Whether you’re trying to cope with burnout at work or need help falling asleep faster, meditation apps are a convenient and accessible way to incorporate mindfulness into your daily routine. But with so many options, how do you find the best meditation app for you?
Here’s our honest and thorough review of five of the best meditation apps out there.
The 5 Best Meditation Apps Reviewed
The OG meditation app co-founded by a Buddhist monk, Andy Puddicombe, and an advertising executive.
Free 30 day trial, then $12.99 per month, $94.99 per year, or $399.99 for a lifetime membership.
Coping With Cravings, Managing Conflicts, Eating With Your Senses, Difficult Conversations, Performance Mindset, Creative Writing, Mindful Tech, Business Travel
To start, Headspace is super accessible right down to the thoughtful branding. No cheesy stock photos here. Just clever little cartoons that make daily meditation seem way less intimidating. They even wisely color all of their nighttime activities in dark colors to not ambush sleep deprived eyes with screen brightness.
If you’re new to meditation, Headspace introduces you to more esoteric techniques such as visualization or noting using fun video animations. You can search for specific topics and their courses come with a whopping 30 sessions so you can really focus on a specific skill for a full month.
Finally, we may be a bit biased here, but we love that they have a sleep meditation that takes place in a Hummingbird Bungalow!
There are actually so many features on Headspace that it’s a little distracting which er… may defeat the purpose of meditation, no? You can choose from unguided, semi-guided or guided meditation timers. Nighttime options include sleep sounds, sleepcasts, or wind downs. They even have hourly live sessions. This is a nice idea in theory but also creates a manic sense of FOMO with the constant countdown and number of people updating in real time on your screen.
Also, the titles of courses can be a bit broad. Individual sessions within larger courses are unnamed so you’re going in blind. Similarly, there is no preview of sleep sounds, so you have to wait for each to load in full before deciding whether you like it or not.
Meditation skeptics and beginners.
The Calm app was recently valued at $1 billion and calls itself the number one meditation app.
Free 7 day trial, then $59.99 per year.
Focus, Compulsion, Negativity, Addiction, Flight Anxiety, Commuting, Forgiveness, Emotions, World Cup Penalty Series
This one came widely recommended by peers! It’s easy enough to navigate with three main categories: sleep, meditate, and music. Light sleepers can select from soundscapes, ASMR, and even bedtime stories. Interestingly, the latter features a beguiling list of celebrity cameos. You can fall asleep to Leona Lewis, Levar Burton, Bob Ross, Nick Viall, or even Matthew McConaughey reading you a story.
Courses list their individual session names for more informed selections. To personalize your practice, you can also select whether or not you prefer background noises in your meditation – and even which noise!
There are two main narrators on Calm and they were both a bit formal sounding for my taste. The course names are also pretty broad and you can’t search which lends itself to lots of scrolling.
I also couldn’t quite figure out the vibe of this app. On one hand you have some pretty woo-woo calming music title tracks including “Stars Bring Us Closer,” “Elegies For Time Feelers,” and “You’re Rendering Again.”
But in the same app you have World Cup Penalty Series “designed to help World Cup fans ease the anxiety of watching penalty shoot-outs.” Huh? Also, as much as I love me some Matthew McConaughey, his dreamy southern drawl kept me wide awake.
People who like a well-curated selection and/or anyone with a crush on Matthew McConaughey.
Insight Timer REview
The largest free library of guided meditations, once voted the happiest app in the world!
Free 7 Day Trial, then $59.99 per year.
Overcome Obsessive Thinking, Transform The Way You Manage Time, Sacred Sex, Love The Weight Away, Surrender To Fear Around Fertility, Body Love For Women
Insight Timer offers a huge library of meditations which is much easier to navigate thanks to their handy search function. One cool thing about this app is that teachers publish directly onto the app giving you lots of new content daily. You can even follow teachers you like to stay up to date with new additions.
If you prefer unguided meditations, they still keep it interesting by customizing your starting bell and offering a variety of background noises. You can also customize your home screen with the features you use most on the app.
The downside of teachers publishing directly is a lack of curation. While searching for “Yoga Nidra” I found at least fifteen different sessions with the exact same name.
Then, in terms of interface, it’s a little cluttered with unnecessary sell-ins. General topic screens show a paragraph on why meditation can help, descriptions of courses, and customer reviews. While I appreciate the sentiment of providing more context, the course names are pretty self-explanatory and I’d rather the material speak for itself.
Anyone loyal to their yoga and spin instructors.
Simple Habit Review
The Simple Habit app promises five minute meditations for busy people.
Free 7 day trial, then $95.99 per year.
Romantic Jealousy, Leave Work at Work, Reduce Stress Without Drinking, Test Anxiety, Prepare For A Meeting, Imposter Syndrome, Commuting By Bus, Negativity in the News, Ease Millennial Money Worries
As you can see, the courses on this app are super specific – and super relatable! Whoever is in charge of programming here is definitely tuned into the culture at large. Each meditation comes with the option to include or exclude background music. The teachers I tried all had nice, natural voices. Plus, many of them introduce themselves as psychologists. There’s a handy dashboard on your profile to keep track of your total minutes, sessions, and streaks. You can also find friends, encourage their practice with a tap, and join community challenges.
Since signing up for the free trial of this app a mere two hours ago, I’ve already received three emails from them. Hello!? I thought you guys understood my millennial woes of over inundated inboxes! Also, their sleep soundscapes and music tracks are much more limited compared to the apps above.
Anyone who needs help with adulting.
STOP, BREATHE & THINK REVIEW
A meditation app that tracks your mental health.
Free for limited features, premium access for $9.99 per month or $58.99 per year.
Tame Your Anxiety, Sit Back and Chill, First Date, Review the Day, One Minute to Relaxation, Mindful Driving, Lion Mind, Kindness for Pregnancy
Full disclosure, this one is my personal favorite.
Why? Because the free version offers a unique feature that records your emotional state over time.
Here’s how it works. When you open the app it has you dim the screen for 10 seconds and note how you are feeling in that moment – first physically, then, mentally. Then, you choose five emotions you’re currently feeling. From there it suggests some guided meditations, but you can also opt for a timer (with or without background noises) or a simple breathing timer. After your meditation, you check back in with the same metrics.
This simple little step results in some seriously interesting data. Besides just seeing your daily streak, you can actually see weekly visuals of how settled you feel before and after meditating. You can also view your top emotions by week, month, or all time. Stop, Breathe & Think can also analyze data from their users to detect trends.
Finally, 10% of their earnings go to teaching children mindfulness in underserved communities. Solid!
The design isn’t anything to write home about. Like headspace, they use cartoons, but they don’t have the same pizzazz. Also, their guided meditations are much more limited in selections, difficult to browse through, and pretty stiff in delivery. I have trialed the premium access before, but probably wouldn’t pay for it.
Anyone wanting to track your own mental health over time.