If a smooth British accent is all it takes to lull you into submission, this app is for you. But regardless of Andy Puddicombe’s calm, amiable voice, the Headspace app’s easy-to-follow guided meditations have earned a loyal following. The first session and an introductory animated video eases first-time meditators into the program, talking through each step of the way and offering tips for how to “train your mind.” Though this app was a favorite, the free version only includes a basic pack of 10 three minute sessions. To see statistics tracking your progress and to try out sessions tailored towards stress, sleep, illness, happiness, anger, and more will require a $9.99/month subscription fee.
Opening the Calm app, you’ll immediately be greeted with “take a deep breath”: your cue to slow down, starting now. Swipe to change the background from a silently spinning Earth to other scenes, like a crackling fire or restful mountain lake (our favorite). The 10-12 minute introductory sessions were longer and slower than other apps we’ve tried, so beginners, be patient. Topical series include “calming anxiety” and “improving focus.” “Cultivating gratitude” provides uplifting time for reflection. In addition to the meditations, the app offers a “breath bubble” timer to practice breathing and a dreamy selection of “sleep stories” to power down your mind while adventuring around the world.
The Mindfulness App keeps it simple with a straightforward design and no-frills menu. The “Get Started” option offers a quick orientation and five days of five-minute beginner sessions, focusing on meditation mainstays like breathing, letting go, and listening. After a slow bell chime, you’ll be instructed to relax and follow a series of instructions designed to make you acutely aware of your body. Choose a guided or silent meditation lasting 3 to 30 minutes. Unfortunately, sessions designed specifically for stress, sleep, travel, and more are only available in the “premium” realm, along with longer courses.
Insight Timer is like a never-ending meditation buffet. With over 5,700 meditations by over 1,000 instructors, the selection can’t be beat—though it might be overwhelming. Instead of offering series, it contains single sessions and themed “playlists.” Sessions vary, so we found sorting by ratings provides a helpful starting point. Doubling as a social network, the app also offers thousands of international “insight groups” and the option to connect and send messages to friends while still monitoring your individual progress. An ever-flickering world map of meditators reminds you that even during your solo sessions, you’re not alone.
Entering this app is like arriving at your own appointment. Start by completing a one minute “check in,” indicating your current physical and mental state and selecting emotions off a list—words like content, afraid, indifferent, or irritated. After a few seconds, you’ll be delivered a recommended regimen. If you already know what you’re after, bypass checking in and choose your own session. We appreciated the eight minute “body scan,” which allows you to tune in with your body by noting breath patterns and feelings. A handy “my progress” tab allows you to track your emotions and meditations over time for a robust, personal experience.