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Looking to explore the benefits of meditation? These 6 apps can help you on your way to greater mindfulness.

Woman meditating using an appShare on Pinterest
Credit Image: Delmaine Donson/Getty Images

Chances are, you’re familiar with some of meditation’s potential benefits. You know it can promote relaxation, improve sleep, and boost compassion for yourself and others. Maybe you’ve even heard it can help ease depression or anxiety.

All benefits aside, a regular meditation practice can seem somewhat daunting when you’re just starting out. It takes time to get the hang of any new skill, and meditation is no exception. You might wonder where you’ll find the time or if you’re even doing it right.

That’s where meditation apps come in. Whether you want to learn more about deep breathing to relieve stress or get more comfortable tolerating unwanted emotions, an app can guide you through your first steps and help you make meditation a regular habit.

Ready to try one out for yourself? Our top six picks can get you started.

Meditation apps offer a variety of guided (and sometimes unguided) meditation exercises, as well as several features to help you manage anxiety and stress and improve sleep. Many apps offer reminders, timers, and tracking features to help you develop your practice.

If you want to jump directly to the sections for each app, you can click the links below.

Since so many different meditation apps exist, you may feel unsure about which to try first.

To make your choice easier, we compared the following features when selecting apps to recommend:

  • User reviews. We took a look at what customers had to say about each app.
  • Overall rating. All but one of these apps earn more than four stars on both Google Play and the App Store.
  • Operating system. All of our recommended apps are available for both Android and iOS.
  • Features. We looked for apps offering plenty of content for both beginner and experienced meditators.
  • Price. We selected apps in a range of price points, including free options, to meet the needs of different budgets.
  • Vetting. All services have been vetted to ensure that they meet Psych Central’s medical and business standards.

Best for sleep

Calm

  • Price: $14.99/month, $69.99/year, $399.99/lifetime membership

One of the most widely known meditation apps, Calm has a lot to offer adults and children hoping to de-stress. Reviewers generally praise the app. What’s more, in a 2019 study in 88 college students, a majority of the participants said Calm helped reduce their stress.

Along with guided and unguided meditations of varying lengths, sleep stories, and relaxing sounds and music, you’ll also find a 30-day training program for meditation beginners. The app also offers classes on mindfulness, meditation, and related topics.

Why we chose it

  • Calm is a popular app offering a variety of meditations, including more than 200 sleep stories to help you get a good night’s sleep.

What we like

  • Calm offers a 7-day free trial period.
  • The app is available in six languages.
  • You can use some features without a subscription.

What to look out for

  • You’ll need to enter payment details before accessing the free trial.
  • Some reviewers say the app doesn’t offer much free content.
  • Many reviewers found the price a little high.

If you want to learn more, consider reading our in-depth review of Calm.

Best for variety

Headspace

  • Price: $12.99/month, $69.99/year, student and family discounts available

With playful and colorful animations, Headspace aims to make meditation feel both appealing and doable for anyone. Reviewers generally praise the app’s benefits along with the variety of content for meditators of all ages and skill levels.

New to meditation? Start with a 10-day guide to the basics. Trouble sleeping? Soothing meditations can help you wind down or get back to sleep in the middle of the night. Need to move? Try Move Mode for a mindful workout. Daily guided or themed meditations can help make the habit stick.

Why we chose it

  • Headspace is a highly reviewed and easy-to-navigate app offering hundreds of themed meditations for beginners and experts alike.

What we like

  • Headspace offers a 7- or 14-day trial period, depending on your subscription.
  • The app is available in five languages.
  • You can access some free content without a subscription.

What to look out for

  • Some reviewers report bugs and occasional crashes.
  • You may need to cancel immediately after beginning your free trial to avoid a charge.
  • Several reviews note customer service may not reply right away.

If you want to learn more, consider reading our in-depth review of Headspace.

Best for kids

Smiling Mind

  • Price: Free

The educators and psychologists who designed Smiling Mind wanted to make it easier to add mindfulness and balance to daily life, no matter your age or schedule. Smiling Mind offers specialized meditations, including for:

  • kids and teens
  • relationships
  • pregnancy
  • work
  • sleep

Reviewers have a lot of praise for the app’s clear, organized interface and the range of content available. Smiling Mind was developed by an Australian nonprofit, and all content is completely free.

Why we chose it

  • Smiling Mind is a clear and organized app with specialized meditations for children and teens.

What we like

  • The app also includes tips for mindfulness exercises like journaling.
  • Smiling Mind features meditations in Pitjantjatjara and Ngaanyatjarra to make the app more accessible to Indigenous Australians.

What to look out for

  • Several reviewers say the app has a few bugs and glitches that make it difficult to use.

Best science-based content

UCLA Mindful

  • Price: Free

This app, which was created by researchers at the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center, has fewer meditations than other apps, but reviewers still praise the content. Several people emphasize the richness and quality of the meditations and podcasts.

UCLA Mindful doesn’t just help you get started with a regular meditation practice. The app also offers science-backed insight about the benefits of meditation and mindfulness along with tips on meditation postures, breathing, and choosing the best meditation for your needs.

Why we chose it

  • Designed by UCLA researchers, UCLA Mindful is a free app offering high-quality, science-based meditation exercises.

What we like

  • Mediations are available in English and Spanish.
  • All content is completely free.
  • Beginners can learn more about the technical aspects of meditation, like sitting and breathing.

What to look out for

  • Some reviewers mention glitches and slow loading times.

Best for ease of use

Simply Being

  • Price: $0.99

Simply Being is a fairly straightforward meditation tool. The app features one guided meditation in five different lengths, with the option to include relaxing nature sounds or music.

While a few reviewers say this app could benefit from a few additional options, others find the simplicity perfect for meditation and relaxation. This app may work well for you if you need just a little guidance during meditation.

Why we chose it

  • If you’re looking for an affordable and simple meditation app, Simply Being is a good choice.

What we like

  • No need to subscribe. The one-time fee lets you access all content.
  • You can adjust the volume of the guide’s voice if you’d prefer that it stay in the background.
  • Reviewers say the app works great for beginners.

What to look out for

  • If you prefer a variety of meditations, this may not be the app for you.

Best for beginners

The Mindfulness App

  • Price: $9.99/month, $59.99/year (Premium)

Meditation and mindfulness, or the ability to stay present in a given moment, generally go hand-in-hand. If you’re just starting out with meditation, you can learn more about the benefits of mindfulness with The Mindfulness App’s 5-day beginner course.

This app also features timed and customizable meditations for adults and children, with or without guided narration. You can choose from specific themes, including:

  • relationships
  • emotions
  • sleep
  • workplace mindfulness

You also have the option to schedule meditation reminders.

Why we chose it

  • If you’re just starting out, the Mindfulness App’s “premium” subscription can help you learn to meditate with its 5-day beginner’s course, as well as specialized courses and guided meditations.

What we like

  • The Mindfulness App is available in 14 languages.
  • A 7-day trial period lets you try out premium content before signing up.
  • Most reviewers have nothing but praise for the app’s content and usability.

What to look out for

  • Free content may be somewhat limited.
  • This app offers fewer meditations than other paid meditation apps.

PriceAndroid/iPhoneFeatures
Calm$14.99 per monthboth• sleep stories
• guided meditations
• nature sounds
Headspace$12.99 per monthboth• guided meditations
• mindful workouts
• focus
Smiling Mindfreeboth• sleep
• stress
• kids and teens
• relationships
UCLA Mindfulfreeboth• wellness
• meditations
• videos
• podcasts
Simply Being$0.99both• music or nature sounds
• narrations
The Mindfulness App$9.99 per monthboth• stress test
• timed sessions
• “My Profile”

With so many meditation apps now available, it can be hard to know which one to choose. Consider the following when picking the app that’s right for you:

  • Skill level. If you’re new to meditation, it’s a good idea to choose an app with beginner’s meditations and guided exercises. If you’re an advanced meditator, you might opt for an app with longer, more complex, or unguided meditations.
  • Cost. If you’re on a tight budget, there are plenty of free and low-cost options. Some apps offer student discounts.
  • Time. If you’re short on time, consider choosing an easy-to-navigate app with brief meditation options.
  • Reminders. If you have a hard time remembering to meditate, some apps let you set an alarm to remind you to begin your practice. This can help you get into a regular habit.
  • Tracking. If you’d like to track your progress, consider an app with tracking features. Some apps let you track your average meditation time, total time, and your longest stretch.
  • Style. Try to think about which app may best meet your style. Would you prefer one with animations? Natural sounds and scenery? A male or female voice? Whatever your style, there’s an app to match it.
  • Special features. Besides meditation, many apps offer special features, such as mindful workout videos, “focus” music, and sleep stories. It’s a good idea to review all the features of an app before downloading it.

Why is meditation beneficial?

If you feel skeptical about meditation, know you’re not alone. It’s pretty normal to wonder how sitting with your thoughts and doing some deep breathing can help you feel better.

Many experts believe meditation can help create new pathways in your brain, improving mental and physical wellness in the process.

Quite a bit of evidence supports meditation as a helpful approach:

  • According to a 2013 review of 209 studies, mindfulness-based therapy can help treat depression, anxiety, and stress, among other concerns.
  • A 2018 study of 14 adults living with anxiety found evidence to suggest that even one session of mindfulness meditation could help relieve symptoms.
  • Research from 2018 suggests mindfulness-based interventions, including meditation, help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression for many people.
  • Research from 2018 suggests meditation can help improve concentration and focus.
  • According to research from 2015, Kirtan Kriya meditation offers a number of benefits for older adults facing changes in memory and thought processes. Potential benefits include improved memory, reduced anxiety and depression, and improved sleep.
  • Research from 2018 suggests meditation and other mindfulness-based interventions can be an important part of recovery from substance use disorders.
  • According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, meditation may help relieve symptoms of certain health concerns, including chronic pain, high blood pressure, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

The American Psychological Association supports these benefits and more, recommending mindfulness meditation to ease stress, boost self-awareness, and acknowledge and let go of difficult emotions.

Do meditation apps help anxiety?

Meditation itself can be helpful for anxiety, so using a meditation app may reduce anxiety as well as stress.

If you want to learn more consider reading our in-depth article on the topic about meditation for anxiety.

How long should you meditate for each day?

Recommendations vary, but many experts suggest you meditate at least 20 minutes per day to see benefits. If you’re just starting, you can certainly begin with just 5 minutes per day and work your way up. More advanced meditators will find it beneficial to meditate 45–60 minutes per day.

Apps can offer a fun way to start a regular meditation practice and keep up the habit over time. That said, they’re absolutely not required. You have nearly as many options for ways to meditate as you do meditation apps, and plenty of people prefer to meditate without technological guidance.

Also keep in mind that while many people find meditation helpful for various reasons, it doesn’t work for everyone. It also can’t replace the benefits of therapy with a trained mental health professional.

If unwanted thoughts or emotional distress begin to intensify or increase instead of improve, a therapist can offer guidance and help you explore next steps.