Best for: Those who either have a space with the silence of a bank vault, or time to practise when no one else in the home is awake.
Highlights: Powered by celebrities, Calm is a one-stop shop providing a holistic and accessible approach to mindfulness. With an extensive library of guided meditation, breathing techniques, sleep stories, stretching exercises, soundscapes and music, you can choose the session length and your narrator. How about Harry Styles, Keith Urban, Laura Dern or LeBron James?
Lowlights: The app itself is fairly easy to navigate, but the overwhelming amount of choice may make it difficult to know where to start. Try the guided courses and masterclasses and the guided classes by experts, if you are likely to be distracted by the celebrities.
Recommend it? Definitely. Already given the green light of many therapists and mental health experts, it’s an immersive app that will fit seamlessly into your life whether you are looking for some guidance into meditation or need a quick dose of motivation.
Cost: Free to download, access to all features is $12.99 a month or $69.99 per year. $399.99 for one-off lifetime membership.
Best for: For individuals or families seeking a well-rounded mindfulness resource to help reduce stress, encourage balance, boost sleep and focus, and teach ways to tap into thought and emotion without judgement.
Highlights: One of the most popular meditation apps in the world, with about 70 million users globally, Headspace is smart, well-designed and intuitive to use. It provides guided courses to get you going and, to keep you going, meditations, playlists and exercises to help you sleep, move and focus – take your pick. I used the wind downs to drift off at night (waking later to discover my earpods still in), the Hans Zimmer playlist to concentrate while I was working and the stress-focused meditations to chill out. All worked as promised. With plenty of evidenced-based content to keep you engaged, segments specifically created for kids, cute graphics as well as a section on techniques and support, Headspace is a world-class app.
Lowlights: No one app will solve everyone’s problems, and no one is there to keep you accountable but you.
Recommend it? 100 per cent.
Cost: Subscriptions start with either a seven or 14-day free trial. An annual subscription is $55.19 with the current 40 per cent off until Oct 10; monthly $19.99; Headspace Student Plan $9.99 per year and Family account – six accounts $137.99 per year
Best for? Families and stressed-out folks (like parents!).
Highlights: The Amazon of meditation apps, this one is a beast, and can feel overwhelming with the sheer array of recordings, courses and even yoga classes on offer. But, like online shopping, it helps to know what you are after. Even a simple keyword search, such as “morning” or “sleep” can help narrow down the options, which you can then rank by rating or length. Once you find a teacher you like, the app, which is mostly free but has a paid premium section, you can follow them. I found Sarah Blondin’s voice the perfect salve to sleepless nights, while Andy Hobson, who many will know from Headspace, is also featured. There are also social features that allow you to create a group for your workplace or friends, so you can meditate together – nothing like some group accountability to keep your practice up!
Lowlights: An app this huge can be daunting for beginners, so it’s worth taking the 10-day free trial and doing a course to get you started. The annual cost may also seem steep when there are a lot of cheaper options out there.
Cost: Free (with a paid section for the premium content, $89 per year).
Recommend it: Why not.
Best for: Total novices or experienced practitioners who need little guidance or motivating.
– Melissa Singer
Highlights: US news anchor Dan Harris went from sceptic to meditator after a panic attack live on air prompted him to make some big life changes. He shares his learnings via short video interviews with world-renowned meditation teachers, who then take you through a guided meditation. It’s free from wishy-washy language, and there are no promises of enlightenment, rather practical tips on the basics of meditation. My favourite feature is the tracking of your practice. After each meditation, you’ll be reminded of your progress including your number of “mindful days” and total meditation minutes to date. It’s strangely motivating.
Lowlights: The app tells me I’ve completed 14 mindful days in the past month, which, I must say, has been challenging due the length of each guided meditation. I try to tack a meditation onto my morning Pilates workout, and with some of the meditation sessions lasting up to 17 minutes, it’s a big commitment. That said, on the days I haven’t meditated, I definitely notice the difference. Another downside is the cost, but with my usual gym membership paused, I felt an annual membership was justified. One month in and I don’t regret it.
Cost: Free 7-day trial, $US99.99 per year.
Recommend it: Absolutely.
Best for: If you’ve ever rolled your eyes at the hype around meditation, but are secretly curious to see for yourself, this one’s for you.
– Julia Naughton
Highlights: This is a meditation app like you’ve never tried before. AtOne offers virtual reality meditation, which means you use an Oculus headset to step into another world while being guided through meditation. What stands out is how tailored this is. I loved being able to choose from a variety of scenes to place myself in – my favourites were the mountain-top lake and outer space – and pair it with my choice of sound as a backdrop to the voice. And that’s on top of being able to select your length and type of meditation (Relaxation? Productivity?). You also can use a heart rate variability monitor, which can indicate stress levels, and the headset can measure your focus by tracing your eye movement. There are other inputs too: before and after a meditation, you’re asked to chart how you’re feeling, so you can track how you progress. All in all, I found there’s a lot to gain from using this.
Lowlights: It goes without saying that this app requires you to have access to an Oculus headset, and they’re pretty pricey. At the moment the app is only available for businesses, so unless you can convince your boss to sign on, you’re out of luck. Also, if you’re not used to virtual reality, it takes some adjustment and it can feel a little clunky until you get into the swing of it.
Recommend it? Totally, if you can get your hands on it. This is a really unique way of experiencing app-delivered meditation. All the personalised details are excellent, and who doesn’t want to meditate from outer space? If other meditation apps haven’t worked for you, AtOne might be the answer.
Cost: $500 per month for 100 users or up to $5000 per month for 5000 users (not including headsets).
Best for: Employers who want to give the gift of mindfulness to their staff and tech-lovers who want to immerse themselves in virtual reality meditation.
– Sophie Aubrey
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