In recent years, our lives have been full of fads: diets, clothing, dance moves, hairstyles, even lifestyles. You might legitimately wonder: so, are meditation apps one of those fads? Definitely not.
The best meditation apps offer the appealing benefits of mitigating stress and anxiety, improving sleep, increasing capacity for compassion, even reducing pain — all of which can help you achieve better overall physical and mental health.
Sounds too good to be true, but it actually isn’t: after all, it is you who will do all the work – not the apps. However, the apps are here to help, teach and guide you through this process, which might seem vague and overwhelming.
Many meditation apps focus on mindfulness meditation – a mental training practice, teaching you to pay attention to the current moment and slow down your racing, whether negative or positive, thoughts.
Cooperating with your mind and learning how to calm it down takes practice and a lot of work.
Meditation apps can help you figure out the best ways to do it, stick with this habit, refresh your skills after a break, and remind you to sit down and take a deep breath amidst a hectic day. They can help you see through the daily hassle and turn those chaotic spans of time into more structured, deep-felt, and enjoyable days and nights.
We’ve reviewed the best meditation apps you can download today based on a variety of factors, including effectiveness, ease of use, content quality, price, and more.
What are the Best Meditation Apps for Women?
Here are our picks for the top meditation and mindfulness apps for women:
- Best Overall: Headspace
- Best for Sleep: Insight Timer
- Best for Anxiety & Stress: Unwinding Anxiety
- Best for Beginners: Waking Up
- Best for Experienced Users: Calm
- Best for Skeptics: Ten Percent Happier
- Best for Future & Current Parents: Expectful
- Best Meditation Timer: Enso
- Best Free Meditation App: The Breathing App
The Headspace app (7-day free trial) offers the widest array of meditations, compared to other meditation and mindfulness apps.
It is characterized by clean, uncluttered design, minimalist and cute illustrations, and a warm, welcoming color palette. It’s a true joy for sore eyes tired from the in-your-face web designs.
The pleasant and soothing voice that you hear in the Headspace is the voice of Andy Puddicombe – a former monk and renowned mindfulness expert.
The interface of Headspace is easy-to-use, which is so important. After all, a meditation app is meant to help you calm down and focus – not to send you into a bout of rage because you cannot figure out how it works.
This mindfulness app offers both guided courses, for beginners and pro meditators, and short (three, five-, ten-minute) meditations for those who want to meditate on the go: on the way to work, while shopping or working out.
It also has an emergency feature: the so-called SOS sessions for the moments when you need a quick fix in a situation like a panic attack or a bout of rage.
The meditations and courses are clearly organized by topic and color-coded, so you won’t get lost.
It is by far the most comprehensive, well-designed, and user-friendly meditation and mindfulness app out there.
That’s why we rated Headspace as the best meditation app overall.
- Hundreds of guided meditations on multiple subjects
- Sleep meditations
- Daily meditations on a new topic each day
- The Wake Up – to start your day mindfully
- Move Mode workouts and mindful cardio
- 2–3-minute mini-meditations for a quick mental reset
- SOS sessions for moments of panic, anxiety, and stress
- Animations – to teach you new skills and answer your questions
- Tracker for your progress and time spent meditating
- Guided meditations and mindfulness exercises for children
- $12.99/month or get a discounted annual plan for 40% off
- 7-day free trial
The Insight Timer app is our best meditation app for sleep.
This app offers you a wide selection of short and long guided meditations talks, narrated by meditation and mindfulness experts, neuroscientists, psychologists, and teachers from world-renowned schools like Stanford, Harvard, Oxford, and more.
You can also choose from multiple music tracks from great artists – to help you calm, concentrate, work, relax, and sleep better.
In the Insight Timer, you will find meditation courses, designed specifically to assist you in learning how to get an adequate amount of high-quality sleep, which is crucial for your health and, as research shows, for your life expectancy.
- More than 100,000 guided meditations
- Select by duration for short meditations when on the go
- Thousands of music tracks and soundscapes – to calm the mind, concentrate, sleep and relax
- Bedtime tales
- Sleep meditations
- Follow your favorite teachers and participate in discussion groups
- Track your progress through stats and milestones
- Free to use
The Unwinding Anxiety app provides 30 modules with short daily exercises, designed by a psychiatrist and neuroscientist Judson Brewer, MD, Ph.D., to help you figure out the machinery of your mind. The result? You can better manage anxiety and unwanted stress.
This minfulness app will help you get through the process one step at a time: you will learn the awareness methods, which will assist you in the moments when you need to turn off your inner critic and switch on the be-kind-to-yourself mode.
You will learn how to be the driver of your mind’s vehicle and make the decisions yourself.
Track your progress through a unique stress test, which helps you assess your mood and anxiety levels throughout the day, so you can figure out what, when, and how causes your anxiety, and how to take matters into your own hands.
- Access to expert modules and methods
- A place to share your experience, ask questions and feel supported
- Proven training exercises with video and recorded lessons – to help you control your response to anxiety
- Online journal – to collect, analyze and manage your progress
- Weekly expert calls – to address your challenges
- Check-ins – to break the cycle of worry
- Short, daily video lessons – to help you learn why your brain becomes anxious
- Expert-moderated community support
- $29.99/month. Discounted annual plan available.
If you are a total beginner to mindfulness and meditation and want a simple and pain-free introduction to this beautiful yet complex process, Waking Up is worth checking out.
Developed by Sam Harris – a neuroscientist and philosopher – this meditation app is your guide to understanding your mind and learning the basics of meditation.
What makes Waking Up different from other meditation apps for beginners? Its creator says that “the purpose of meditation isn’t merely to reduce stress or to make you feel better in the moment – it’s to make fundamental discoveries in the laboratory of your own mind”.
The app does a great job at slowly introducing you to in-depth, daily meditations and mindfulness practices, alongside lessons, lectures, and conversations in philosophy, science, and wellbeing – if you are interested in a more comprehensive background.
- Guided meditation for morning, day, or evening, suitable for beginners, intermediate and advanced meditators
- Introductory course, teaching the basic principles of mindfulness meditation, along with more advanced practices
- Daily meditations – to progress after the introductory course
- Short talks on science, philosophy, and the nature of mind
- Additional conversations with teachers and scholars
- Meditation timer and tracking – to monitor progress
- $14.99/month or $120 for annual subscription
The Calm app offers a huge range of open-ended sessions and less structured meditations, which might appear a tad bit overwhelming to beginners, but will be hugely appealing to meditators who already have some experience.
It also offers individual exercises (e.g. breathing visualization), masterclasses from world-renowned experts, videos of stretches and exercises to help you feel your body, sleep stories, a wide selection of themed music, and soundscapes, as well as mindfulness tools for children.
There’s a reason Calm is one of the most popular meditation apps out there. It’s exceptionally well done and offers something for everyone.
- Meditation programs for every experience level: for calming anxiety, focusing, easing depression, and practicing gratitude
- Masterclasses from world-renowned experts
- Morning and evening stretches and warm-up and cool-down exercise
- More than 100 sleep stories, narrated by celebrities, including Matthew McConaughey, Kelly Rowland, and LeVar Burton
- Calming soundscapes and exclusive music from artists, such as Moby and Ellie Goulding
- Mindfulness tools for kids of different age categories
- $69.99/year or $399.99 for unlimited lifetime access
Based on the book 10 Percent Happier for Fidgety Skeptics by Dan Harris, who is also the mastermind behind the eponymous app, the Ten Percent Happier app is perfect “for the skeptic who is not sure that they want to meditate”.
The app’s creator turned to meditation after he had a panic attack while on live TV – so he definitely knows what he’s talking about.
The idea behind the app is that you do not need to sit and wait for the perfect, 100% enlightenment to become happier, kinder, more focused, and relaxed. Sometimes a mere 10%, which becomes a daily habit, is more than enough to start up a better life.
Small but regular improvements are way better than procrastinating and waiting for the Great Revelation to come and save you. See for yourself!
- Video and meditation combinations for fun and straightforward learning
- More than 500 guided meditations: from anxiety to parenting
- Relaxing meditations for better sleep
- Short stories to listen to while on the go
- New content released weekly
- Quick meditations that fit into your busy life
Parents, expecting couples, and those on the way to conception have a lot going on in their minds, bodies, and emotions – this is nothing new.
For all of those cases, the meditation practices offered by the Expectful app might a good option to help calm the racing mind and to mitigate the anxieties related to fertility issues, the joys and pains of pregnancy, and the stress, sleep deprivation, and fears of the new parenthood.
The hundreds of meditation sessions, offered by the app, are targeted not just at expecting parents, but also at those going through the sometimes worrying conception and often stressful postpartum periods.
- Fertility meditations
- Weekly pregnancy meditations
- Hypnobirthing course
- Emotional self-care
- Postpartum meditations
- Sleep stories and soundscapes
- Newborn lullabies
- $9.99/month or $59.99 for annual pass
If you are an experienced meditator or yogi who is not looking for guided meditation and mindfulness sessions, Ensō may be the right app for you.
Ensō is a simple, easy-to-use meditation timer, where you can set bells at different intervals to keep you alert, as well as to soothingly inform you about the end of your meditation or yoga session.
- High-quality soothing bells and bowls to start and end your meditation or yoga session
- Preparation timer – to help you get ready for your session
- Interval timer and bell – to help you stay focused and keep track of time
- Progress indicators – to show you how far you are into your meditation session
- Progress reports and stats
- Ability to turn off your device’s screen and use the bells for walking meditation sessions
- Ability to run Ensō in the background to use its bells and progress tracking features while running another app in the foreground
- Distraction-free mode when you set your device on silent – to prevent text message sounds and unwanted alerts
- Free to use
Learn more and download for iOS
If you want a totally free option and already have some meditation experience, try The Breathing App.
This is a meditation simple app with just a few visual and audio components and meditation timers, customizable for duration and breath count.
According to research, breathing at resonance frequency (approximately 6 breaths per minute) may result in a more positive mood and a decreased blood pressure response to stress.
- Simple visual cues to help you establish the rate of resonant breathing
- Timer for your breathing session
- Information about resonant breathing
- Totally free to use
Benefits of mindfulness and meditation
According to Harvard researchers, in 2015, as many as 16 million Americans reported experiencing depression.
Today, in the second year of a stressful, worldwide pandemic, those numbers are undoubtedly rising. Meditation and mindfulness apps can be incredibly beneficial in helping you during these difficult times.
Mindfulness and meditation practices offer many benefits, many of which have been proven scientifically and are still the target of even more in-depth research. So, meditation skeptics, at least, give it a try!
Among the most useful and prominent benefits of mindfulness and meditation, are:
- Stopping your racing mind. A study has shown that skilled meditators experienced reduced activity in the default-mode network, which is responsible for mind-wandering, which is a good thing, because many philosophical traditions consider the ability to “live in the moment” to be the recipe for calmness and happiness.
- Better concentration and attention span. In our world of compulsory multitasking, this is no laughing matter. Even a two-week mindfulness training course could improve your cognitive performance and working memory, as well as decrease distractibility.
- Reduced anxiety: all kinds of anxiety, including social, which has drastically increased in recent years, when a large part of the world was forced to move away from face-to-face interactions to the online realm. Research says that mindfulness meditation can help mitigate anxiety through the brain regions and mechanisms involved in the regulation of self-centered thoughts.
- Better sleep. Sleep and fitness go hand-in-hand. Mindfulness might be a good tool to help you deal with insomnia (if you suffer from one). Even if chronic inability to get a good night’s sleep is not your pain point, everyone sometimes faces a night when eyes just won’t shut. Special meditation and relaxation cues can help you fall asleep in the evening or get back to sleep if you have woken up in the middle of the night.
- Helping kids at school. If we as adults sometimes describe our minds as racing, then the developing brains of small children and teenagers, experiencing real hormonal storms, may be described as borderline crazy. To help them cooperate with their developing brain and jumpy minds, short meditation breaks may be beneficial.
- Reduced blood pressure. Another study demonstrated that meditation can help regulate inflammation, circadian (sleep-and-awake) rhythms, and blood glucose metabolism, thus helping decrease blood pressure. Although this is a relatively small study, it is a promising milestone, and more research on the link between meditation and hypertension is underway.
Still not convinced? Just check the data on your fitness tracker after a meditation session and see how it can slow your heart rate and breathing.
How to Choose the Best Meditation and Mindfulness App
Now that you’ve seen our list of the best meditation apps, let’s talk a little more about what to look for and how to choose the best one, based on your unique needs:
- Number of options. Does the app also offer calming music and sounds? Images? Does it offer different levels: for novices and for advanced users? Does it offer both short and long sessions
- Availability of beginner courses. If you are a beginner, it is a good idea to go through a beginner meditation and/or mindfulness course. If you dive headfirst into advanced meditation, you may become overwhelmed and decide that “meditation is not for you” way too soon.
- Voice. Nothing is more annoying than a narrator’s voice which just doesn’t click with your ears. It may not be such a problem at a one-off university lecture, but it will make a world of difference in a guided meditation: where the speaker’s voice is the main vehicle taking you through the mindfulness journey.
- Design and ease of use. In a meditation app, which is supposed to help you relax and keep calm, the design should be intuitive and not make you annoyed in any way. Choose an app that is both pleasant to your eye and convenient to use on your device of choice (mobile, tablet, or desktop).
- Free trial. It is hard to decide which app you’ll like based on the description or a short video presentation alone. So, a free trial for at least a week is basically a must.
Have any questions about our guide to the top meditation apps? Let us know by commenting below.