While meditation is a very personal practice, it can be extremely challenging to learn the techniques and build a practice on your own. Meditation apps are a great way to keep this “you time” sacred while also getting a little support.
Whether you’re a beginner or experienced in meditation, looking for an iPhone or Android meditation app, want a quick breathing break or a long session, read on to find the perfect meditation app for you.
How Do Meditation Apps Work?
Many of the meditation apps out there have pretty similar features. Most are built around some combination of one-off guided meditations, lessons to help you understand the fundamentals, and courses to help you grow. They typically offer either a variety of real-life teachers or several options for voices so you can find a calming presence who speaks to you.
Search or filter based on your personal needs or goals (e.g., meditation for sleep, stress and anxiety, mood and happiness, relationships), how much time you want to meditate for, or even specific styles of meditation (such as mindfulness meditation or walking meditation), then find a quiet room or plug in your headphones, get comfortable, and get ready to meditate knowing you’re in good hands.
Many apps allow you to save your favorites to return to later, and some will tailor recommendations based on your goals and preferences. Most also encourage you to set up notifications through the app that will remind you to meditate at the same time each day—a feature that can be incredibly instrumental in turning this practice into a lifelong habit.
How to Find the Right Meditation App for You
Given that many meditation apps have similar features, it can feel challenging to wade through the options and pick the right one for your practice. The good news is that most of them offer free trials (if they aren’t free indefinitely).
Your best bet is to try multiple apps in your price range until you find one that has the features that feel most important to you, that you enjoy the look and feel of using, that has meditations in the style you prefer or that support the challenges you’re facing and—perhaps most importantly—has guides and teachers who you connect with.
Best Free Meditation Apps
Looking to dip your toes into meditation without spending a dime? These free guided meditation apps are a great place to start.
The Insight meditation app is undoubtedly the most robust of the free guided meditation apps, with over 100,000 meditations available covering multiple styles and tailored for various goals, plus live events happening every day led by a variety of teachers from around the world. (Unplug offers similar access to real teachers, but costs a subscription fee—we only recommend it over InsightTimer if there’s a specific teacher you love.)
Whether you’re looking for a transcendental meditation app, a Buddhist meditation app, or anything in between, there are options for you. They also offer free talks, yoga classes, music for relaxing, and a traditional meditation timer if you want to fly solo. It’s also a good option if you’re looking for free sleep meditation apps, with thousands of soundscapes, stories, and guided practices to lull you off.
Smiling Mind is a great meditation app for beginners of all ages to build a practice. Created by psychologists and educators, there are guided meditations geared towards adults, kids, families, and even group classroom or workplace settings. There’s also a robust dashboard for tracking your practice and seeing how it’s actually affecting your well-being, making it easy for you to measure your progress and stay motivated to keep going.
Oak is one of the meditation apps for iPhone only, offering a super serene, beautiful interface. It’s organized into just a few simple categories—meditate, breathe, or sleep—from which you can choose an exercise, choose the duration and a few more custom settings, and get going.
With so few options, the barrier to entry to actually get meditating is low. If you’re on the hunt for free sleep meditation apps, this could be a good option to start with since it won’t overwhelm you while you’re trying to wind down.
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Best Guided Meditation Apps
If you’re looking for more and are willing to invest some money in your well-being, there are a range of guided meditation apps out there for you.
Despite the competition, Headspace remains one of the top-rated meditation apps, with a robust library of meditations to tackle almost any problem you may be facing, great training for beginners, movement classes, and so much more. They’ve also doubled down on their support for sleep troubles in recent years, with options ranging from sleep meditations to calming music and soundscapes.
Like Headspace, Calm has plenty of one-off guided meditations and masterclass programs to help you dive deeper into your practice. But they take things further with plenty of other ways to relax—from downtempo music from famous artists like Kacey Musgraves and Ariana Grande to stories to help you fall asleep ready by famous actors like Stephen Fry and Matthew McConaughey—making it one of the better meditation apps for anxiety.
Balance touts itself as the first personalized meditation app, tracking your mood day by day and recommending meditations tailored to your needs. Along the way, it helps you track your progress towards key meditation skills. For instance, if you’re looking for a visualization meditation app, Balance will help you develop that skill.
Balance has some extra features for folks who prefer visual or tactile experiences, like breathing exercises that include a calming video to follow on the screen, and immersive meditations that use the vibrations of your phone for an extra relaxation nudge.
The Ten Percent Happier app provides deep meditation education from some of the most renowned meditation teachers out there. For instance, if you’re looking for a loving kindness meditation app, this is a great option, as they have meditations led by top teacher Sharon Salzberg. You can also connect directly with meditation coaches in the app to help you out if you’re feeling stuck.
Liberate is the only mindfulness meditation app by and for the Black community. They offer guided meditations by teachers of color, providing support for challenges related to the Black experience, and ultimately creating a safe space for the Black community to connect and build a sustainable and life-giving meditation practice. Per their website: “Anyone is welcome to use Liberate, we just want to be clear who we’re here for.”
Buddhify is a pretty simple meditation app: over 200 meditations of various lengths that you can browse based on your current challenge, a timer for meditating without a guide, and content from various teachers and for all ages.
The most notable difference here is that you can access most of Buddhify’s library for a one-time cost, rather than the subscription fee for most other apps (though they offer a subscription upgrade for extra features).
Best Sleep Meditation Apps
People have increasingly been turning to meditation for sleep problems in recent years. While many of the apps above offer plenty of sleep content (Headspace and Calm most notably), there are some that focus solely on slumber if that’s your primary concern.
10. BetterSleep App
In addition to a wealth of guided meditations tailored specifically towards helping you drift off at night, BetterSleep has calming bedtime stories and a whole library of sounds shown to help with sleep, like binaural beats, ASMR, and white noise.
Slumber taps into multiple techniques proven to encourage sleep. These include meditation, ASMR, breath control, gratitude, guided imagery, progressive muscle relaxation, and even hypnosis. Explore their library of soothing audio until you find what helps you catch some zzzs.
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