The new year is a great time to start working on stress management and becoming more centered. Meditation apps for sleep, anxiety and stress relief can help.
Meditation promotes inner calm and helps to connect the mind and body. While science is still investigating the physiological and psychological effects of meditation, some studies suggest that practicing meditation may be helpful for a variety of conditions ranging from insomnia, high blood pressure, anxiety to low back pain.
You can sit down right now and try it, but it usually takes training and practice to achieve the benefits. Fortunately, numerous mobile apps are available to support your meditation practice, or even help you learn to relax in the moment.
Here are brief descriptions of 14 of the most popular relaxation and meditation apps for Android and iPhone (iOS).
About the list:
- Star ratings 1–5 are based on user reviews. We rounded them to the nearest half star.
- When “free” is followed by an asterisk, that means premium features, subscriptions, or other upgrades are available for purchase.
- The apps are not ranked in any way, but see the list below if you’re looking for something in particular.
Looking for something specific? Try:
- Guided meditations and meditation training for beginners: 1 (Simply Being), 2 (Omvana), 5 (Insight Timer), 7 (buddhify), 8 (Stop Breathe & Think), 10 (Calm)
- Meditation timers with or without a soundtrack: 3 (WhiteNoise), 4 (Equanimity, Bodhi Timer),5 (Insight Timer)
- Apps for relaxing and centering, not necessarily meditation: 11 (Gratitude Journal, Attitudes for Gratitude), 12 (SimpleMind+, SharpMindMap), 13 (My Mood Tracker, T2 Mood Tracker), 14 (Breathe2Relax)
- Apps that focus on neuroscience instead of spirituality for those who have a skeptical nature: 6 (Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics), 9 (Headspace)
Top Meditation Apps for Android and iPhone Reviewed
1. Simply Being
Simply Being is a solid, affordable app that features voice-guided meditations as well as relaxing nature sounds. Unlike some of the pricier meditation apps, there isn’t much choice in meditation themes or voices. But the app’s relative simplicity could be a virtue: More elaborate apps can be overwhelming and even distracting.
Omvana offers a wider range of guided and music-only options, like an iTunes of meditations. It claims to have “the largest library” of guided meditations and self-hypnosis tracks online. While some tracks are available at no cost, most tracks cost a few dollars each. It’s worth noting the self-hypnosis tracks, which claim to help you lose weight, find love, or acquire wealth, are not based on neuroscience and are of dubious value.
As its name suggests, this app uses white noise to mask distracting sounds during meditation and to promote relaxation. You can also use WhiteNoise to help with sleep. It comes with 40 pre-recorded white noise sounds, such as falling rain, a bubbling brook, or ocean waves. You can loop these samples, or even mix them together to create your own soothing sounds. What’s more, you can record and loop your own favorite sounds. No guided meditations here.
iOS: $4.99, Rating: 4.0 stars
This app could be your favorite if you’re an established meditator looking for a timer you can customize. No guided meditations, no music or nature sounds. Equanimity allows you to set unobtrusive gongs, bells, or chimes to signal the end of your session. The elegant timer shows you how much time is left in your meditation without distracting you. Also included are a meditation journal and a way to log meditations so you can track and monitor your practice. A comparable option for Android is Bodhi Timer.
5. Insight Timer
To maximize your options, Insight Timer is a popular choice. It features 3,000 free guided meditations as well as several hundred free music tracks to play while you’re meditating. You can also use a variety of timer options, such as those found in Equanimity and Bodhi Timer. It has a wealth of free content, including guided meditations for sleep, although there are upgrades that require a purchase. If you don’t value music or voice guidance, this app is likely to be overkill for you.
6. Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics by 10% Happier
iOS: free*, Rating: 5.0 stars
Here’s training for meditation skeptics by meditation advocate Dan Harris. This app’s content is firmly based in neuroscience and omits the spiritual components present in many other apps. The free seven-lesson course teaches basics of meditation, with access to more advanced meditations and courses for a subscription of $9.99 per month, or $79.99 for a year. Unfortunately, Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics is not yet available for Android.
First of all, despite the name this app has no apparent relation to Buddhist meditation. Its 11 hours of guided meditations are customized for activities such as walking in the city, taking a break at work, waiting around, and going to sleep. These situation-based meditations help to make buddhify compatible with busy, urban lifestyles. There are also meditations that aim to reduce anxiety and take your mind off pain.
For a single, relatively low payment, buddhify offers many of the features of much costlier meditation apps. Some users do have minor quibbles with this app, such as the fact it 300+ MB of storage and can’t be transferred to an SD card on Android devices. Some user reviews also mention the meditation guide speaks faster than they prefer.
8. Stop, Breathe & Think
Stop, Breathe & Think combines a library of guided meditations with the mood tracking features of apps such as My Mood Tracker (13). It even “curates” suggested meditations based on your mood. With its goal-oriented tracking focus, it is something like a meditation Fitbit. You can purchase additional guided meditations, or receive full access to their library with a subscription of $4.99 per month or $41.99 for a year.
Like Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics, Headspace teaches less spiritual, more science-based meditation techniques, beginning with a free introductory course. You purchase a subscription to gain access to additional courses, as well as guided meditations. Headspace includes mood tracking features as well, and you can download guided meditations for offline use. A Headspace subscription is $12.99 per month, or $94.99 for a year. A lifetime membership costs $399.99.
Calm combines rich features and a large library of guided meditations with a simple, clean interface. Guided meditations range in length from 3 to 25 minutes, so you can always find a meditation to fit your schedule. Like other subscription-based apps, Calm provides a basic course in meditation for free, with more advanced meditations requiring a subscription starting at $9.99 per month.
11. Gratitude Journal
iOS: $4.99, Rating: 4.5 stars
This is not a meditation app as such. Instead, this app makes it easy to take time out of each day to note what you’re grateful for. You can personalize your journal to give it a distinct look and feel, and can even add photos or audio to your journal entries. Another feature is the ability to set reminders so you don’t forget to take time out of your day to be thankful. An attractive alternative for Android is Attitudes for Gratitude.
iOS: free, Rating: 4.5 stars
This isn’t a meditation app, either, but it’s useful if you find a “brain dump” useful to clear your mind for meditation. SimpleMind+ is a free mind mapping tool that helps you clear your head of clutter. An Android alternative, which is also free, is SharpMindMap.
13. My Mood Tracker
iOS: $9.99, Rating: 4.5 stars
Here’s another app that isn’t for meditation, but may help you center and find the peace you need. My Mood Tracker encourages you to monitor and track your mental and emotional well-being. A reminder system asks you how you feel at various points of the day, so you can track your mood over time. This can promote relaxation and contentment by helping you to identify and mitigate stressors. A free alternative for Android and iOS is T2 Mood Tracker, which is highly customizable but a little clunky.
Breathe2Relax by National Center for Telehealth and Technology helps you relax and relieve stress through exercises such as diaphragmatic breathing, also known as “belly breathing.” It is completely free.
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