Mindfulness is not the first thing people typically think of when it comes to technology. In fact, I think of the lack of mindfulness that surrounds technology, and the many times the person with whom I am sharing a meal has picked up their phone to make a call, look something up on the internet, or return a text. Sadly, I also must consider the times I have done it to others. As our minds are being sucked ever more deeply into the electronic never world, is it possible that these same little mobile instigators could possibly help us recover some of the precious mindfulness that is lost to them? A slew of mobile app developers tend to think so. If we are going to spend so much time on our phones, it's only right that they help us ground ourselves back into reality. If you're considering spending some time, and potentially money, on mindfulness apps, consider these:
Headspace and Calm: These two mindfulness apps are very similar. While there are subtle differences between what they offer, both are great for what they do. Many reviewers say that it comes down to the meditation guide's voice that one prefers. Headspace uses the Buddhist trained, proper English voice of Andy Puddicombe, while Calm uses the well-regarded female voice of Tamara Lovett. Both have free trial versions of the app, so it may be great to try them both for a week at a time. Both apps are beautifully designed, yet are very far apart in graphical taste. If you are visually driven person, you might find your preference of aesthetics to be your main decision driver.
- The Goodness: For guided mediations, they're beautifully effective for a combination of ease-of-use and quality.
- The Drawbacks: Pricey compared to other options.
- Perfect for you if: You are looking for a meditation app which provides a curated, high-quality guided meditations for adults or children, and you are not particularly price conscious. Each app costs around $13 a month for full use.
Insight Timer: If you are a fan of guided mediations, but don't enjoy paying the premium price, Insight Timer is your app. The tradeoff here is that Insight Timer is an open platform for seemingly anyone to post a meditation. It is up to you to choose wisely. The brilliance of the open platform is that there are literally thousands of meditations to choose from and many of those are extremely high-quality. A premium version of Insight Timer allows you to download your favorites for offline use, and the app also offers premium 10-day courses ranging from "Learn to Mindfully Manage Stress and Anxiety" to "Heal Through the Power of Sound."
- The Goodness: The best app around for a large selection of guided meditations without the premium design and handholding.
- The Drawbacks: Requires a bit more investment of time to get what you are looking for.
- Perfect for you if: You are looking for high quality guided meditations and don't mind spending some time searching for teachers or meditation guides that suit your tastes and needs. Insight Timer is entirely free for the basic version. Premium starts at $4.99 a month and 10-day courses are $4.99 each.
Vibe: The Vibe app takes a different approach to mindfully enabling your device. This app focuses on providing daily guidance in addition to meditation. The company has recruited a fairly impressive group of "thought leaders" in mindfulness and spirituality who guide users with light touch messaging throughout the day. The messaging includes a daily post, short meditations and periodic reminders of the daily post called Vibes, which pop up a few times during the day. According to the app's website, this method of integrating a single mindfulness principle into your life each day can have profound effects on happiness, wellbeing, even quality of sleep with minimal time commitment from the user. The app also includes a basic meditation timer for those who already know the basics of meditation.
- The Goodness: Perspective-changing daily guidance from thought leaders in mindfulness and spirituality.
- The Drawbacks: It would be great to see a solid library of guided meditations with this app, but guided meditations will be coming soon. In the meantime, perhaps combine with Insight Timer for guided meditations.
- Perfect for you if: You are a busy person and want to advance your mindfulness with less time per day. Opt for the free seven-day trial and if it works for you swing for the $2.99 a month option.
Muse: If you struggle with meditation (Inside secret—most of us do. It's part of the process) and feel that you just can't quiet your mind enough to find your inner peace, then you might want to check out Muse. Muse is not primarily an app—the centerpiece of this technology is the biofeedback headband which doubles as a headset (for sound). The headband works with the Muse app which effectively runs the device. When you meditate with the headband, Muse plays meditative sounds such as birds chirping, as well as listens to the activity in your brain. If your brain is too active (sometimes called "monkey brain"), the built-in headset provides an audible change in the sounds to something less calming, such as traffic or loud waves crashing. As you return your mind to a meditative state, the app provides the positive feedback to the brain in by returning to the gentler, more meditative sounds.
- The Good: Tests have shown that the Muse actually works in helping people relax more quickly into a meditative state.
- The Drawbacks: If you are serious about learning to meditate, learning to coexist with your thoughts is largely the point. Depending on a crutch might be counterproductive. Also, it costs $200 on Amazon.
- Perfect for you if: You are beginning to meditate and struggle more than most with monkey brain, this might be the shortcut you are looking for.
About the Author: Sunny Chayes is an author, a sacred social activist, host of The Sunny Chayes Show on iHeartRadio, iTunes, ABC Talk/News, Mindalia TV, and UBN Radio, and chief strategic partner and a feature writer for Whole Life Times.