My 3 Favorite Easy Effective Meditation Apps
I was introduced to meditation around middle school. I don’t really remember a precise age. I do remember my cousin and I poking fun at my Mom for turning her home office into a meditation room, which in hindsight, I’d kill to have now. It had bolster pillows on the floor and was very serene. It was all very new age and ahead of the times for the Finger Lakes region of NY in the 90s.
Now, I get most of my meditation practice done with the assistance of technology. I get downloads from people I follow and courses I’ve purchased, the occasional YouTube video, but most often I use guided meditation apps.
I’ve used a few different apps over the last few years, but I have 3 that are my ultimate favorites. I recommend them to just about EVERYBODY who is looking for a meditation app, whether they are brand new to meditation or a seasoned pro.
Calm is marvelous and my go-to app. It has come along way from its founding in 2012. I usually recommend it because there is a free and paid version. With both versions, you can choose your background sounds, and there is a large selection of ambiance to choose from.
Within the meditation section of the free version, you get access to the 7 Day Programs, the 21 Days of Calm Program and a selection of Daily Calm Highlights which are 10 minute daily meditations that focus on a different topic each day. There is also a separate section dedicated to sleep, called sleep stories. You would think listening to a story would keep you awake, but it usually doesn’t. The cadence of the speakers always has me falling asleep before the end. The final section is also my favorite: the Breathe Bubble. I love this. You may have seen one of these GIFs somewhere on the internet. (Maybe my Facebook Page). It expands, and contracts and you sync your breath to it. Amazingly simple and effective.
Within the paid version, you get everything in the free version, but more options. You also get guided meditations for various traits like “Forgiveness,” “Non-Judgement,” or “Deep Concentration” and you can choose to meditate in different time increments. Anywhere from 2 minutes up to 30 minutes depending on the program. You get access to all the sleep stories and ASMR & Foreign Language stories. It also looks like they’ve recently rolled out something called “Music” within the app with themes of Focus, Sleep, Nature Melodies, and Relax.
The 7 Day programs, as well as the 21 Days of Calm, are fantastic introductions to meditation. The programs are excellent challenges for building a meditation habit for more advanced users. Altruistically, Calm is pairing with select colleges to offer the app for free during the semester.
If I’m going to splurge on a meditation app, this is the one. Calm is consistently adding new features, new meditations, and giving back. They also have 2 guided meditations for walking and commuting, but I haven’t done either, so I can’t speak to those specific meditations. Obviously, Calm is pretty comprehensive when it comes to an app for guided meditation and is easy to navigate and use. With all the bells and whistles, Calm is an all-inclusive package.
My next favorite is Stop, Breathe, Think (SBT). I love SBT for its simplicity and motivational features. You can use it almost entirely for FREE. This app is terrific for beginners or people re-establishing their meditation habit. When you open it one of the main menu items is LEARN TO MEDITATE in capital letters. (The whole menu is in caps, but who cares.) Within their primer on learning to meditate is a section labeled Meditations which gives an overview of what to expect from each of the meditations offered by SBT. This is amazing for beginners.
What makes SBT compete with Calm for my meditation time is a unique approach to helping you determine what meditation is right for you, right now. When you begin your session, you click on a section that asks HOW ARE YOU? The app then walks through asking how you are mentally, physically, and then asks you to choose 5 emotion words. Based on this input, it then generates a selection 3-4 meditations, most are 5-8 minutes, and each includes a short blurb describing the practice. At the end of your session, you can click finish OR go through the “How Are You?” questions again to show your results from meditating. I like this. It helps me visualize the actual change meditation creates. One of my favorite parts of the app is the motivational piece you may get next, depending on your progress, which is a STICKER! 💞😍🦄 I love these. I have 26/49. You get them for various reasons, such as completing your first meditation, meditating before 8am, doing 3 meditations in a row, etc. Your stickers are kept on the Progress Tab, which also shows some nice stats on how you’re doing.
The platform you use to access SBT will vary your user experience a little bit. All your features and progress should migrate to your computer when you log in, which is phenomenal if you like to meditate at work or not on your phone. If you’re an Apple user, there is an option to subscribe to a premium feature, which for once I’m a little jelly cuz I’d love to use these features! The iOs premium for all ages includes 50+ premium meditations (more added regularly), yoga and acupressure videos, and a customizable meditation timer.
With the Android version, you can purchase premium meditations separately in customized packages. This isn’t so bad a deal since they come in groupings of 3-5 additional meditations and are longer durations of some of the more popular practices. A little bird told me they are in the process of updating the app for Android (woo!) with a timeline for early this year. However, at the time of this article, I do not know a release date OR what features will be included.
With any purchase or a subscription you know you are also giving to a good cause. SBT shares 10% of their net revenue with Tools For Peace, a non-profit dedicated to helping at-risk youth experience the benefits of mindfulness and meditation. You can learn more at TOOLSFORPEACE.ORG.
Stop, Breathe, Think is fantastic at sticking to its mission of mindfulness and meditation. The app is simple and easy to use, making it hard to find an excuse not to meditate.
Insight Timer makes my list because it is the most comprehensive mindfulness and meditation app you could ever need. If there is a meditation you want, it is found in Insight Timer. To be honest, I find it a little overwhelming, and I underutilize it. I use it primarily for 2 meditations:
- Yoga Nidra for Sleep, and
- Yoga Nidra for Relaxation.
However, it is FREE and worth digging through. From researching and looking over the features for this post, I saw you can use it just as a meditation timer with 8 different bells. I’m very happy about this as I lost access to my fourth favorite meditation app when I upgraded my phone. There are groups based on teachings and/or teachers. The website boasts 7,802 free guided meditations, music tracks, talks, and courses. Pretty nice for a free app!
There is definitely a reason Insight Timer is rated the top free meditation app on both iOs and Android stores. If you want to explore different types of meditation, teachers, benefits, and ways to meditate, give this app a try. Additionally, if you have reached the point in your practice where you are able to sit quietly and focus on your breath with no prompts, this app is also for you. I would be hesitant to recommend this app to brand-spankin’ new meditators though, you may get lost in the options and find so many choices overwhelming. I know I do at times.
While not technically a meditation app, I have the Free Android version of this on my phone. I love it for its simplicity. The app takes you through one of my absolute FAVORITE stress management techniques, the 4-4-8 breath. It does wonders for calming anxiety and helping to relieve pain. I highly recommend this app to round out your mindfulness arsenal!