The 7 Best Meditation Apps for You, Based on How & Why You Meditate

How do you normally meditate? Are you meditating for a certain purpose? To reduce anxiety? To improve focus? To sleep more soundly? Here are the best apps for each.

Do you meditate? Ever thought about exactly why? Turns out there's plenty more than one reason people seek out meditation. 

Want to regain lost focus? Gain better self-regulation skills? Alleviate anxiety? Enjoy more restful sleep? Bypass a craving? 

Whatever the reason - Sit right down. We've gone in to discover which of the 2,000+ meditation apps out there are best for various uses, and brought back the goodies to share. Join us as we discuss each one, and what it can help you do:

Please note this is an introduction to each app, and each app likely does a lot more than just what's listed here. If you notice the app works in ways not mentioned here, good on you for getting the most out of it! If it doesn't work for you in the ways mentioned here, simply move on to the next app. 

We all have our favorite apps for our own reasons and what appeals to us personally - so let's find yours!

Meditation apps to increase focus and self-regulation

Headspace

Many have felt they found the undisputed best free meditation app ever with Headspace

Using the Headspace mindfulness meditation app to become more aware of our own thoughts and feelings as well as the details going on around us can be profoundly beneficial to our daily lives.

For those new to mindfulness, it's an approach that simply acknowledges thoughts and feelings as they come and go, but doesn't push them in or out — just notices them, then carries on with whatever was going on in the first place. A focus on one's breathing can be a good place to start, and Headspace will take it from there!

More about Headspace:

Price: Free. (well, for part of it anyway; you can also get a nice assortment of helpful packs for around $95/year or $8/month).

Where to find the app: Here, lower right side.

Any extras we need to know about? Kids can use it as well as adults in the workplace.

Pros:

  • Some Headspace reviewers noted their focus improved significantly after using Headspace for just a few weeks
  • Fun animations explain new concepts to minimize boredom
  • Supported by scientific evidence with links provided
  • Mindfulness is explained in a manner useful to the modern mind
  • Initial free 10-day program offers excellent guidance and reminders to get you off to a great start

Cons:

  • Some may feel it's too expensive beyond the free stuff
  • You must complete the initial sessions before moving on to more advanced content
  • Some find the accent of the Headspace narrator distracting (I find him enchanting; here he is on Ellen, so you can decide for yourself)

Bottom line:

When a former Buddhist monk realized how many people really wanted to learn meditation, but couldn't relate to the ancient mysticism and robes of it all, he created Headspace. It's superb for beginners as you can notice a difference in 10 minutes per day. Note: If you aren't interested in disciplining yourself, don't expect the app to wrangle you in. Headspace is excellent for guidance, but you still do the work yourself.

Smiling Mind

Smiling Mind was created by psychologists and educators with a foundation in mindfulness meditation.

Divided  up into modules and sessions, the Smiling Mind app's programs can help individuals at any age as they navigate life's challenges and  transitions.

All  you need is 10 minutes per day to see and feel a difference using mindfulness meditation techniques and the Smiling Mind app programs.

More about Smiling Mind:

Price: Free.

Where to find the app: Here and here.

Any extras we need to know about? This app is for ages 5 to adult, offering a range of activities and meditations appropriate for everyone. There are also lesson plans teachers can pair with the student's meditations.

For a richer understanding, the science of mindfulness is explained here.

Pros:

  • Easy to use
  • Tracks all the meditations you've completed, how long you did it, the total duration, etc.
  • The more you share this free app, the more you advocate for the creators' vision of a mindful people of earth, or people of the best mental health 

Cons:

  • None found

Bottom line:

Use the free Smiling Mind app for 5-10 minutes 3 times per week and let us  know what, if anything, changes for the better in your life. We'd love  to hear about it!

Meditation apps to strengthen attention span, sleep, and inspiration

Omvana

Advertised as primarily for promoting meditation, strengthening the attention span, sleep, and inspiration, Omvana serves many more purposes with hundreds of tracks for everyone.

With over 500+ transformational audios and guided meditations between 3 and 60 minutes long available with a  free account, and new tracks being added daily, Omvana has been compared  to "Netflix for personal growth" - and you're sure to find something  that works for you in no time.

More about Omvana:

Price: Free.

Where to find the app: Omvana is free for iOS here, Android here, and web here.

Any extras we need to know about? Omvana also has guided hypnosis, creative visualizations, motivational talks, and more.

Pros:

  • App comes pre-loaded with some apps; add more as you go via the app store
  • Variety of meditations available 
  • Lots of free apps to learn useful skills
  • Includes some of the best meditation apps for sleep

Cons:

  • Some take a long time to download; take up a lot of space on device
  • For the full app, it's $9.99 per month, or $7.42 per month if you pay the whole year's dues upfront

Bottom line:

There's a lot to see here, but unfortunately we can't get a peek at a free sample to give an example. Check out some of Omvana's free pre-loaded options to see if you want anything more from the store.

Calm

Another of the best free meditation apps available is Calm. Calm offers a vast array of meditation topics as well as variations on the types of meditations you can do, i.e. body scans, walking meditations, etc. 

An extremely popular meditation app, Calm's been downloaded over 22 million times, is currently valued at $250 million (equal to its main competitor, Headspace), and was named Apple's iPhone app of the year for 2017.

More about Calm:

Price: After the free trial, $12.99 a month will get you all the premium features.

Where to find the app: Start here for a free trial.

Any extras we need to know about? Daily Calm sessions will give you a free sample here. They're known for their helpful sleep tracks, which can be accessed here by signing up for an account.

Enjoy a nice bedtime story? Check out Calm's Sleep Stories, told by master story tellers, some of which are free like this one, Blue Gold.

Pros:

  • Easy to use
  • As soon as you open the app, beautiful images and relaxing sounds begin; you'll likely start to feel relaxed even before you try the meditation
  • Gorgeous sounds and scenery
  • The 7 steps of Calm, a basic intro to mindfulness meditation, launch as soon as you open the app, and take you through the program while you just relax and learn. Each ranges from 2 to 30 minutes
  • You can download your favorite meditations to your phone or device for use without WiFi by clicking on the cloud located in the top left corner
  • Use the Breathe Bubble to monitor and slow the breathing, instantly pulling you back into the calm

Cons:

  • One Calm app review noted there's a choice of guided and unguided  meditations, with the guided options being lead by the voice of Tamara  Leavitt, the Head of Mindfulness at Calm. While most find her voice relaxing, others may not. Check it yourself here
  • Some of the content is not free

Bottom line:

Clear your mind, relax, and fall asleep with the Calm app. When you successfully complete each exercise on Calm, you'll get a lovely inspirational image and quote, as well as a request to rate your meditation. Track your progress in your profile, so you know where to go next. You get a lot for free on Calm, but we think the paid portions are worthwhile as well; if you don't mind upgrading, you'll likely be impressed.

Meditation apps to help children cope with anxiety

Breathe, Think, and Do Sesame

For those who realize that kids, even little ones, have stress and anxiety, too, there's the highly rated Breathe, Think, and Do Sesame app.

More about Breathe, Think, and Do:

Price: Free.

Where to find the app: Here.

Any extras we need to know about? Great teaching app for preschoolers, autistic children, or those who have trouble processing emotions.

Pros:

  • Free
  • Fun, recognizable characters
  • Helps to learn mindful breathing and practice how to follow directions
  • Excellent to teach appropriate choices and how to calm down 
  • One of the best meditation apps for childhood anxiety

Cons:

  • None found

Bottom line:

Breathe, Think, and Do is a wonderful app for the little ones to learn stress management and healthy responses to negative emotion. Adults could take a note from this one.

Meditation apps to support relaxation, stress-reduction, and insight

Insight Timer

The widely adored Insight Timer has been rated the top most popular free meditation app on both iOS and Android stores.

Insight Timer is also known for having the best selected of guided meditation apps as well — over 12,737, to be exact.

Inspired by the meditative focus of the mindfulness bell, this free meditation app offers a wide assortment of activities to enhance your experience — from ambient music to chanting, breathing and walking exercises, Tai Chi and Qigong, yoga, prayer, and more.

More about Insight Timer:

Price: Free.

Where to find the app: Free downloads for both Android and iOS here.

Try-

  • Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) here
  • Insight Meditations here
  • Mindfulness Meditations here
  • Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention here
  • Chakra Meditation here
  • Zen - Zazen here
  • Thai Forest Meditation here

Any extras we need to know about? Find every type of meditation you desire here. Sort through thousands of the best meditation teachers in the world for your greatest inspiration in 25 languages - including Thich Nhat Hanh, Mooji, Tara Brach, Ram Dass, and more.

Pros:

  • Thousands of tracks to choose from
  • Various bell sounds to use for timers
  • World-renowned teacher-guided meditations
  • Wide array of experiences from meditative walking to body scans
  • Free download for both iOS and Android

Cons:

  • Some didn't like the 'collective' aspect of the app; i.e. it shows you other folks you've meditated with after you've completed a meditation, and sometimes allows messages to be sent regarding the meditation (you can adjust your settings if this is intrusive)
  • Some felt overwhelmed by the browse feature when they didn't know what they were looking for

Bottom line:

Take your time and explore Insight Timer when you have a few free minutes. There isn't a huge amount of structure necessary for beginners on this app, so just observe the guidance offered, try to find what you like, and go from there.

Meditation apps to support successful recovery, deepen compassion, increase creativity

iAwake

Let iAwake assist you from stressed, reactive states to higher levels of consciousness, able to access greater mindfulness, gratitude, and compassion. 

Hip Sobriety describes the method as, "Essentially, the meditations produce a specific sound current that tricks the brain quickly into deeper meditative states. What takes a vipassana practitioner years to achieve through simple mindfulness meditation is achieved immediately - so that novice meditators can access those slower brainwave states and reap the benefits of meditation immediately."

We think that sounds pretty worthwhile!

More about iAwake:

Price: Varies from Free to over $400.00.

Where to find the app: 

Any extras we need to know about? There's a full catalog here.

Pros:

  • Although highly beneficial, it's not easy for a beginner to understand the vocabulary or what is happening. Best to simply enjoy the free apps and learn as you go
  • Good free apps to start off with

Cons:

  • Some apps are prohibitively expensive

Bottom line:

Try out the free ones and see how it goes. If you feel moved and don't mind the price, add iAwake as time goes on.

So there ya have it. Which ones do you think you'll use? Still want to browse? There's plenty more to look through if you haven't found your favorite yet. Here are a few others below.

More meditation apps to try

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