The practise of Meditation has been around for at least 5,500 years, believed to have originated on the Indian subcontinent.
As technology has progressed, this ancient practise has become more and more accessible and popular, with over 52 million people downloading at least 1 Meditation app in 2019.
Technology is also helping us to measure the effects of meditation with regular practise now proven to alter the anatomy and functioning of the brain with more grey matter volume, less activity in the “me” centres of the brain and improved connectivity between regions of the brain.
Research is on-going, but Meditation has already demonstrated benefits on a number of factors influencing physical and mental health, including: stress, focus, mood, compassion (for self and others), anxiety and depression. General mindfulness research has also shown positive impacts on sleep, relationships, weight-loss and management of chronic disease and pain.
Today, there are over 2,000 meditation apps available for download so here are a few of our favourites to help get you started. Some are free whilst others have a mixture of free content / free introductions, with a subscription model to access premium content.
With its cheery aesthetic and fun animations, Headspace can give your mood a boot just by opening it up!
It also boasts a full content catalogue and beginner-friendly usability, with a new Everyday Headspace meditation greeting you as soon as you login.
As well as the basics, the app has guided meditations for every goal or mood, from political anxiety to body image, from work focus to parenting difficulties. Headspace also has a Move Mode pairing exercise with meditation, helping you work your mind and body at the same time!
2. Insight Timer
Insight Timer has nearly 39,000 reviews on the Apple App store, with an average score of 4.8 stars. Users seem to love it’s extensive free library of 70,000 meditations and music tracks, with new content added every day.
If you’re new to meditation, Insight Timer has a 7-day free course covering everything you need to know on how to meditate. The app also allows you to track your practice through free charts that sync to your other devices.
The Member Plus premium service unlocks advanced courses, offline access and an improved audio player – most Insight TImer users seem more than happy with the free content though!
Calm is another well recognised name in the field of meditation apps. Alongside Headspace, it’s recognised as a solid all-rounder for guided meditation. In reviews, Calm gets high marks for its signature sounds of nature and relaxed music giving it the feel of a meditation retreat.
As well as guided meditation and mindfulness tools such as ambient music and timers, Calm is renowned for its Sleep Stories, narrated by celebrities including Stephen Fry, Laura Dern and Harry Styles. These adult-targeted bedtime stories combine sound effects, music and narration to help you drift off to sleep.
4. MyLife Meditation
MyLife’s focus is on guided, emotional meditation aimed at helping you find your own ‘quiet place’ away from the wider world. Before your mediation, MyLife asks you how you’re feeling e.g. stressed, unmotivated, anxious and then recommends an activity to suit. You can then also record how you feel after having performed the activity, allowing you to track which mindfulness techniques work best for you in different circumstances, as well as how your practise develops over time.
The app has 400+ mindfulness activities from meditation, to basic yoga and monitoring your sleep patterns and gets great reviews for it’s artwork and straight forward user experience.
5. 1 Giant Mind
Set up in 2011, 1 Giant Mind describes its mission as “to inspire millions of people around the world to take up meditation as a daily practice and live more fulfilling lives, free from the negative impact of stress.” The app is completely free and introduces the user to meditation through 12 steps, lasting 15 minutes each. Having completed these steps, the app then invites you to complete a 30 day, daily meditation challenge in order to make meditation a habit “as commonplace as brushing your teeth”.
The app offers the choice between male and female guides, as well as choosing the length of your meditation from 5-20 minutes to fit with your schedule. Users also enjoy the short help videos which talk you through some of the common difficulties / experiences with meditation, normalising your individual experience. There’s also a built in journal section where you can keep a track of your meditation experience and progress.
6. 10 Percent Happier
If meditation’s been on your radar for a while but you can’t quite bring yourself to get into it, 10 Percent Happier may just be the app for you.
The creator, Dan Harris describes himself as “a skeptic turned believer”. He started off writing a book which led to a podcast series (now in its 4th year) and this app – all with the aim of educating restless skeptics on meditation. The app even features a chat function, connecting you to a meditation coach who’ll field all of your questions.
There’s plenty on offer for more experienced meditators too however with an impressive array of teachers, many of whom are considered experts in the field / “celebrity” practitioners. The range of styles and approaches to meditation on offer means users often find a favourite and follow them as their practice develops.
Meditation is a great way to find a little ‘me’ time in our busy schedules. With so many apps out there to choose from, there’s never been a better time to get into this ancient practise and start reaping the mental and physical health benefits, so let’s all find a comfy spot, hookup the headphones and get our Zen on for a few minutes a day.