by Andrea Blumenstein
Remember how mindfulness and self-care topped the New Year’s resolution lists for yet another year? Well, now that January is behind us (Thank you, next.) we can all take a few minutes to reflect on set goals and expectations. Close your eyes. Breathe.
How did you do?
This is an observation, nota judgment. Simple, consistent meditation practice eludes many; what matters next is identifying why. Some get stuck because of the relatively liquidness of the concept. The terms mindfulness and meditation can mean different things in different contexts. For others, scheduling a time and establishing a meditation routine that doesn’t get slashed from the schedule as though it was merely saving space for overflow can be challenging. Maybe you need some network of support or community to stick to it. Or, maybe you need a little nudge or external reminder to stay on track. Or, you just have to decide to do it. Either way, there’s an app for that™, so read on.
When Apple successfully received trademark approval for the catch phrase from a popular iPhone commercial in 2010, they knew that they had a direct line to the future of, well, everything with the whole app thing. Including mindfulness. It might be because tech bigwigs are rumored to have had the whole brain break thing perfected for quite some time. Meanwhile, others of us were pulling out hair or turning gray with “work breaks” that involved restarting or unplugging-and-re-plugging malfunctioning devices. OM? More like um.
If technology has become more accessible, and, in theory, making our lives easier, why are stress levels and burnout reported at alarming levels? Research shows that a big chunk of anxiety stems (and productivity lost) from smart phone usage and our need to be constantly plugged-in. Scientists have actually designated a term for it – nomophobia (no mobile phone phobia) – in order to streamline discourse on the growing phenomenon. So, in a seemingly counter-intuitive move, many are opening up their app store for help.
The goal of mindfulness meditation is to support with science, rather than specific spiritual teachers/teachings, a practice that enables the practitioner to disentangle thoughts and emotions from the present moment.
Back when the iPhone commercial aired, Apple proudly boasted 250,000 apps. Today, the tech powerhouse is currently tailing Android, where users choose from 2.1 million apps to Apple’s 2 million. Paltry!
Among the millions of apps to choose from, almost ironically, mindfulness and meditation apps accumulated at a staggering number in recent years. One could easily slip into an internet vortex just trying to pick one to try out. So, for those of you looking to change up your current practice or develop a new one, here are some picks for digitalized meditation to help you sift through the noise. Though the best thing would be to sign up for all the free trials and pick one where you enjoy the voice and the interface because honestly, they are all kind of similar.
Beginners, start here! This is not only the most popular meditation app, downloaded by millions of users, but arguably the simplest. Some might say that the interface is too juvenile. I’m talking cartoons to teach the nuts and bolts of mindfulness. This app focuses on getting users to establish (and keep) a daily meditation practice.
This is the most social of all of the apps. It is free with an optional upgrade. It is incredibly user friendly, if you can get past the poor design, but is better suited for people that have at least some meditation experience. Features like Tibetan singing bowls, chat and ability to “meditate together” are the stand-outs of this long running app. There are more than 5,000 guided meditations and have recordings by some well-known mediation teachers but the real tour de force is that users who don’t need their hands held can keep track of their meditation practice.
This app boasts more than 500 guided meditations led by 40 experts. Downloading the app costs $2.99 but comes with rave user reviews. Instead of scrolling through your phone, the meditation studio app offers help with stress relief and anxiety as well. Most of the guided recordings are under ten minutes, so they are totally accessible for a dose of zen on the go.
“Discover your mind” with Sam Harris, neuroscientist, author and host of his popular podcast by the same name. If you are a fan of his already, a trip to this app makes total sense. The opposite if you can’t stand him. His method is geared toward both novice and more experienced users, with the goal to help users sift through their mind to get the most out of their individual internal experiences.
This app is regarded by many as having the best visuals, and claims to do more than just help users meditate. The company lists anxiety, depression and stress as among their target conditions. For free, users can access a handful of guided meditations, but they are reported as being less strong than others like Insight Timer. A subscription unlocks additional features and showcases a variety of meditation techniques, nature sounds and cool background choices. Calm is also a website, and the internet buzz suggests that there is a Calm Island on the horizon. Vacation anyone?
This app is geared toward meditation, relaxation and sleep. This is definitely a next-level app, and you might even consider it like the Porsche of the bunch. That may or may not be your thing. The app has a journal feature and a bunch of guided meditations – a lot focused on adult, work related issues. Inscape is also a studio in Manhattan where users can go to meditate.
Dan Harris published a book, 10% Happier in 2014 and after its off the charts success, he launched a podcast and then “meditation for fidgety skeptics” with this beginner friendly app. Added bonuses include courses in the form of video content aimed at improving relationships, work and health. There are a handful of meditation teachers to choose from, so subscribers can try out different voices and personalities. New users can check it out with their free 7-day trial.