Many of us know we could benefit from meditation, but that knowledge doesn’t always translate into action. Why meditate when you can sleep for 10 more minutes or spend a few extra moments sweating out that double fudge mocha latte? We feel you, but the truth is, there’s a long list of reasons to meditate.
“We’ve noticed that one of the biggest obstacles that stand in the way of optimal health is chronic stress and most people underestimate the amount of wear and tear that happens physically, mentally and spiritually when they perpetually live in ‘fight or flight’ mode rather than ‘rest and digest’ mode,” says May Tom, MPH, RDN at Cal-a-Vie Health Spa in California. “Meditation brings us back to living the way nature intended; it’s a powerful vehicle that can move us out of stewing in toxic stress hormones into a space that allows the body to rest, rebuild and rejuvenate. This is probably the ultimate anti-aging secret!”
This begs the question — how long should you meditate to reap benefits? Unfortunately, there isn’t one simple answer. We’re all different and respond to different techniques in different dosages. While most group classes are 45 minutes to an hour (The Path, Inscape, MNDFL, Unplug and The DEN are all popular options in New York and Los Angeles), that doesn’t mean you have to limit yourself to that nor does it mean that five minutes of controlled breathing is a waste of time. In fact, you can try one minute a day and once you find that you can sit still and keep your mind relaxed, slowly progress to another minute.
To help set things in motion, here’s a look at seven of the best meditation apps, ranked.
From the founder of Intermix (yes, that Intermix), Inscape — which also has a studio space in New York — offers a variety of meditation techniques to help you find an experience that feels right for you, wherever you are in your practice. The experience starts with an onboarding process where you receive recommended content rather than being shown a library of options from the get-go.
Once you start exploring the app more, you’ll find content to support well-being and reduce stress, build a daily practice, enhance emotional intelligence, maximize productivity and boost creativity, sleep better, reset at stressful times or disconnect from your busy life. The app is focused on gradual development and there are three primary meditation techniques: Focus, Mindfulness and Mantra, meaning the app will help you find a technique that’s right for you.
Headspace features the voice of Andy Puddicombe, a former Buddhist monk. Each day, it delivers a new guided meditation based on teachings that Puddicombe learned during the decade he spent in the monasteries of Asia. As well as daily meditations, it offers on-the-go exercises that bring mindfulness to activities like walking, cooking and cycling. Each of the series (called “packs”) is supported by a host of content, including animations, articles and videos.
The first series, Take10, is free and teaches the basics of meditation and mindfulness. After that, Headspace offers hundreds of hours of original content via subscription tailored to the specific needs of the user — that’s everything from stress and focus to relationships and sleep.
Users of buddhify have clocked an astonishing 50 million minutes of meditation, so the app is clearly doing something right. If that doesn’t pique your interest, the app was founded by Rohan Gunatillake, who was named by Wired as one of 50 people who will change the world. The buddhify app has over 80 meditation tracks comprising over 11 hours of content, all designed to bring mindfulness and calm to your life. Sections include meditations for sleep, commuting and working online. If sleep is of particular concern, the buddhify team has also developed Sleepfulness, a sleep-focused app based on mindfulness techniques.
Mindbliss has a social aspect where a user can set up a profile in which they are able to post and join mediation events and collect what the app calls karma points. As a user, you are able to have singular sessions or engage in a longer journey that has multiple parts and can span the length of a week.
What’s great about this app is that when you download it, you see one of a few different calming scenes (think a lake or clouds) as well as hear nature-inspired music/sounds. This is a perfect backdrop to relax and take a few mindful breaths. Calm also has an intro to meditation series and guided meditation sessions.
6. The Mindfulness App
This is the best option if you don’t require lots of bells and whistles. The Mindfulness App is basically a meditation timer that lets you meditate either in silence with bells in the background or with a recorded guide; lengths vary from three minutes to a half hour. You can also use the app to track your progress by recording the date and length of your session. Plus, it lets you set reminders
Sattva offers guided meditations and sounds and tracks your heart rate before and after sessions. It also has an insight engine to help you track how meditation is improving your life. If you’re a skeptic, this is the app for you. Moreover, there’s a meditation timer to help you time and track your sessions, a mood tracker, and the app’s gamified meditation with rewards and trophies when you reach milestones. The idea of stats and rewards may be the antithesis of what you’d expect from meditation, but it may also be just what someone wary of the practice needs.