• Paula Cristina Azevedo, PhD

Review of Mindfulness Apps


There really is an app for everything including mindfulness and meditation apps. There are actually quite a bit of apps to choose from and it’s hard to figure out which may be right for you. I decided to try some out so you can decide if a mindfulness app is right for you and if so, which app to try out. Below I provide a summary of 12 different apps and describe each and its functions, the quality and design of the app, if it’s appropriate for children and teens, and the cost of each app.

10% Happier

Summary: This app was inspired by and based on the book 10% Happier by Dan Harris, who openly writes and talks about his nervous breakdown on live national television and how meditation practice has supported him in managing his stress and anxiety. When you open the app for the first time it asks you if you meditate regularly. Then you have access to 8 free video sessions that describe the basics of meditation. Dan Harris talks to some of the best meditation teachers across the country to gain more insight about the practice and shares part of his journey with you.

Features: You can set up the notifications and reminders from the app so you’re reminded daily to mediate. In addition, there’s a library of guided meditation practices and you can browse based on length of time you want to meditate or topic.

Age group: This is not age appropriate for children and young teens, but may be helpful for older teenagers. However, I would recommend a parent or mentor practice meditation with this app with the teenager.

Cost: Even though the app is free you won’t be able to access any of the meditations without paying the premium price. The cost of a premium subscription is $99.99 a year, but you have access to a 7 day free trial before making such an investment.

Breathe

Summary: When you open the app it asks you to “stop, breathe, and think” about how your mind and body are doing today. Then it prompts you to indicate how you’re feeling physically, mentally and emotionally and then you can see your results of recommended meditations based on your answers. As helpful as this may be for beginners, the whole point of mediation is to learn to identify your emotional, mental and physical state through mindful practice and what you need based on your own practice. Personally, I found that allowing an algorithm to determine my needs was too much hand holding and a bit unsettling.

Features: There’s a library of guided meditations and an option to use the app as a meditation timer. You can choose the length of time you want to meditate and personalize the bells that indicate the mediation has begun and ended. This app tracks your progress and logs each mediation you complete. You can link this app to your iphone’s Health app.

Age group: This was designed for adults and is too advanced for children.

Cost: The app is free, but you can purchase a premium subscription for $58.99 a year, or $9.99 a month to unlock additional mediations and features.

Breethe

Summary: Breethe has guided meditations for setting morning intentions, dealing with stress, etc. The guided meditations include beautiful videos of nature. There’s a plethora of guided meditations, but all of the mediations are created and delivered by the same meditation teacher. So, you really have to enjoy Lynne Goldberg’s approach to meditation. She studied along some of the best mediation teachers such as, Kabat-Zinn, Chopra, and Mittra and is a certified meditation teacher.

Features: There’s a library of guided meditations for different situations and even for children and families. The app also includes lessons on meditation practice, happiness, better sleep, overcoming addiction and more. Another lovely feature is a library of instrumental music that you can play in the background even when you’re using other apps at the same time. In addition, while playing a meditation or music there’s a lovely video of nature playing on the screen. The video is crisp, beautiful and relaxing. Finally, you can include alarms and reminders in this app.

Age group: The app itself is not kid friendly, but there are meditation to practices for children that an adult can play and practice with the child.

Cost: The app is free. There’s a premium plan $12.00 per month, 89.99 per year or $119.99 for life and you can try it for free for 14 days.

Calm

Summary: The app is easy to navigate and is an all encompassing app for mental health. There’s a wealth of guided meditations and instrumental music in the library. This app uses a lot of visuals, which may be helpful for those who need visual cues to support our practice. They have meditations that are as simple as watching a circle grow and as the circle grows in size you take in a breath, pause and hold the breath, and breathe out as the circle decreases in size. These visuals are simple and calming, but for those who tend to be more of a purist and/or veteran in mediation and mindfulness practice this visual can be very distracting and counterproductive of what mindfulness and mediation is about, which is going within, finding resources within to deal with stress, anxiety, pain and to be in the moment with whatever is present. However, these visuals for beginners may be really helpful in developing a practice. It really just depends where you are and what tools you may need to support your practice. However, these visual features should be something that people wean themselves off of as they mature in their practice. There is also a library of bedtime stories and lullabies, which are designed for adults or kids. The bedtime lullabies are not a personal favorite for me. I find them cheesy and more of a distraction rather than an aid to sleep; however, I don’t have issues falling asleep so maybe that’s why these bedtime aids were not helpful.

Features: In addition to a library of guided meditations there are Masterclasses, video recordings from experts in the field of mindfulness, meditation, and psychology about topics such as, screen time addiction, rest, health, depression, and more. This might be a nice feature for those that want to delve deeper on particular mental health concerns. It includes beautiful video and sounds of nature such as, Mountain lake, evening crickets, a fireplace, sunset beach, rain, and so much more. You can have these pleasant sounds and visuals playing in the background as your work or fall asleep. You have the option of allowing the calming sounds to play while you use other apps on your phone, which is a nice feature. The App tracks your meditation and can send you alerts to remind you to meditate.

Age group: The app as a whole is designed for adults; however, there are kid friendly meditations, music, naturescape sounds, and bedtime stories.

Cost: There are guided meditations that include visuals with the free version. You can try the full version for free, but for full access to the app you have to pay a yearly subscription of $69.99

HeadSpace

Summary: This is a popular app and teaches beginners how to meditate and can provide insightful tips. The first 10 days of using the app you are provided daily guidance and the founder of Headspace provides a step-by-step guide. There’s a library of guided meditations and you can select a mediation based on topics or feelings/moods. You can also select to have an unguided meditation and the app will time and track it for you; however, this very basic feature is part of the premium package of the app.

Features: The app is pretty intuitive to use. You can set up reminders on when to meditate, send mindful moments to your phone, and track your sessions on the app or connect it with your Health app on the iphone.

Age group: This is great for adults and teenagers. There are some creative and helpful cartoons explaining the steps and practices to mindfulness and meditation that all age groups, including children may find informative. There is also a section just for children with meditations and activities on how to calm down and sleep, but you must pay the subscription fee to access that section of the app.

Cost: The free version is pretty comprehensive, but you’re limited by the beginner’s meditations and teachings. You can unlock a library of meditation with a subscription. There are a lot of resources, bells and whistles to the app but most of it is only available with a monthly ($12.99), yearly ($94.99) or lifetime ($399.99) subscription.

Insight Timer

Summary: When you get this app You are immediately a part of the Insight meditation community and you can see who is mediating with you all around the world and even in your backyard. In addition you can join an insight group and join a discussion about various topics and teachings. The messages and discussions are thoughtful, compassionate, and can deepen your practice. There are thousands of guided meditations from various teachers from all around the world. Many of the teachers are world renown meditation teachers such as Tara Brach, Jack Kornfield, davidji, Mary Maddux and more. You also have the option of using the mediation timer and personalizing the meditation with ambient sound, bells, and length of unguided meditation. In addition to a library of mediations, there’s a library of music, including chanting and mantras, sound healing, drumming, Tibetan singing bowls, and more. There’s also a section dedicated to talks, interviews on a range of topics related to mindfulness and mediation. These talks are from world renown teachers and can help deepen your understanding of the practice.

Features: The app is simple and easy to navigate. The nice thing is you can save all of your favorite mediations, talks, music in your own library. A new feature was recently included in this app, where you can take courses from leading meditation teachers about various topics such as “Learn to meditate in seven days,” “Build self-belief through mindful action,” or “Ten Secrets for Deeper Sleep.” The great thing is that you don’t have to pay premium price to gain access to these courses. You just pay for the course you want and at this point each course is only $4.99 for a 10 day course that range between 15- 20 minutes a day of commitment to listen to each lesson, which also includes guided meditations and additional resources. Your profile includes stats and notifications on your practice, messages from community members, friend requests, and you can set up personalized reminders, and connect with your Apple Health app.

Age group: This app is designed for adults.

Cost: A new feature is “My downloads,” which allows you to listen offline, but you have to subscribe for this feature for $2.99 a month, which is the only feature that needs a subscription. Everything else is free or your pay a la carte.

Meditation Studio

Summary: In this app there’s a library of guided meditations with varying length of time, teachers, and topics to work with such as, pain, confidence, stress, anxiety, zen, and so much more. You also have the option to meditate without any guidance. The app will time the mediation, track and store the mediation for you, while also giving you options on how long your unguided meditation will be, the sounds signaling the start and end, and even interval sounds indicating the midpoint of your meditation practice. There are also courses on mindfulness and meditation practices. Each course has audio lessons that last 5 - 20 minutes long, depending on the course and lesson. There are topics such as, “Meditation Essentials,” “Sleep Basics,” and “Mindful Work” to just list a few.

Features: It’s a simple app with few bells and whistles. It’s intuitive to use. The design and color choices are very mindful and minimalist. You can track your meditation sessions and connects to your health app on iPhone, and even your calendar app.

Age group: This app is not kid friendly. It was designed for the working professional in mind.

Cost: This app is free. As I was using it I did not find any features that I was locked out of due to not paying for the premium version.

Mindfulness

Summary: This app is very simple, and has no bells and whistles. There are only guided meditations. You don’t have the option to time and track an unguided meditation. However, the guided meditations do have a nice feature of having personalized naturescape sounds such as waves, rain or stream playing in the background of the guided meditation.

Features: You can receive daily notices and reminders to your phone. It can connect to your health app on the iPhone

Age group: This app, though simple, is not appropriate for children since the guided meditation are intended for adults.

Cost: The app is free, but you can get a premium subscription for $5 a month or a payment of $59.00 a year. The first week of premium is free.

Simple Habit

Summary: The app opens with an explanation and teaching of the mediation practice. This app is good for busy people who want a quick meditation session and quick and simple teachings. There’s library with over 1000 meditations from 75 different meditation teachers. When you open the app it asks about your sleep habits, stress level, how you’re feeling, and topics your interested in and can provide suggestions based on your answers. In addition, there’s a whole section designated for sleep. So, if sleep is an issue for you you may find this app helpful.

Features: You can set up notifications and reminders on your phone.

Age group: This app is designed for adults only.

Cost: The app is free and you do have access to some meditation. However, to get the full version of the app you are billed $7.99 per month or an annual fee of $95.99. The first month of the premium subscription is free.

Smiling Mind

Summary: Prior to playing the teaching or mediation session you’ll be prompted to answer the following question “How do you feel?” and score your happiness, contentment, and alertness. You have the option to skip this question and go directly to the meditation or teaching. You have the option to play background music, but you can’t personalize the music playing in the background of the guided practice. The guided practices are simple. You can choose from several mindfulness programs such as, “Find 10 minutes for your mind,” “Educator lesson plans for Secondary,” “Everyday Mindfulness,” and there are programs for children in various age ranges. There are even lesson plans teachers can incorporate. Each lesson is linked to standards, have objectives, and include a short video to share with students. Then there’s a guided meditation created specifically for children and teens. After the mediation there are guided questions that students can answer in a class discussion or journal, and finally there a take home activity for students to practice at home.

Features: You can have notifications pushed to your phone

Age group: Though the app isn’t designed for children to use it does have programs and mediations that parents and teachers can incorporate and practice with children and teenagers.

Cost: This app is free. I tried many of the features and never had an issue with accessing mediations or activities with the free version.

Mindfulness Apps for Children

BreatheKids

Summary: This app is the children’s version of Breathe. The activities in the app are drawn from the book Mindful Games by Susan Kaiser Greenland who worked closely with the BreatheKids team to to adapt her work and teachings to the app. It’s simple to use for adults and children. There are “40+ missions to develop the superpowers of quiet, focus, and a more peaceful sleep.” Each “mission” or mindfulness practice is a lovely animation with visualization of how to practice mindfulness that are appropriate for children. The videos ask children to use their senses and visualize, breath, listen, move, and make sounds, like soft “whoshing sounds.” After each “mission” the app asks the child how s/he feels.

Features: Parents can have control of the app and there are measures to prevent children from purchasing the premium version or accessing the settings. You can add multiple children to the app and they get their own profile. In the settings there’s an introductory video introducing the purpose of the app and how to use the app with children. Like with any app it’s really important for an adult use the app with the child and incorporate the teachings in your own life.

Age group: This app is designed for 4 to 9- or 10-year-olds. This is not appropriate for teenagers as it is too childish.

Cost: There are bedtime stories and other activities, but to access these you have to purchase the premium which is $9.99 a month or $58.99 a year.

Time in Kid

Summary: When the child opens the the app s/he can choose a feeling that corresponds to their own feeling such as, happy, angry, sad, or scared. When the child taps the character with the emotion a simple cartoon video opens with the character and through a guided and visual demonstration with a balloon the child is guided through a three breath meditation or mindful moment. The practice is short and simple and so is the app.

Features: There are no fancy tools, reminders, or tracking.

Age group: This is useful for ages 4 to 8-year old children.

Cost: It’s completely free and no options for premium package.

Summary

There are a lot of apps out there to support meditation and mindfulness practices and

many of them are great. Most apps allow you to sync the app with your iPhone Health app and can track your meditations and send you push notifications. However, as you choose an app that is appropriate for you keep in mind where you are in your practice and what you want to gain from the app. The app is just a tool and can support you, but apps that give suggestions based on your mood are not always helpful and true in the spirit of mindfulness since you can practice the skill of discernment and an inner knowing of what type of guided meditation may be best for you at this point. In addition, as you develop and mature your mediation practice you should release the need to constantly have a guided meditation. I find that my deepest meditation moments are when I’m simply still and silent.

With that all said, I do have a preference in meditation apps. I really enjoy Insight Meditation, which has guided and unguided meditations, tracking, and other great features that most of the apps have, but what makes this app extra special is the community or sangha that is created. I can see in real time that others are meditating with me, and I can send and receive beautiful messages of gratitude and encouragement from all around the world. In addition, there are forums that you can join and allow the collective wisdom to enrich your mindful experience. In addition, there’s a wealth of guided meditations from teachers who are well trained and known in the field.

As I looked through the apps for children I realized that there weren’t as many and some of them you had to pay to just get the app. I really enjoyed BreatheKids and found it helpful for children. Unfortunately, there aren’t any mindfulness and meditation apps specifically for teenagers. As I mentioned many of the apps for adults are appropriate for older teens, but I would definitely practice mediation and listen to the courses they’re listening to with the teenager. All the apps for children were to childish and developmentally inappropriate for teens.

I hope you found this list and reviews of mindfulness apps helpful. I know I didn’t review every single mindfulness app, so if there’s one I missed that you really recommend please share your favorite mindfulness app with us on my Facebook page. Also, don’t forget to sign up for email updates, like my page on Facebook, and follow me on Instagram and Pinterest.


PEACE


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