Technology has created many distractions, however, if technology is used the right way, it can instead keep us more mindful and present. The best meditation apps out there offer us the ability to have a guided meditation practice ready to go, in our pockets.
But which should you choose? There are many options, each with their own unique features, teachers, lessons, and prices. I’ve tried and used dozens of different guided meditations over the years, including in-person teachers in the 14 years since I started meditating.
Everyone has their personal preferences and needs, so I went through each of these apps and tried to set aside my biases and experience. I tried to go through each of these apps as someone new to meditation, which is who most of these meditation apps are aimed towards.
However, even if you’re an experienced practitioner, I think you’ll find a lot of value out of many of these apps, and a lot of value out of guided meditation, especially if you’ve only ever meditated with a timer and without guidance.
So let’s go through the best meditation apps for 2019.
Declutter The Mind
A high quality and helpful guided meditation doesn’t need to cost you anything. We believe everyone should have access to the benefits of meditation without worrying about needing to afford it.
That’s why we’re launching Declutter The Mind, an app that will offer a library of guided meditations for beginners and experienced practitioners.
We’ll offer everything from guided meditations for anxiety and sleep, to productivity and happiness. There will also be courses to guide you through understanding your mind, and making mindfulness a habit.
In the meantime, we’ve put together a YouTube channel where we host all of our guided meditation for free. Providing sessions for everything from anxiety and sleep, to happiness and mindfulness.
A high quality and helpful guided meditation doesn’t need to cost you anything. I believe everyone should have access to the benefits of meditation without worrying about needing to afford it. There are plenty of apps, the best of which I’ve hand selected below for you to try and compare. I’m also going to go through each of the best meditation apps features, so that you can decide which is best for you to try first, based on your individual needs.
Each of the best meditation apps that I’ve tried,
However, like I said earlier, I want everyone to have access to high quality guided meditations.
We’ve put together a YouTube channel where we host all of my guided meditations for free. Providing sessions for everything from anxiety and sleep, to happiness and mindfulness. We’ve gone ahead and organized each guided meditation into separate playlists, to make it easy to find the free guided meditation that’s right for your needs or where you need meditation the most in your life.
You’ll also be able to choose the preferred duration for your session as well. The YouTube Channel offers most of the guided meditation sessions in 10 minutes, 15 minutes, and 20 minutes. Some special cases (such as beginner introductions) will have shorter times, while others will have longer times. There’s also a visible timer, which is useful for restless beginners.
A feature that is unique but not always used is that most guided meditations are captioned. This is helpful if you’re hearing impaired or can’t listen to the audio. It offers an alternative to meditate with your eyes open but still practice mindfulness.
The library is constantly growing, too. Dozens of new free guided meditations are added to the YouTube channel every month. If there’s a specific kind of guided meditation you’re seeking, you can always reach out and make a suggestion. Feedback and suggestions are always welcomed!
An app is being built that will host and share all of Declutter The Mind’s free guided meditations for iOS and Android. The best part is that there will be no subscription fees. Access to the app and the free guided meditations (including ones constantly added) will be free for life. Expect a launch in mid to late 2019.
In the meantime, you could always use the YouTube app on your phone, subscribe to our YouTube channel, and use one of the guided meditations on the go that way.
Declutter The Mind is free and the app when launched will be free.
Probably one of the more beautiful-looking of the best meditation apps that I’ve used. The user interface is gorgeous but also very easy to navigate through and use. It’s also one of the first apps I’ve ever used. I remember when Calm was more known for its relaxing sounds and soothing music. Since then, it has grown and offers everything from breathing exercises to adult bedtime stories (no joke!).
More recently, Calm is offering guided meditations, so let’s start with that.
The guided meditations offered span from Loving-Kindness and body scan meditations, to guided meditations specifically for anxiety relief and gratitude. There’s a lot at offer here. I don’t feel fully confident to say that the guidance, lessons and instruction here is the best I’ve heard or seen compared to others on this list. However, it is pretty adequate considering all else that is offered in this packed app.
I do like that you can choose the meditation time, from 3 minutes all the way to 25 minutes. Also, almost all of the guided meditation sessions seems to be aimed at beginners and newcomers.
As for the rest of the app, I think where it truly shines is with the variety of background noises and music offered. If you’re someone who likes to work, sleep, or even meditate with sounds of things like nature and white noises, this app offers a lot of variety.
The relaxing sounds of rain, the soothing music, and the lull of the combinations of sounds and music offered, make it one of the best apps I’ve used for this.
There’s also a dedicated section just for sleep. The most unique sleep section of the best meditation apps that I’ve looked at. This is because there are over 100 adult bedtime stories and they are pretty impressive. For someone who has never tried to fall asleep with something like this, I was pleasantly surprised at how well it put me to sleep.
If you’re someone who’s childhood was being read to before sleep, you’ll likely love this part of the app.
For all this, I do think that Calm is perhaps the best app for sleep and those struggling with things like insomnia, and prefer guided meditation to help them sleep. Guided meditation for sleep seems to be a growing trend and I think that it’s safe to say that Calm is ahead of the trend when it comes to this.
A year of Calm is $59.99, which is pretty reasonable when you compare it to the prices of other apps on this list and what the other apps offer in terms of features. However, like I said earlier, it is one of the weaker guided meditations on this list. There’s a bit of lack of personality in some of the guided meditations I tried here, and not a lot of insight, or as much instruction as I would have liked to have seen compared to other apps on this list.
I’ve used Headspace for many years, almost since it launched, starting in 2014. I’ve seen the many different iterations and improvements of the app, its content, and lessons, and I can say that it’s now at a place where it is likely one of the best meditation apps available online right now.
That being said, it has become one of the more bloated meditation apps available out there right now. It’s an app that tries to do a lot, almost too much. This can be overwhelming for beginners who are unsure where to start or what’s best for them. There’s a lot of content here, which might be better served to an experienced meditator.
The UI of the app is beautiful and one of the better UIs for guided meditation apps that I’ve seen. Don’t let the cutesy or cartoonish look and feel fool you though. While Andy (the main instructor for Headspace) does an excellent job gently introducing completely new concepts, the guided meditations are mature and won’t make you cringe.
The guided sessions are not over the top, or trying to oversell the idea and purpose of meditation, which is one of my favorite things about the app. Instead, it tries to make meditation much more accessible and easy to understand.
Almost like an “Explain Like I’m 5 Years Old” for meditation.
However, this can be seen as a downside, that there is only one dedicated instructor, which might bother you if you’re looking for variety.
Each “pack” or course often includes several short cartoon animations that explain concepts and the different techniques used in the guided meditations offered. This is great since learning to meditate without any visual guides can be challenging for the new comer. There’s a lot of techniques and meditation methods that are simply better explained visually, even with a cartoon that allows more flexibility in how to represent and show concepts.
There are many different categories and topics that are covered in Headspace. There are guided meditations for anxiety, sleep, working out, and more. There’s also a lot of variety in the style of meditation being taught. Most are mindfulness practices but you’ll also find some visualization practices sprinkled in as well.
There is an “Essentials” or beginners section as well, including a free 10 lessons, for complete beginners to meditation.
Interestingly, there seems to be much more of a focus in Headspace on guided sleep meditations, including sleep sounds and music. This is relatively new. If you’re interested or specifically looking for help falling asleep, or creating the conditions for deep sleep, Headspace now has a dedicated section for this.
Another nice feature which isn’t always available on most of the popular guided meditation apps is the ability to choose the length for each session. So you can choose a guided meditation and Headspace will offer 10 minute, 15 minute, or 20 minute version of that session depending on your level of experience or time available to meditate.
Headspace is free to try but does include an subscription fee. Regular price is $12.99 monthly or $7.99 monthly if you bill annually. Headspace also offers a student discount, as well as a family discount if you’re buying for more than one person.
10% Happier was launched a few years after Dan Harris’ book by the same name. If you’re familiar with the name Dan Harris, you may have heard or seen him on ABC News, Nightline, or Good Morning America before his on-air panic attack in 2004 set him on a new course and direction in life.
After discovering meditation and learning how it can make him less anxious, manage his addictions, and slightly happier, he goes on a wild and interesting journey which he recounts in his book 10% Happier.
Like the book, I think the app tries to position meditation for newcomers as practically as possible. Dan Harris has done a great job introducing meditation into the mainstream without overselling the benefits or positioning it as an easy fix, which is often the case in the West.
The app itself contains a large growing library of courses and guided meditation from Dan Harris and various other instructors. If you’re someone who likes a variety of voices and teachers, this is what 10% Happier offers.
Of course, the entire library of guided meditations is broken down by topic, ranging from guided meditations for focus, and guided meditations for anxiety. There are also some rather unique and interesting topics of guided meditations available, including guided meditations for relationships.
Many of the guided sessions allow you to choose the time you’d like to meditate for and even Chromecast to another device if needed, which can be useful if you’re meditating with a group.
I think what this app does a really great job at is introducing a lot of the concepts of meditation, as well as techniques, to a skeptical audience. Again, what it does better than most of the best meditation apps is provide practical advice as to how to actually implement what you’re learning into your daily life and routine.
There are also videos and video lessons that dig deeper into many of the meditation concepts taught, as well as some basic philosophy. I don’t think 10% Happier goes as deep as some of the other apps on this list, but it does a decent enough job at scratching the surface of the philosophy of life and more of the esoteric concepts.
With that, you do get many single-serving and quick meditations to choose from. If you’re looking for someone outside of the regular 7-day courses offered, and just need something for your daily practice, it’s offered here. This is especially useful if you’re an experienced practitioner.
10% Happier is $99.99 for the year and $49.99 for 4 months.
Waking Up is one of the newer guided meditation apps on the block. It’s created and taught by Sam Harris, a neuroscientist, author and podcast host of Making Sense.
Waking Up seems to have come from Sam’s very rational, practical, and secular approach to meditation.
Unlike many other meditation apps, there isn’t a lot of variety here. Instead what you get is dozens of lessons and guided meditations that are in a sequential order. Instead of cherry picking and trying to decide which type of meditation is best for you and your needs, Waking Up puts you on a path.
There are two main sections to this app.
The first is the Lessons section. This vary in length, most around 10 minutes, and they cover a specific topic. Usually the topics are centered around mindfulness and meditation, other times they become more philosophical and esoteric, around topics such as free will and the “self”. I’ve found these extremely enlightening and helpful. Sam’s philosophy around the self and mindfulness give us a lot of context and intention when we practice meditation.
Many people, including myself 14 years ago, don’t really know why they are meditating or why they want to learn to meditate. Often there are many superficial or vague reasons. Here, Waking Up offers the reasons, by diving into a lot of subjects that make us question “what is a thought?”, “what is consciousness?” and “what is free will?”.
Now, this may seem very intense at first, especially for someone just looking to kick back with a relaxing meditation app, but these lessons are pretty much optional. Consider them the elective courses around the main focus of Waking Up which are the guided meditations.
The guided meditations section is a series of guided meditations, starting at around 10 minutes each session, that explores different techniques of practicing mindfulness. What I like about Waking Up is that it is focused. It’s as if that app is saying “If you want to learn to meditate, here is one path and gradually builds up and becomes more intense.”
What’s more, each guided session comes packed with Sam’s insight. He attempts to pose a lot of challenging questions and koans that are meant to make you contemplate.
This means he doesn’t pull any punches. This can frustrate many newcomers to meditation. From reading the reviews, I’ve seen many people complain that they gave up or couldn’t grasp some of the concepts posed and became irritated.
But I think this is the point. Waking Up is what proves that meditation requires a lot of practice. And I mean a lot. It also requires an open-mind and a lot of patience.
I would say this is also probably the best guided meditation app for very experienced meditators. While there is a lack of variety in terms of the types of guided meditations, what you really get here is a meditation course that attempts to separate you from your perception of your self.
It’s not for the faint of heart but it’s a very enlightening experience. Definitely one of the more bang for buck in terms of learnings for meditation apps. It’s no wonder Sam decided to increase the price of the app.
Waking Up is $14.99 a month or $119.99 for the year.
Interestingly, Insight Timer is the first meditation app I’ve ever used. Back in the day, before the rush of meditation apps, Insight Timer was one of the few apps that appeared when you searched “meditation” in the App Store.
Back then, the app was a simple timer you’d set while you meditated. It offered nice, soothing bell tone and sound varieties, to let you know when the timer was up. It also even allowed you to set interval timers, to let you know when you were half way through your meditation.
Since then, it looks like Insight Timer has grown to keep up with the new guided meditation apps on the block. Trying it again, I could see just how much it changed and became influenced by the various other meditation apps available.
The app features thousands of different meditations from various different instructors for many different topics. Many of the topics here are what you would come to expect: sleep, anxiety, Loving-Kindness, focus, and a lot more. Also, Insight Timer features many famous or well-known meditation instructors including Tara Branch, Sam Harris, Moby, Jennifer Piercy, and a lot more.
It’s almost like a Master Class for meditation, which alone is pretty impressive.
However, if you’re likely me, you’ll prefer having a regular instructor, who teaches meditation in one way and has their style. It can be a little weird and difficult to receive instruction from so many different people with their own style and philosophy around meditation and mindfulness.
Regardless, what’s offered here in terms of quality is great from an app with such humble beginnings.
There are also premium on-demand courses that cover topics such as overcoming obsessive thinking and creating a morning ritual.
Insight Timer also now includes music and ambient noises, similar to what is offered by Calm, but not as good as Calm’s selection here.
I think what Insight Timer does exclusively well is make meditation seem like a community and less lonely effort. Meditation can be lonely. It’s literally you sitting alone, focusing on yourself. Insight Timer tries to integrate a community within the app, where you can share and discuss your mindfulness journey with others, as well as gain wisdom from others further along on their journey than you.
Finally, Insight Timer still includes what it was best known for: meditation timers with interval bells. So if you’re looking for meditation without instruction or guidance, Insight Timer offers that, and probably better than the other apps I’ve tried. It still tracks your meditation as well, so if you’re looking for something to keep you accountable without guided meditation, this app does it well.
Insight Timer offers a free version but includes a paid option for $5 a month paid annually.
Stop, Breathe & Think
Unique to this app compared to the other best meditation apps, is that this app includes videos for yoga and acupuncture. This app tries to be more than just a meditation app, and more of a mental wellbeing app. So instead of just offering guided meditations, this app is trying to create a healthier state of mind by providing various tools besides just meditation.
As for the guided meditation itself, it’s not bad. Compared to others on this list, it certainly isn’t the best instruction I’ve heard, but it’s definitely not the worst out of all the apps out there. You’ll get guided meditations on things like mindful breathing, breathing exercises, sleep, anxiety relief, and reducing stress.
There are also guided sessions in Spanish, which is a nice touch.
Like some of the other apps on this list, the guided sessions are led by different instructors.
What I think this app does better than the other apps on this list however, is allow you to track your habit, mood, and emotions. This is very unique and very helpful. I’m actually quite surprised more meditation apps don’t do this.
It allows you to better notice any patterns in your thinking, and how meditation is affecting you. With this, the app can begin to recommend you sessions based on how you’re feeling, which I think is a very clever and helpful feature.
Every day, you’ll be able to check in with yourself and actually get recommendations based on this.
Pricing for Stop, Breathe, & Think is $9.99 per month or $59.88 per year.
Simple Habit Meditation
Simple Habit Meditation does what the name implies, attempts to make meditation a regular habit.
What this app does better than the other best meditation apps on this list, is help you form the habit of a regular practice.
It does this by offering an easy way to track your progress, keep yourself accountable, and rewards you with little achievements and badges that make you feel good about maintaining your habit.
My favorite feature of this app is the user interface. I love how cleanly and easily you can start a new meditation session based on your needs through the well designed pinwheel. Just select the reason you’re meditating and the time you have to meditate, and away you go.
You can even select as little as 1 minute for your guided session if you’re that strapped for time but still want to squeeze in some time to be mindful in your day.
This is probably the highlight for me compared to other meditation apps I’ve used. It might not be the most compelling reason to select Simple Habit Meditation over other meditation apps, but some of the other apps on this list have really clunky and not-so-user-friendly interfaces. So this is a bonus here.
Simple Habit Meditation has over 1000 guided meditations from over 60 different instructors. Again, if you’re like me and would prefer consistency from one instructor, this is a downside, since it seems like some of the instructors specialize on certain types of meditation over the others.
Simple Habit Meditation offers a premium version for $95.99 for the year.
I hope this list was helpful. Just remember that if you’re on the fence about paying for one of these apps, many of them offer a free trial. You can always use Declutter The Mind’s free guided meditations. The library continues to grow, and as more people use it, the more I’ll know what kind of guided meditations people need.