Meditation is all the rage right now, with some calling it the fastest growing health trend in America.1 It’s no coincidence that this recent uptick in popularity coincides with the smartphone boom either. Thanks to technological advances and a few smart software developers, it’s never been easier to learn about the benefits of meditation, or try it at home.

Today, we’re going to talk about meditation in the age of the smartphone. From history, to benefits, to the best apps money can buy, we’ll point you towards a healthier, calmer, and more mindful future.

What is Meditation?

Believe it or not, meditation came before smartphone apps. The practice has religious ties to ancient Egypt and China, with some dating the practice all the way back to 5,000 BCE. It moved from culture to culture for centuries, but only received serious scientific consideration in the 1960’s.2

Today, conversations surrounding meditation are hard to avoid. Simply speaking, meditation is nothing more than sitting still and clearing your mind. Different schools (and apps) rely on alternative techniques, like guided meditations or mantras, to achieve similar goals.3

In truth, there’s no incorrect way to meditate. You can focus on physical sensations, a riddle, an emotion, a movement, the world around you, or just your breath. The practice’s broad borders can make it very confusing for those looking to start. Which is why picking a companion app serves as such a profound meditation entry point.

Benefits of Meditation

The fog around meditation is lifting with each passing day. What was once hailed as an ineffective, pseudoscientific, religious practice is now a bonefide healthy living essential. It’s championed by celebrities, sports stars, and tech billionaires on the regular too.4

Of the many scientifically proven health benefits, regular meditators typically experience:

  • Less stress
  • Less anxiety
  • More self-awareness
  • An improved attention span
  • More compassion
  • Better quality sleep
  • Lower blood pressure5

It really is a powerful habit, with implications on improving just about every area of your life. A regular meditation practice can make you more effective at work, more present at home, and calmer all day. You don’t have to go it on your own either. Next, we’ll take a look at some of the best meditation apps available to anyone with a smartphone and a wifi connection.

Insight Timer

If your budget is tight, consider Insight Timer. The app is free to download on Android and Apple devices, and offers free access to a massive meditation library of over 45,000 classes. That includes the 7-day intro course, and access to the Insight Timer meditation community. Browse the library by meditation type, length, and mood, all for free!

Insight Timer does offer a premium subscription. Premium members pay $9.99 a month or $59.99 a year for the ability to listen offline, download meditations ahead, Insight Courses, and better quality audio. It’s the most popular free meditation app on the market today, and boasts 4.9-star ratings on both the Apple and Google app stores.6

Buddhify

A simple solution that delivers an impressive collection of guided meditations and a user interface that’s easy to understand and use. From meditations to target stress, to walking friendly guided courses, to meditations targeting those nights when you just can’t fall asleep. Choose from their pre-selected audio courses or customize the wheel to your exact specifications.7

Buddhify doesn’t offer a free trial, but it also doesn’t require a monthly membership. Their extensive library of meditation content is available to everyone who pays the $4.99 app store download fee. It’s a small price to pay for this intuitive and helpful meditation platform.

Headspace

The Headspace App is a great entry point for anyone looking to try meditation for the first time.8 The user-friendly interface has a ton of beginner-friendly guided meditations of various types and lengths. The app features a number of complementary content too, like sleep sounds, and Headspace Health.

You can take advantage of a limited list of free features or test out Headspace’s premium content library with 7-day and 14-day trials. Subscriptions cost $12.99 a month or $70 a year. Though Headspace does offer an annual family plan for up to six users for $99.99. The app is available and free to download on both Apple and Android.

Calm

The popular Calm app offers a much more holistic approach than some of the other apps we’ve touched on today. Available on iOS and Android, Calm features a comprehensive library of calming mood music, exercise routines, meditation resources, and podcast content. All of it designed to improve sleep, reduce stress, and improve focus.9

The app does offer a 7-day free trial to entice new users, but outside of that, Calm doesn’t offer a lot of free content. To get access to the entire premium library requires a subscription, which is $14.99 a month or $69.99 for the whole year. Either way, the Calm App is a great mental health hub, with lots of content to explore.

Waking Up

The Waking Up app is a premium platform featuring meditation classes and theoretical discussions with some of the top teachers in the world.10 In addition to a 30-day introductory meditation course, the app is home to a growing library of instructional audio content covering topics like philosophy, relationships, and morality.

All of the features are paywalled behind monthly, yearly, and lifetime subscriptions. You can get a 7-day trial without the need for a credit card though. Premium memberships cost $49 for 3 months, $99 for a year, and $999 for a lifetime subscription.

Just Breathe

The talk surrounding meditation can be intimidating, but actually enjoying the benefits of this incredibly healthy habit could be easier. All of the apps featured here will walk you through the basics, and set you up for long term success. But making the time to meditate is half the battle too.

We recommend setting aside a time each day to sit still, open up a meditation app, and practice mindfulness. Use your lunch break to breathe or strive to sit still right before bed. Though it can feel a touch awkward at first, meditation gets easier with each passing practice.