The Best Mindfulness and Meditation Apps
It’s Mental Health Awareness Month across the globe – and taking care of one’s mental wellbeing has never been more important. From getting enough sleep to eating a balanced diet, there are plenty of things you can do to give yourself a mental MOT, but one of the most effective methods is practising mindfulness. To help you get started, we’ve put together a selection of our favourite mindfulness and meditation apps.
What is mindfulness?
The term ‘mindfulness’ has become quite the buzzword in recent years – but this isn’t junk science. Scientists and reputable organisations – including the NHS – agree that there are numerous benefits to practising mindfulness, from decreasing stress to increasing concentration and happiness. But what is mindfulness?
Simply put, mindfulness is ‘being present’: a state of mind that is fully engaged with whatever is happening in the current moment; focused on whatever activity is being carried out right then; aware of thoughts and feelings but not bogged down by them; unhurried and undistracted by thoughts of the past or future. One of the most helpful ways to teach yourself to live in a more mindful manner is to practise daily meditation: just five minutes a day can train your brain and help you develop valuable coping mechanisms for times of stress.
If you’re new to mindfulness, never fear – there are a variety of apps that can guide your daily practice.
Sometimes referred to as ‘a gym membership for the mind’, Headspace – which launched in 2010 – is one of the best apps available.
Perfect for beginners thanks to its free 10-part ‘basics’ course, Headspace offers a highly-accessible way to try meditation. There’s nothing judgemental or complex here: just an impressive bank of meditations to dip into as required.
From bite-sized ‘minis’ that take just a minute, to longer meditations, Headspace offers a variety of options (a ‘sleep’ course designed to help improve your slumber, for example), all delivered in an easy-to-follow way. The meditations incorporate a winning combination of whimsical animations, understandable language (no baffling jargon to worry about) and relaxed narration (we highly recommend the sessions narrated by Andy Puddicombe, co-founder of the app).
It's hardly surprising that Headspace has over 60 million subscribers, worldwide – this innovative platform really does have something for everyone.
Calm is a sleep, relaxation and meditation platform: and the mood is set from the moment you open the app, when you’re greeted with a gentle, inviting soundscape (anything from pouring rain to a crackling fire).
Once you’re inside, there are a variety of different things to try: like Daily Calm sessions, which are great for unwinding and resetting, mindful ‘movement’ videos to help calm your body, and Sleep Stories, which are soothing tales narrated by some of the world’s best voices (from Stephen Fry to Matthew McConaughey). It’s great value, too: just £28.99 a year (around £2.50 a month), and you can try the app for free for seven days.
My Possible Self
One of the only apps recommended by the NHS, My Possible Self has been clinically proven to reduce stress and anxiety – and it’s free for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic.
This is a mindfulness app with a twist: so much of mindfulness (necessarily) focuses on staying in the present, but My Possible Self helps you to analyse patterns of historical behaviour and set inspiring and achievable goals. By pooling content from leading mental health experts, the app aims to help you ‘reframe the future in a positive way’, training your brain to improve your thoughts, feelings and behaviour. You can track how you feel every day; improve your understanding of your surrounding and mood over time in order to make positive changes; engage in learning modules to prevent day-to-day problems and develop coping mechanisms; and learn how to break free of negative thought patterns in order to focus on the things that make you feel good.
MyLife: Stop. Breathe. Think
Described as an emotional wellness app for the under-25s, MyLife is the mindfulness app for Gen Zers – though there are many perks that make it appealing to users of all ages. The app is unique in that it asks you to ‘check in’ before meditating, choosing from a range of adjectives to identify how you’re feeling: a process that helps ground you in the present before you even start meditating. Based on your answers, the platform then recommends an activity for you, such as a guided meditation or a short, sharp ‘joy’ session.
The free version of the app contains 30 different activities, and many more can be unlocked if you upgrade to premium. Got kids? There’s a separate version of the app just for them.
At some point, everyone wishes they could shrug off the pressures of daily life and escape to an exotic location. Portal helps you do just that. Described by The Independent as ‘a haven through our headphones’, Portal is a free app that encourages mindfulness via a sensory experience: by transporting users, through clever soundscapes, to far-flung, relaxing places.
Portal’s makers believe that ‘the simple act of changing your ambience can have a huge and positive impact on your life’. With their app, they wish to provide a ‘beautiful and unique way to escape noise and distraction and help improve your productivity, sleep and relaxation’. It works, too. Simply pick from a choice of ‘portals’ – a rainforest thunderstorm or the Pacific Ocean, for example – and let the app take you there with its smart lighting, stunning visuals and ingenious soundscapes. There are breathing exercises and special ‘focus’ task options to engage in whilst visiting each portal – or you can simply let the app lull you to sleep.
The experience of getting out into nature has huge benefits for mental health. If you've been charmed by the sound of the Portal app and are looking for more outdoorsy inspiration to soothe your mind, why not check out our recent blog,'Homes with Outstanding Outdoor Spaces'? It was hard to pick just four favourite gardens - let us know if you think there's any that we've missed!