settling on one. You can also follow your favorite teachers and be alerted when they add something new – making the hunt for content much easier.
There is a premium version of the app available for $60 a year, featuring new courses published daily. It also allows for the ability to fast-forward or rewind audio and offers a daily mindfulness practice. Personally, I stuck with the free version as I felt like it provided the meditation options I was looking for.
Price: Free, $60/year for premium content
Pros: Free version offers over 35,000 meditations
Cons: Anyone can add content, so you need to choose wisely
The best meditation app for skeptics
- 10 Percent Happier
With Ten Percent Happier, even those skeptical of the benefits of meditation can ease into the practice and find what works for them.
Ten Percent Happier knows meditation might not be everyone’s cup of tea. After having you answer a few initial questions about your meditation experience and goals, the app creates a program it says will help you make mediation a habit.
As a beginner to meditation, I like that the app asked about how much mediation I’d done in the past so that it didn’t show me advanced content I’d be unfamiliar with. For anyone who’s unsure of meditation or skeptical of its impact, diving into something advanced could turn them away.
The app is divided into various courses, each offering multiple meditation sessions to complete. Singles have just one meditation depending on what you’re looking for that day, Sleep is geared towards helping you get a few good zzz’s, and Talks are like short on-the-go podcasts (but are only available via a paid subscription).
Emmy-winning journalist and ABC News correspondent, Dan Harris, is one of the faces in the app, which offers live YouTube discussions with him and experts about the current climate.
Price: Free, $99/year for premium content
Pros: Plenty of short meditations, sessions are divided into easy to understand courses, works well for beginners
Cons: The talk series is only available via a paid subscription
The best meditation app for newbies
- Simple Habit/ Facebook
Simple Habit offers quick and easy five-minute meditation sessions that anyone can fit into their daily schedule.
Simple Habit‘s opening questionnaire asks specific things such as if you’re going through a breakup, whether you want beginner meditation, if you’re looking to feel less tired, or need help after an argument. You’re then provided with your first five-minute meditation.
And guess what? The majority of the meditations on the app are five minutes, which is one of its best strengths. I’m still new to meditation, so it’s hard for me to complete long sessions. Its five-minute meditations feel very doable and digestible.
Meditation experts, don’t fret. Longer sessions can be found in the app, as well, and are just as beneficial. The app’s main idea is that five minutes can help anyone create a simple habit (hence the name).
Simple Habit also has meditations for relief from pain, which is different but something I enjoyed using. I experienced a bit of lower back pain recently and the meditation gave me a better understanding of the anatomy of the back and helped me bring awareness to my aches.
The app even has a section for kids, as well as meditations to help spark intimacy. Simple Habit updated its content with relevant meditations centered around the current pandemic and global health crisis, too.
Pros: Short, five-minute meditations, meditations for a variety of topics including intimacy and pain relief
Cons: Not a large offering of longer meditations
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