If you’re not already meditating regularly, you’ve almost definitely thought about it. With practitioners promising results including reduced stress, improved concentration, and a major energy boost, what is there to lose? As with any other new practice, however, the problem is bridging the gap from “thinking about it” to “making it happen.” Fortunately, as meditation has grown in popularity (helped along by celebrity acolytes including Oprah, Tom Hanks
Sure, you can go the studio route—meditation hubs including MNDFL in New York and The Den in Los Angeles provide a ready-made pocket of serenity for getting your Zen on. But for those seeking a slightly more time and budget-friendly option, the easiest way to get started is right your pocket: a phone app. Read on for a few of our favorites.
With a wide range of shorter options (ranging from one minute “minis” to 10 to 15-minute targeted sessions), Headspace removes the intimidation factor from meditation. You can choose from a variety of targeted “packs,” each consisting of 30 daily meditations to help users target specific goals. Whether you need help managing anxiety, boosting self-esteem, increasing productivity or dealing with change, Headspace has you covered. They even have a designated section for helping users overcome common meditation obstacles—think posture, sleepiness, and restlessness. App creator and former Buddhist monk Andy Puddicombe’s dulcet British tones are the cherry on top of a beautifully designed, user-friendly mindfulness experience. Of course, it will cost you (a little bit). The starter “Take 10” pack is free, but beyond that, you have to choose from subscriptions ranging from $5 to $15 a month.
THE MINDFULNESS APP
Though it might take some trial and error, The Mindfulness App makes it possible for you to hone in on exactly the type of meditation that works best for you. From totally silent timed sessions to guided programs offered by different teachers, the app has a little bit of everything. The app even tracks your progress, making it easy for you to see how committed you’ve remained to mindfulness over time. To get access to the app’s full offerings, which include several full-length courses and 200+ targeted mediations, you have to sign up for the premium option (1 week free, then $5/month).
For the goal-oriented among us, Calm gets off to a promising start: the app’s opening screen prompts you to select the life changes you’d most like to experience. (Options include increased gratitude, better sleep and less stress.) It scores a win for its truly unique features, including walking meditations, a monthly master class with world-renowned mindfulness experts, and “sleep stories”—soothing, just-interesting-enough stories to help you fall asleep. You can also choose from more standard-issue options, with 100+ guided meditations focusing on goals of your choice. The downside? The initial investment is steep. After a free 7-day trial, a yearlong subscription will set you back $59.99.
The self-proclaimed “largest library of free guided mediations on earth” lives up to its claim. With a huge array of meditations searchable by time required, favorite teachers, origins, goals and more, there’s truly something for everyone. Though the selection can be daunting, it’s great for figuring out what you like and what motivates you. Best of all, though, this app earns points for being really and truly free. (We think the Buddha would approve.) You can pay more for certain courses, but with a vast library of free material to choose from, you won’t need to.
STOP, BREATHE & THINK
As opposed to leaving the choice up to you, Stop, Breathe & Think charmingly prompts you to check in as soon as you open it. The app then suggests a few mediations based on the mental, physical and emotional assessment you offer. These meditations are usually somewhat targeted (titles include “Gratitude” and “Relax, Ground and Clear”), though the app also offers comparatively straightforward features like a breathing timer, if that’s more your speed. Most meditations are less than 10 minutes, so this app is a particularly good quick fix in stressful moments. It also charts your mental and emotional progress over time based on your check-ins, which provides a satisfying look into the results of meditating that is perhaps more tangible than a month-long streak. The app is free, though additional meditations are available if you subscribe for about $10 a month (or $58.99 billed annually).