The best meditation apps could help you sleep better, reduce your stress levels, and find the inner peace you so badly need. But given the situation right now with Covid-19, even if the meditation apps only give you a break from the news and a chance to relax for ten minutes, they’re worth it.
Headspace, one of the most popular meditation apps, was first launched 10 years ago. Since then, hundreds of other meditation apps have been created and that means finding the best meditation app for you can be overwhelming.
But when it comes to meditation, choice is a good thing. There are now meditation apps to cater to all kinds of people and preferences. From beginner apps that guide you through the basics of meditation (like Headspace and Buddhify), to those that only provide you with a timer and beep so you can “practice freestyle” in your meditation practice (like Samsara Timer Y Pocket Meditation Timer)
Top meditation apps for Android and iPhone reviewed
Omvana offers a wider range of guided and music-only options like an iTunes of meditations. It claims to have “the largest library” of guided meditations and self-hypnosis tracks online. While some tracks are available at no cost, most tracks cost a few dollars each. It’s worth noting the self-hypnosis tracks, which claim to help you lose weight, find love, or acquire wealth, are not based on neuroscience and are of dubious value.
2. Waking Up
Best for those who want a simple practice steeped in insight
Waking up was created by Sam Harris, a neuroscientist, philosopher, podcaster and author who teaches and discusses meditation in a modern, scientific context.
What we like about the Waking Up app above all others is it’s no-nonsense. There’s no chanting, twinkling rain sounds or spiritual references. Even the app itself has a very easy-to-use and minimal design.
The goal here is to be present and aware. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t also soothing and transformative. We’ve been using Waking Up for more than a year and have found it’s made a huge difference – particularly to stress levels and reactiveness.
There are two sections of Waking Up. The Practice section is where you can access simple daily meditations narrated by Sam Harris himself. When you first sign-up to the app, these daily practices will serve as an introduction to meditation, easing you into the basics of sitting still and becoming more aware.
But there’s also a section called Theory, which is about learning what’s going on behind the practice. Sam Harris interviews a number of prominent figures in the meditation, self-development and neuroscience spaces to discuss topics like death and awareness and also posts smaller lessons, which are like chunks of wisdom we sometimes listen to when we’ve already meditated that day.
This wealth of lessons, interviews and additional insights about meditation is what makes Waking Up stand apart from the competition. This is why we recommend Waking Up for those who want to get to grips with meditation, as well as the science and thinking behind it.
As its name suggests, this app uses white noise to mask distracting sounds during meditation and to promote relaxation. You can also use WhiteNoise to help with sleep. It comes with 40 pre-recorded white noise sounds, such as falling rain, a bubbling brook, or ocean waves. You can loop these samples, or even mix them together to create your own soothing sounds. What’s more, you can record and loop your own favorite sounds. No guided meditations here.
This app could be your favorite if you’re an established meditator looking for a timer you can customize. No guided meditations, no music or nature sounds. Equanimity allows you to set unobtrusive gongs, bells, or chimes to signal the end of your session. The elegant timer shows you how much time is left in your meditation without distracting you. Also included are a meditation journal and a way to log meditations so you can track and monitor your practice. A comparable option for Android is Bodhi Timer.
5. Insight Timer
Best for a pick ‘n’ mix of meditation
Like Calm, Insight Timer is an app with many guided meditation practices, lessons and features to choose from. That means it’s not just an app for meditating, but a one-stop-shop for feeling good, calming down and reading up about the wider thinking and history behind meditation practice and self-development too.
There are a range of guided meditations on offer in Insight Timer. You can choose from a beginner kit, which includes learning to meditate or coping with anxiety. Or select how you’d like to meditate based on a particular focus, like sleep, stress and anxiety. Or you can pick the type of practice you’re in the mood for, like paying attention to sound, movement or sitting back and taking part in a guided visualization.
There’s a useful 7-day course we’d recommend if you’re new to meditation, which teaches you the basics. But like Calm, we think Insight Timer is a great option once you’ve started to meditate and then want access to a huge range of practices at your fingertips – it’s a pick n’ mix of meditation.
6. Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics by 10% Happier
Here’s training for meditation skeptics by meditation advocate Dan Harris. This app’s content is firmly based in neuroscience and omits the spiritual components present in many other apps. The free seven-lesson course teaches basics of meditation, with access to more advanced meditations and courses for a subscription of $9.99 per month, or $79.99 for a year. Unfortunately, Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics is not yet available for Android.
First of all, despite the name this
app has no apparent relation to Buddhist meditation. Its 11 hours of
guided meditations are customized for activities such as walking in the
city, taking a break at work, waiting around, and going to sleep. These
situation-based meditations help to make buddhify compatible with busy,
urban lifestyles. There are also meditations that aim to reduce anxiety
and take your mind off pain.
For a single, relatively low payment, buddhify offers many of the features of much costlier meditation apps. Some users do have minor quibbles with this app, such as the fact it 300+ MB of storage and can’t be transferred to an SD card on Android devices. Some user reviews also mention the meditation guide speaks faster than they prefer.
8. Stop, Breathe & Think
Stop, Breathe & Think combines a library of guided meditations with the mood tracking features of apps such as My Mood Tracker (13). It even “curates” suggested meditations based on your mood. With its goal-oriented tracking focus, it is something like a meditation Fitbit. You can purchase additional guided meditations, or receive full access to their library with a subscription of $4.99 per month or $41.99 for a year.
Like Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics, Headspace teaches less spiritual, more science-based meditation techniques, beginning with a free introductory course. You purchase a subscription to gain access to additional courses, as well as guided meditations. Headspace includes mood tracking features as well, and you can download guided meditations for offline use. A Headspace subscription is $12.99 per month, or $94.99 for a year. A lifetime membership costs $399.99.
Calm combines rich features and a large library of guided meditations with a simple, clean interface. Guided meditations range in length from 3 to 25 minutes, so you can always find a meditation to fit your schedule. Like other subscription-based apps, Calm provides a basic course in meditation for free, with more advanced meditations requiring a subscription starting at $9.99 per month.
11. Gratitude Journal
This is not a meditation app as such. Instead, this app makes it easy to take time out of each day to note what you’re grateful for. You can personalize your journal to give it a distinct look and feel, and can even add photos or audio to your journal entries. Another feature is the ability to set reminders so you don’t forget to take time out of your day to be thankful. An attractive alternative for Android is Attitudes for Gratitude.
This isn’t a meditation app, either, but it’s useful if you find a “brain dump” useful to clear your mind for meditation. SimpleMind+ is a free mind mapping tool that helps you clear your head of clutter. An Android alternative, which is also free, is SharpMindMap.
13. My Mood Tracker
Here’s another app that isn’t for meditation, but may help you center and find the peace you need. My Mood Tracker encourages you to monitor and track your mental and emotional well-being. A reminder system asks you how you feel at various points of the day, so you can track your mood over time. This can promote relaxation and contentment by helping you to identify and mitigate stressors. A free alternative for Android and iOS is T2 Mood Tracker, which is highly customizable but a little clunky.
Breathe2Relax by National Center for Telehealth and Technology helps you relax and relieve stress through exercises such as diaphragmatic breathing, also known as “belly breathing.” It is completely free.