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Though the history of meditation dates back thousands of years, it’s become increasingly popular in recent years, with everyone from CEOs and Hollywood celebrities to your next door neighbor and family members explaining the way the practice has improved their lives.

In theory, meditation sounds simple enough — sit down in a quiet space, close your eyes, and focus on your breath. But like any practice, it takes time, patience, and technique to do it properly and reap the benefits.

If trying to meditate on your own doesn’t seem to be working, there are tons of apps on the market to help you reach your zen. Developed by teachers with years of experience, they’re beautifully designed, convenient to use, and great motivators as you discover the advantages of meditation. 

Meditation made simple?

Since its launch in 2012, Headspace has grown to become one of the most popular meditation apps on the market, boasting that more than 18 million users have downloaded it. Google and LinkedIn offer subscriptions to their employees, and jittery passengers on United, Delta, and British Airways can “get some Headspace,” too. The company recently raised funding of $37 million to further its mission of spreading health and happiness around the globe. (At the beginning of 2017, a Forbes article estimated that the company is valued at more than $250 million.)

What’s the winning formula? The gateway to Headspace is a free program called Take10, a series of 10 10-minute meditations narrated (as all the meditations are) by Headspace cofounder Andy Puddicombe, a former Buddhist monk. Although I’d completed Take10 long ago, I decided to start over. Hearing Puddicombe’s slightly-sleepy voice was like greeting an old friend.

Each meditation in Take10 follows a similar pattern: settling and tuning into your surroundings, performing a body scan, and mindfully counting breaths. These meditations feature much more guidance than silence, which may be a blessing or a curse depending on your preferences and experience. (I, to my surprise, found that slightly frustrating.)

After 10 days, it’s decision time: to subscribe or not to subscribe? Headspace will cost you as much as $12.99 per month—but once you pay, hundreds of hours of new meditations are unlocked.

New subscribers often start with Basics 2 and Basics 3—10 days each of 15-minute and 20-minute meditations, in a similar style to Take10 but with more silence. But you can also try out other series—from Stress to Depression, Self-Esteem to Productivity—or one-off meditations for activities like flying, eating, or commuting. For most sessions, you can customize the length depending on how much time you have—from 10 to 20 minutes for series, or three to 10 minutes for one-offs.

The challenge is there are enough to sort through that you might end up even more stressed than before, which certainly defeats your goal of inner peace and relaxation. That’s why we took a deep breath ourselves and broke down the features and pricing options of the most popular meditation apps for you, so you can spend less time researching and more time meditating. 

Headspace

Features:

  1. 10 free sessions 
  2. “Packs” of meditation sessions cover themes including Happiness, Health, Work & Performance, Sport, and Student
  3. “Single” meditation sessions are one-off exercises that provide relief during stressful and busy points during your day 
  4. Exercises designed specifically for kids 

Calm

With its popular app, book, and sleep mist, Calm has created a strong community dedicated to making the world happier and healthier. Its founders discovered the power of mindfulness and meditation firsthand while pursuing the entrepreneurial life, and its Head of Content has studied meditative practices for 25 years. 

Features:

  1. Free and paid 7-day and 21-day programs
  2. Guided and Sleep programs, Relaxation Techniques, and daily sessions 
  3. A Calm Masterclass teaches mindfulness techniques that “help quell cravings of all kinds” 
  4. Narrated “Sleep Stories” help you fall asleep at night 

Stop, Breathe & Think

Stop, Breathe & Think encourages regular meditation practice through its mood and progress tracker, ability to be integrated into the tech you use every day, and social sharing options. The company gives 10% of its net revenue to Tools for Peace, a non-profit dedicated to helping at-risk youth experience the benefits of mindfulness and meditation.

Features:

  1. 20+ free sessions
  2. Self-meditation timer 
  3. Emotion tracker lets you note differences before and after meditation and keep track of your mental wellness over time 
  4. Alexa and Slack integration 
  5. The separate app designed for kids 

Simple Habit

Calling itself “a daily vacation for your mind,” Simple Habit is the goal- and situation-based meditation for busy people. The sessions are led by a variety of teachers: mindfulness coaches, former monks, yoga teachers, meditation trainers, psychologists, and more. 

Features:

  1. 50+ free sessions and 1,000+ Premium sessions, with new ones added weekly, for specific symptoms and life situations including Wake-Up, Stress, Anxiety, and Commute
  2. 5-, 10-, or 20-minute “On the Go” sessions 
  3. Access offline sessions 
  4. Record your progress with “Mindful Minutes” through Apple Health

Insight Timer

Sound plays a big role in Insight Timer’s approach to meditation and allows users to fully immerse themselves in the experience. With its large offering of free features, it’s no wonder the app boasts over five years of collective meditation minutes every day and more than three million meditators in total. 

Features:

  1. 8,000 guided meditations and 1,000 music tracks
  2. 4,000+ discussion groups 
  3. Listen to ambient sounds or create your own interval bells to design a personal auditory experience
  4. Access offline sessions 
  5. Statistics dashboard to track your progress 

buddhify

The founders of independent app buddhify believe that the purpose of a good meditation app is to help you get to the point where you don’t need a meditation app, so you only pay a one-time fee and there are no subscription options available. It’s made to be incorporated seamlessly into your life, so you don’t need to set aside time for a formal meditation session. 

Features:

  1. 200+ sessions ranging from four to 30 minutes long 
  2. Social sessions for partners, friends, and colleagues to meditate together 
  3. 60 sessions designed for kids
  4. Statistics dashboard to track your progress
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