Should You Give a Meditation App a Try?
Mindfulness, the all-encompassing term for what people may call meditation, prayer, yoga, or just simply sitting in silence, has grown rapidly into a hot new health trend. Researchers have started to examine the health benefits of mindfulness and initial findings show that it has a positive effect on sleep quality and anxiety & depression. Now millions of ordinary people are turning to mobile apps for a way to be more mindful, or simply present, amid their busy lives. Even Apple has been blown away by the trend in its App Store over 2017, announcing “never before have we seen such a surge in apps focused specifically on mental health, mindfulness and stress reduction.”
Take a look below to learn about the benefits of mindfulness and about some of our favorite mindfulness apps out there to see if this daily habit might be right for you!
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a subjective and all-encompassing term. Depending on who you ask, mindfulness might mean meditation, prayer, yoga, or even just sitting alone for a couple of moments.
The term mindfulness comes from the Buddhist concept of sati, which when translated from the Pali language literally means “remember.” Sati is a component of Buddhism’s Noble Eightfold Path representing Right Mindfulness, which is the core of meditation practice in Buddhism. Buddhists practice a continual contemplation, or remembering, of body, mind, and feelings.
The fact that popular culture has adopted this Buddhist concept of mindfulness demonstrates society’s increasing desire to remain conscious in the present moment of today’s hectic, technology-driven and distraction-filled world.
To app or not to app?
With any health craze, it’s important to make sure the trend is right for you. Meditation has proven to be a helpful tool for improving sleep quality, reducing anxiety and depression, and even relieving pain. However, for other health and wellness concerns like concentration, mood swings, and weight loss, there’s not yet evidence to suggest meditation or mindfulness can have a positive impact.
Although mindfulness and meditation practices have shown some promising results for health, scientists haven’t yet said whether using an app for mindfulness is unequivocally beneficial. Still, the great part about using an app is it’s an easy way to get introduced to meditation concepts and build a daily habit of mindfulness.
Top ranking mindfulness apps
We took a look at some of the top mindfulness apps to help you figure out which one is right for you. Here’s what we found:
Headspace was one of the first apps to bring mindfulness to the masses (18 million to date in fact). Founded by an ex-Buddhist monk, Andy Puddicombe, Headspace provides a user-friendly introduction to meditation with a free 10-day guided meditation course narrated by Andy. Headspace is great if you want to accomplish the simple task of building a daily meditation habit. The meditations keep you focused with minimal distractions while still providing just enough guidance to keep you on track. One fun feature with Headspace is their “packs,” which are tailored mediation tracks to help you deal with immediate issues you may be having.
“Headspace honestly changed my life,” Sofie, one of our Patient Care Coordinators reflects. “I started using the app junior year of college for my insomnia and haven’t stopped since. I find that it drastically improves my day to day and helps me stay calm in the most hectic of situations.”
Headspace is free for the 10-day intro course, with payment required to unlock additional meditations. It’s the #11 app in the App Store’s Health & Fitness category, and to date, Headspace has raised $75 million to grow their mindfulness platform.
The top app in the Apple App Store when it comes to both free & paid users, Calm saw immense growth in 2017, becoming not only the leading meditation app but also the winner of Apple’s coveted “iPhone App of the Year.” It’s free to use basic functionalities of the app, including several meditation exercises, but it does require payment to upgrade to longer meditation programs and recorded “coaching” features.
Calm is perhaps best known for the variety it offers. There’s endless ways to pass your mindfulness time within Calm: from typical unguided and guided meditations to “sleep stories” and relaxing audio tracks.
We found Calm’s variety to be a bit overstimulating. When sitting down for a meditation you don’t always need that many decisions in front of you. If you’d like to keep your energy focused on meditating rather than adding another decision to your day, perhaps consider picking an app with less features. That said, the plethora of options it provides makes Calm the perfect app for anyone looking to explore what type of mindfulness works best for them.
Another free-to-download, pay-for-premium content app, 10% Happier is the brainchild of ABC News anchor Dan Harris. Self-proclaimed as the “least annoying meditation app,” 10% Happier gets down to business with a straightforward 7-day intro course. Users that choose to proceed with the paid programs get access to over 500 guided meditations and video lectures by mindfulness experts. There’s even a paid instant messaging feature for you to connect with a personal mindfulness coach. It starts to feel more like a mindfulness university on your phone!
If you’re most interested in learning about how you can benefit from mindfulness while you try out the new habit this might be the app for you. Our word of caution is to not let all the videos distract you from your quiet time.
Find what works for you and get started
When considering an app it’s important to think about what your personal goals or preferences are for practicing mindfulness. Is it for better sleep? De-stressing from work? Spurring creativity? Putting down your phone? (Whoops! Maybe theres a different route to enlightenment for that last one…)
Even something as small as the voice of the app’s meditation guide is an important factor. Do you prefer male or female? American or British accent? The options for developing mindfulness are endless these days, so its importatnt to consider these small things. We suggest trying at least two apps out when you start to get a feel for your preferences. You can read more reviews of mindfulness apps here.