If you’re looking for ways to practice self-care during a difficult time, meditation can be an effective, low-cost way to deal with stress. The best part? You don’t need a coach or class to learn key techniques and practice. Now, you can simply turn to your phone and download a meditation app.
A meditation app is exactly what it sounds like: An app designed to help you focus on your own awareness and mindfulness, so that you can meditate wherever you are. Usually, the app is packed with features to mimic in-person meditation sessions and offers options so you can be tailored your practice to your specific needs and goals. And—lucky for us—there are plenty of apps to choose from. But there are a few things to consider before you download.
According to Eddie Stern, certified yoga teacher and co-founder of the BreathingApp, a meditation app makes the practice accessible for all. If you can’t go to a live session, or if you’re a meditation novice looking for a starting point, an app provides you with a lot of options to help you with your self-care. “[Meditation apps] are good to have on-hand to inspire you, encourage you, remind you, and expose you to diverse practices,” Stern says.
“An app offers guidance,” adds Manjit Devgun, a mind coach at wellness space The Well and founder of Manjit. “The recording will often remind you to bring your mind back to the focus, keeping you on the desired mind journey.” Devgun goes on to say that the apps allow users to choose the right meditation journey for them. Whether you’re looking to draw from specific teaching or traditions, or looking for science-based practices backed by peer-reviewed studies, there’s an app for everyone.
Both Stern and Devgun encourage the use of apps in conjunction with in-person meditation sessions wherever and whenever the latter is possible. But they also agree that the most important part of meditating is simply starting–and an app is great way to introduce a new habit. “You can block out the outside world on a lunch break or on the train just for a few minutes,” says Devgun. “That’s better than not engaging in any inner evolution practice at all.”
How to Pick the Right App
The best meditation apps provide calming guidance when anxiety and overwhelming feelings arise. But not all meditation apps approach this in the same way. Liberate is a meditation app designed for Black, Indigenous, and other people of color, for example. Headspace runs a meditation gamut, offering everything from mindful workout programs and sleep support to soothing guided meditations designed to transport you into a state of bliss.
Below, we round up the most popular meditation apps loved by users, and ask experts Stern and Devgun for their picks, as well. Whether you’re looking to improve your quality of sleep, find a moment of escape over lunch, or kick off the new year off with some intention-setting, one of the 15 best meditation apps below is bound to fit your daily needs and routine.
Headspace offers an array of mindfulness courses, such as Navigating Change, Managing Anxiety, Restfulness, and more. The app also has guided workouts and soothing sounds to help you fall asleep.
Liberate was created by Julio Rivera for Black, Indigenous, and people of color. The meditations are geared toward helping listeners heal from the traumas of racism, and to allow the community to feel seen and uplifted.
Aura asks, “What brings you here today?” Then it offers options like Sleep Better, Calm Anxiety, Healing, and Improve Focus to help each user better center their day.
The Calm app helps listeners to build self-esteem, lean into gratitude, and sleep better, as well promoting happiness through guided meditations that ease panic and anxiety. There are also new meditations posted daily, for those who want to cultivate a consistent practice while switching up prompts.
Zen: Meditation & Sleep
Zen promotes better sleep, and aids in achieving a sense of presence in various commonplace situations: Recordings range of meditations to improve work focus to background sounds meant to enhance sex.
Ten Percent Happier Meditation
Ten Percent Happier offers meditations that help listeners focus at work. They also offer live meditations–“a virtual break”–at three at 3 p.m. ET every weekday.
With a subscription, listeners can access more than 150 meditations and sleep-aiding sounds. There are meditations for every situation—improve productivity, prepare for your day, and control your breathing among them—and a plethora of gentle background sounds to create an overall relaxing vibe.
Simple Habit has meditations focused on specific situations and feelings. An eating meditation supports mindful nutrition; for those contending with chronic pain, there’s Fibromyalgia Relief; a PMS relief meditation helps bring calm during a menstrual cycle.
Breethe offers meditations for a wide range of needs, from anxiety to sleep help. The app is equipped with guided meditations, as well as meditation music for those who have their technique down pat. But for people who are new to the practice, Breethe features recommendations based on your goals, and a program for beginners.
Expectful is a new meditation app designed for those who are pregnant, preparing to conceive, or navigating new parenthood. Whether you’re embarking on the journey for the first time, or you’re a seasoned parent, this app is meant to help you through any phase. Its library of meditations include ones designed for moments like first trimester, postpartum, urgent care, and healing.
Co-founded by Stern and Deepak Chopra, the BreathingApp is ideal for beginners. Instead of inundating you with endless options that might overwhelm you at the start of your meditation journey, this app has just one focus: your breath work. “Not everyone has a positive experience meditating; they try it, but for whatever reason it doesn’t work for them. In those cases, practicing slow guided breathing is a great alternative,” Stern says. “The earliest meditations taught in India were taught on simple breath observation. The Breathing App guides you into a meditative state simply by helping you [to] slow and steady your breath.”
Another pick from Stern, Open is a meditation app that offers users simple meditation, breathing, and movement guides to help you find your calm. Sessions are offered live or on-demand, or–if you happen to be in Venice, California, in-person, too.
Devgun created her eponymous meditation app to help you defeat your limiting beliefs. Through Manjit, you can find meditation practices, self-hypnosis, and breathwork programs to help you connect with your body and soul. “The future of meditation includes vibrational energy and sound healing,” says Devgun. “That’s why I wanted to bring it all to one place for users.
One of the best free meditation apps on the market, Healthy Minds tailors meditation practices to you and your goals. Users take a survey to help the app generate the best courses under its four pillars: awareness, connection, insight, and purpose. Then they can choose which teachers to follow, and track progress. Super simple and with a near 5-star rating and universal praise, this is definitely an app to consider.
This article was originally published on Vogue.com.