You want to get zen, but you have no idea how to start, and that's stressing you out. Ironic, huh? Here's help.
Beginner Meditation, Made Easy
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If you think that meditation is something reserved only for intense yogis and Buddhist monks, think again. The practice, which dates back to 1500 BCE (Before Common Era), is for everyone. It has loads of benefits, too. Research shows meditation can make you a better athlete, increase self-awareness, and dramatically lower stress levels. In a study published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology, people who received just three consecutive days of mindfulness training felt calmer when faced with a stressful task. (And those are just a few of the massive benefits of meditation.)
But there's just one little problem: Getting started with anything new, including meditation, can feel super overwhelming—especially on those anxious days when sitting still and breathing feels like climbing Mount Everest. That's where meditation apps come into play. Not only can these digital guides take the edge off the practice for newbies, but they can make your practice more fun too. These five mindfulness apps will make getting into the meditation swing an absolute breeze. (These top therapy and mental health apps are worth checking out, too.)
Photo: Aleksandra Belinskaya / Shutterstock
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Ask any big entrepreneur if they use an app to get their meditation on, and nine times out of ten you'll hear them utter the word "Headspace." The app offers a wide range of guided meditations on subjects ranging from sleep and anxiety to focus and relationships, as well as an everyday Headspace free to non-subscription customers. (They just launched a mindful eating meditation series too.)
Plus, users can track their progress from day to day, and even buddy up with a friend to stay accountable. It doesn't hurt that Andy Puddicombe, the company's CEO and voice behind the programming, has a super-attractive (and calming) British accent.
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Have trouble sleeping? This app's got your back. With 100+ sleep stories, these adult bedtime stories of sorts are made strategically to help users hit the hay. Feel like you're over the whole guided practice thing? This app's got next-level options included unguided timed meditation, open-ended meditation, and 30+ soothing sounds and scenes to use to practice on your own, no guide required.
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Out of all the meditation apps, Buddhify gives you the most meditation gratis. Of the 200 free meditations available, you can choose one that suits your needs with subjects ranging from stress to pain.
Splurge for the membership, and you can unlock additional features including Together (which offers video courses and community stories), Formal (which teaches six formal meditation techniques), and karaoke-style meditation called Transmission. Here's how it works: Pick the meditation you want to transmit (great for people who practice together), and you'll see words you have to say out loud on the screen. Read them aloud, and you're instantly performing a guided meditation for whoever is around.
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This entirely free meditation app, developed by psychologists and educators, is a great intro for someone who isn't quite ready to invest in their practice just yet. The best part? They offer programs specifically made for everyone from 7-year-olds to adults. When each meditation finishes, the app prompts you to respond and gauge how you feel, offering a fun, easy way to track your progress and meditation's impact over time. (Looking for more wallet-friendly downloads? Check out the best free apps for runners.)
Photo: Smiling Mind
The Mindfulness App
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With sessions ranging from 3 to 30 minutes, the Mindfulness App allows users to tailor their practice to their own schedule. The app offers 200+ guided meditations, and premium subscribers can even download meditations to use offline. (Related: Why You Should Keep Up Your Meditation Practice While Traveling)
Photo: The Mindfulness App