Meditation has amazing benefits for body and mind. But where do we start?
We’re not going to convince you of the benefits of meditation here. After all, you probably already know the myriad of physical, mental and emotional benefits that have been scientifically proven over and over again. Instead, this is really for those people that want to get started but aren’t sure how.
Using technology to enhance healthy living is something we love at Performance Lab. For years people have struggled to understand meditation and mindfulness. The vast majority of people don’t want to go to meditation classes, so their only opportunity to learn is to read some material and then sit down, cross legged, thumb and middle finger touching, and start …. trying.
For most people this doesn’t work.
A high percentage of people that we speak to that try this method of learning simply say that they just waste ten minutes or so thinking about what the hell they could otherwise be doing. They really struggle to switch off that ‘monkey brain.’
Enter meditation apps.
These are really a great aid for anyone that wants to learn to meditate and begin a regular practice. After years of almost daily meditation, we still use these apps to help get me us into the space that we really want to be.
So we thought we’d put together a few of the best ones we’ve used. If you have any others, we would love to hear about them in the comments. These are all iOS apps, sorry. We haven’t explored the world of Android.
Oh – for ease of reference, we are going to use ‘meditation’ and ‘mindfulness’ interchangeably – don’t hate us.
Best for: Learning Mindfulness
Headspace is probably the most popular mindfulness app on the planet. They have a ton of ‘courses’ lasting anywhere from three days to ten days, and these really help you to keep a daily streak going. You can get courses for emotions, letting go of stress, creativity… you name it.
Best of all are the ‘introduction’ courses. Along with some really great short, animated videos, the learnings about mindfulness – what it is and what it isn’t – are tremendous. We can safely say that Headspace is the best app we’ve used to learn the concept of manfulness and help us feel better about those times we just can’t switch off during our practice.
The subscription version of the app is quite expensive, but if you use it every day it is definitely justifiable. If you don’t like the voice of the narrator/creator then you’re in trouble though….. because that is pretty much all you hear.
Best for: Amazing amount of free meditation and variety
The free version of Insight Timer is really quite incredible. They have so many free courses and stand-alone meditations it will blow your mind. The app also has a ‘meditation timer’ function, where you can set the duration and ambient noise (water, rain, guitar etc) throughout your practice. You can save these pre-set timers and just launch them whenever you need to and they are available offline so you can use them on the planc or whenever you don’t have coverage.
One surprisingly useful feature is that you can set interval ‘bells’ thoughout your practice. This sounds redundant, but we find that setting a bell to chime every three minutes is a helpful way to bring us back to the present if we have started drifting off. Don’t knock it until you try it.
Insight Timer also has a bunch of free guided meditations designed to help with anything from guilt to stress to gratitude. And the app also has some ‘binaural beats’ which is essentially electronic music of a certain frequency that has been shown to get your brain into the meditation frequency more quickly. Again – we find this a lot more effective than we first thought it would be.
The only downside of the Insight Timer is its content isn’t terribly well categorised and organised. It is a bit hard to find what you really need, but you can at least bookmark certain meditations that you like.
Best for: Sleep
The Calm app is another very popular meditation app. It is almost a mixture of the first two apps combined. The one thing we didn’t like about it when we tried it was that it didn’t have a daily streak counter that really helped us build the habit of meditation.
Calm’s strength probably lies in it’s functionality for people who find it hard to get to sleep. It has a feature called sleep stories which involves some calming voices reading you stories to fall asleep to. It also has a sleep music function. We have talked to people who absolutely love this and swear that it helps them fall asleep and that it gets them into deep sleep faster (we have no trouble getting to sleep so we can’t vouch for this ourselves).
So, there you have it. Those are three meditation apps that we have tried that we really like. We are sure there are more, and if you know of any others, please drop us a line.