I’m an anxious person. I toss and turn the night before a big meeting. My mind races in stressful situations. I become agitated when things don’t run as smoothly as I planned. The list goes on … I’ve only found a couple of healthy things that help me deal with that anxiety. For me and many others, meditation makes life less hard.
I’ve been meditating off and on for more than a decade. I started with an 8-minute guided meditation track on my iPod®. Yes, iPod. Last year, I went on a 10-day silent meditation retreat. Both experiences made me appreciate how meditation helps me reduce stress, relax more and sleep better.
Whether you use a guided meditation, a smartphone app or go on a meditation retreat, the wonderful thing about meditation is that it’s free to practice. You can carry the mental peace you create with meditation you throughout the day. At Haven Life, we have a meditation Slack© channel and occasionally bring in an instructor to lead team members through a 30-minute guided meditation. I always come out of those sessions with a stronger focus and a boost to my productivity.
As National Meditation Month comes to a close, you might want to keep this healthy habit going. So it’s a good time to look at some health and fitness apps that have improved my meditation practice and could do the same for yours.
Aaptiv is more than a workout app. It has audio meditations for nearly every situation – from those that reduce anxiety to ones that help you breathe or sleep better. For people who want a more structured practice, Aaptiv offers a 21-day meditation program. Aaptiv trainers Jade Alexis and Ceasar Barajas are two of my favorite guides, but the app provides plenty of exercises so you can find one that works best for you. Aaptiv also recently launched Aaptiv Coach, an artificial-intelligence-powered trainer that gives you a personalized coaching plan that incorporates fitness, mindfulness and healthy habits. The AI coach is included in Aaptiv’s regular subscription.
You can do a one-week free trial of Aaptiv to access more than 2,500 audio-guided workouts and structured programs. A monthly subscription costs $14.99 while the annual plan is $99.99 (roughly $8.33 per month). Unlike the other apps on the list, Aaptiv provides you way more exercises beyond meditations.
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The Daily Calm is a soothing way to start your day as Tamara Levitt takes you on a delightful audio journey. It feels like you’re meditating in a trendy celebrity studio near a babbling stream. In fact, signer John Mayer and comedian Stephen Fry endorsed the app, and you can hear actor Matthew McConaughey or the late, great artist Bob Ross read you a bedtime story on Calm if you can’t go to sleep.
Like Aaptiv, it has meditations for nearly every scenario – from those inspired by Winnie the Pooh to mindful eating. Calm offers a one-week free trial and costs $12.99 for a monthly subscription and $69.99 (roughly $5.83 per month) for an annual plan.
Headspace co-founder Andy Puddicombe spent 10 years studying meditation at Buddhist monasteries and it shows. His voice instantly puts me at ease as he gives thoughtful instructions on various meditation techniques, such as visualization, noting and loving kindness. The depth of Puddicombe’s meditation knowledge is sometimes offset by the cartoon aesthetic of the app. But what I enjoy most about Headspace is that it offers in-depth, 10- to 30-day courses centered around a theme, like creativity or managing anxiety. The app also features guided meditations for runners, which are helpful no matter if starting out or training for a marathon.
The app offers dozens of free meditation exercises, but you’ll need to pay to access all its content. Headspace costs $12.99 for a monthly subscription or $95.88 ($7.99 per month) for an annual plan.
Ten Percent Happier©
If you want a blue-ribbon panel to give you expert meditation advice, Ten Percent Happier is your app. Started by journalist Dan Harris, the app brings together best-selling authors on meditation, including Joseph Goldstein, Jeff Warren, and Sharon Salzberg, for guided audio and video exercises.
This app is good if you’re more interested in the practical benefits of meditation rather than its spiritual aspects. Ten Percent Happier offers a one-week free trial and costs $99.99 after the trial ends.
Waking Up with Sam Harris©
Class is in and public intellectual Sam Harris is ready to teach you about meditation with this app. Waking Up takes you through a 50-day introductory course before you can access a series of daily meditations. Harris, a neuroscientist, philosopher, and best-selling author, teaches you the fundamentals and theory behind meditation.
Waking Up is useful if you’re looking for an intellectual experience to ground your meditation practice. The free version of Waking Up gives you access to five audio meditations and five lessons from Harris. The app costs $14.99 for a monthly subscription and $119.99 (nearly $10 per month) for an annual plan.
You don’t need an app to meditate, but it can help
Using a smartphone to be present in the moment may sound a bit like eating ice cream to lose weight. Let’s be clear: You don’t need any special equipment or apps to meditate. You can practice meditation whenever and wherever you want. That’s the beauty of it.
I find guided meditations in apps or other formats useful because they make consistent practice a little less hard. While plenty of health studies have highlighted the benefits of meditation, the anxiety-inducing pace of modern life can make forming a regular habit more difficult. A good app can nudge you to have a better practice, even if it’s not National Meditation Month.
Tom Anderson is Haven Life’s editorial director. Haven Life does not endorse the companies or offer the products, services and/or strategies discussed here.
iPod is a registered trademark of Apple, Inc.
Slack is a copyright of Slack Technologies, Inc.
Aaptiv is a copyright of Aaptiv Inc.
Calm is a copyright of Calm.com, Inc.
Headspace is a copyright of Headspace Inc.
Ten Percent Happier is a copyright of Change Collective, Inc.
Waking Up is a copyright of Waking Up, LLC.