Ever wondered how that impossibly calm co-worker or friend manages to keep a level head through any and every situation? Well, chances are, they probably are onto some form of meditation or mindfulness practice.
Best Mindfulness Apps 2017
In a world filled with noise, from social media to a culture of constant busy-ness, mindfulness has become a rare commodity. As a result, cultivating the art of being mindful has turned into the modern pursuit of our times. While you’d think that smartphones wouldn’t be part of our quest for mindfulness, it’s blatantly clear that they’re no longer the enemy of mindfulness.
In his 8-week course Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as “paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment.” While it’s unclear whether in-person mindfulness programs, which have been proven to lower anxiety, stress, and depression, are more effective than their mobile app counterparts, some benefits have been derived from the latter’s use.
As it turns out, we can actually use smartphone apps as tools to assist us in our journey back towards mindfulness. Not only can they teach us about mindfulness, but they also can help us practice it even as we journey through the sometimes overwhelming busy-ness of our lives.
Indeed, studies show that daily meditation does positively affect your brain in the long-term. This, in turn, leads to increased health benefits, enhanced creativity, as well as a generally positive outlook when it comes to life and relationships in general.
Here are 12 of the top apps to help you bring mindfulness with you wherever you may go:
Possibly one of the most popular mindfulness app, this iOS and Android app guides you through 10-minute daily meditations. No matter what your level of mindfulness is, it coaches you to set a daily or regular mindfulness routine. Happiness studies suggest that users who tried the Headspace app for 10 days showed improvement in mood and fewer symptoms of depression. While you can start it free for the first 10 days, you can sign up for memberships priced from $12.95 a month to $95.88 a year, $149.76 for two years, or $419.95 if you prefer a lifetime subscription.
This free iOS and Android app starts with a “7 Days of Calm” course to introduce you to mindfulness meditation. In order to unlock the remainder of the content, you can subscribe on a monthly ($12.99/month), yearly ($59.88 per year), or lifetime ($299.99) basis.
If you prefer multi-day courses as opposed to individual sessions, this app is for you.
3. Stop, Breathe, and Think
This is a free iOS, Android, as well as a Web app which also offers the option to purchase additional meditations. What I really like about this app is that it lets you check in by asking you first how you’re doing, and allows you to pick a meditation of your choice. If you think you don’t have time in your schedule for mindfulness, this app is a great way to get started on this practice.
4. Simply Being
If you need guidance to start building a meditation practice, this iOS and Android app is perfect! At $1.99, it allows you to customize your own guided meditation experience.You have the option to set it for 5,10, 15, 20 or 30 minutes, with the option of using a guiding voice, sounds of nature, music or a combination of these. While there is no free option, the ability to customize your meditation through this app is definitely a plus!
5. Take a Break
This app is similar to Simply Being, however it does offer a free option. In addition, it also offers a couple of additional guided meditations.
This iOS and Android app can be downloaded for free, and gives you access to a variety of meditation tracks, from simple ones to fully guided ones. If you’re not sure whether you want to spend money on a meditation app or not, Omvana is a great choice as it allows you to access a number of free tracks before committing to paying ones.
Calling all mothers everywhere! This free iOS and Android app is targeted at moms. Its primary purpose is to teach mindfulness to mothers through guided parenting sessions, mindful eating teachings, along with other tools for mind. While this app is free, you can unlock additional content for $8.99 a month, or $39.99 a year. It’s aimed at mothers, however anyone can find value in this app.
8. Relax Melodies
This app, available on iOS and Android, is the perfect background setting for your meditation. While it doesn’t offer guided meditations, it provides tracks to accompany your meditation sessions. If you already know how to meditate, this app will be a great complement to your practice!
Too busy to remember to be mindful? This app, available on iOS, reminds you to take some time out to be mindful. I love that it comes with pre-loaded quotes, and you can even add your own quotes. You can also set your own reminders at your convenience. At $2.99, it’s a great app for anyone who needs to get their mindfulness on.
10. Mindfulness Daily
This iOS app helps you establish a mindfulness habit, by reminding you to practice it a few minutes in the morning, in the middle of the day, and in the evenings. It also helps you track how long you’ve stuck to your meditation practice. If you need someone holding your hands and keeping you accountable, well, there’s an app for it!
This free app is available on iOS and Android, and provide guided meditation as well as individual mindfulness sessions. What I really like is that it even offers an option for kids. While some features of the app can be accessed for free, premium meditations’ costs range from $9.99 a month, to $59.99 a year, or $149.99 for a lifetime.
12. Just Be
This mindfulness reminder, available from Android, allows you to load your own quotes and set the app notifications and reminders. Although it doesn’t offer any pre-loaded quotes, it’s a great app if you want to be reminded to take a mindfulness break throughout the day. This app is available from Google Play for $1.99.
In addition to these 12 apps, I’d also recommend these devices to help ease your meditation process.
Ever felt like your brain is way too active to withhold an entire meditation session? You’re not alone. Countless people think they’ve “failed” at meditating because their mind doesn’t keep still long enough. That’s where Muse comes in. This brain sensing headband uses the real-time state of your brain to guide you through an effective meditation session by adjusting sounds you listen to. It’s as easy as putting your headband on, launching the app, and immersing yourself in the experience. When you’re calm, you hear peaceful sounds. When your brain starts becoming too active, the sounds intensify to bring you back to a state of calm. Think of it as your personal meditation assistant!
As a bonus, you can even review your stats and performance, so you can keep improving your mindfulness practice. At the cost of $249, it’s a great investment in your mindfulness and peace of mind!
Heralded as “the first technology that actively changes the way you feel”, Thync works by stimulating the nerves on your head and neck with safe electrical pulses. It offers calm programs, aimed at lowering stress, reducing anxiety, and improving sleep quality. There are also energy programs, which help you feel more awake and energetic. Thync is made out of little adhesive strips that can attach to your skin to deliver soft electrical pulses. It’s also connected to an app which records the results of the process.
All in all, each one of these apps and devices can help you be more mindful, which goes to show that technology is not necessarily an enemy of mindfulness. Actually, if you set clear goals and are intentional about the process, your smartphone can turn out to be one of your greatest allies. Just make sure to look for these things when considering which mindfulness app is best for you:
- Understand its purpose: Do you have any clear ideas as to why this particular app would help you? If it is to reduce stress, then how will it go about it? If it is to improve sleep quality, then what useful parameters will be included?
- Obtain the research behind it: Are these apps’ claims backed solid by research studies? Do these research studies confirm said benefits?
- Don’t confuse music with mindfulness: While many apps feature the use of music and soothing sounds, these do not help in fostering the sense of awareness needed when seeking to attain a state of mindfulness.
However, it’s worthwhile noting that mindfulness can also be attained without the help of technology. Taking a quiet walk outside, sitting in silence, or just taking the time to actively breathe, can be simple ways to disconnect and practice mindfulness.
As a bonus, please see below the 5 most common questions asked about the general topic of mindfulness:
What is mindfulness?
“Mindfulness is about paying attention in a particular way to things as they are in the present moment.” Jon Kabat-Zinn
So often, we let our minds wander away from the present moment, back to the past or fast forward to the future. As a result, we end up being restless, unproductive, and bitter. The practice of mindfulness allows us to recognize when our minds have wandered too far off, so we can bring it back to the present moment. It’s a skill that’s developed with time, effort and discipline.
What are some of the most important benefits of practicing mindfulness?
Mindfulness has a lot of benefits, at the emotional, mental and spiritual levels. Some of the most important benefits include:
- Improved mental health
- Better physical health
- Increased energy levels
- Improved creativity
- Better work and life balance
- Improved relationships
Some of these benefits even expand to the workplace, to include better job performance and satisfaction, improved negotiation and communication skills, increased resilience. It also improves leadership and decision-making abilities.
Are apps effective for productive mindfulness?
Yes and no. For people on the go who need a quick, hands-on tool to practice mindfulness and meditation, mindfulness apps are great alternatives. They’re also effective ways to learn about the practice itself, as well as ways to incorporate them into their daily routines.
However, you must take into account that too much technology can impair your ability to practice effective mindfulness. Learning to limit your app use, as well as selecting some of the best apps on the market, can make all the difference.
How long does it take to notice a real difference?
The answer is: it depends. The results do vary from person to person. However, in general, it’s common for most people to report a difference after a couple of weeks. You’ll note that in most cases, friends and family are the first ones to notice a difference in how you approach certain situations differently.
After some dedicated mindfulness practice, you’ll start noting an expanded sense of peace and freedom, as you face situations with a calmer, more purposeful perspective.
Where can I use a meditation app to practice mindfulness?
The easy answer is: everywhere! A less easy answer would be: everywhere you feel comfortable sitting (or standing) in quiet. This could be a room in your house, an empty conference room at home, or even sitting in your car during lunch breaks. Actually, it’s been proven that meditating at work helps advance one’s career.
As you’re beginning your mindfulness practice, it’s important to be in a place where you won’t be distracted. As you grow more comfortable with meditating, whether using a mindfulness app or not, you can take your practice pretty much anywhere, including to the part, in your car, or even in line at the store.