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Adding a mindfulness app to your phone is a great way to start a mindfulness practice. Library staff members have been testing out and reviewing a variety of apps. Navigate to the sub-tabs of this page to read in depth reviews for Insight Timer and Headspace.
Insight Timer has an insanely huge library of content: over 25,000 guided meditations from around 3,000 teachers on topics like stress, relationships, creativity, and more. Right from the beginning, the app feels like a community—the home screen announces, “420,065 meditations today, 5,059 meditating right now.” In fact, Insight Timer has attracted more than 6 million meditators from around the world. After you finish a meditation, you’ll learn exactly how many people were meditating “with you” during that time—and by setting your location, you can even see meditators nearby and what tracks they’re listening to.
Smiling Mind hits the sweet spot for a free mindfulness app in so many ways. The app features hundreds of meditations, enough to keep you engaged without overwhelming you with choice. They are organized into structured programs like Mindful Foundations (42 sessions), Sleep (6 sessions), Relationships (13 sessions), and Workplace (41 sessions), but you have the flexibility to choose where to start and to easily jump between programs. Most meditations are in the five- to fifteen-minute range, with a few practices up to 45 minutes for advanced meditators. Downloaded by over 4 million people, the app also has a variety of specialized programs for educators (including curricula they can use in the classroom); for children and teens of various ages; all developed with the help of psychologists and health professionals.
With a simple mission to help users "stay focused" and "be present," Forest trains people to manage their time and become less dependent on their phones in a fun, purposeful way. By spending time away from their phones, users grow virtual trees and earn coins, which can then be saved up and used to help plant real trees in five countries in Africa — Cameroon, Kenya, Senegal, Uganda, and Tanzania. The app also gently shames you if you don't successfully complete your goal, which is apparently the component I've always been missing.
Stop, Breathe & Think
If other apps expect you to dive right in, Stop, Breathe & Think wants to create a more deliberate, intentional experience. A section called Learn to Meditate explains what mindfulness is and why it’s beneficial, including some of the neuroscience and physiology behind it. Each day when you open the app, you’re asked “How are you?” and invited to check in with yourself—to rate your mind and body on a scale of “rough” to “great,” and note up to five emotions you’re feeling. Then, Stop, Breathe & Think will recommend meditations, mindful walks, and even acupressure videos tailored to how you feel.
If all the research on mindfulness has persuaded you that you need to meditate, the UCLA Mindful app could be a good place to start. Developed by the Mindful Awareness Research Center at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), the app features about a dozen meditations of different types in English and Spanish. You can learn to focus on your breath, your body, or sounds; work with difficult emotions; and cultivate loving-kindness in sessions ranging from 3 to 19 minutes long. If you’re new to mindfulness, you might choose to take advantage of their Getting Started section, which offers information on what mindfulness is, how to choose a meditation, which posture is best for your practice, and what research-backed benefits you might expect from it.
The tagline for 10% Happier tells you the most important thing you need to know about the app. It’s “meditation for fidgety skeptics”—a relatable, no-nonsense way to learn mindfulness for people whose goals veer more toward sharpening their brains than befriending their souls. Unlike some other mindfulness apps, 10% Happier comes with a tour guide. Dan Harris is a news anchor who famously had a panic attack on live TV, an experience that eventually led him to pursue meditation. There’s really only one 7-day free offering on 10% Happier, and we hesitated to include it in this list, but what it lacks in quantity it makes up for in accessibility, authority, and unique perspective. What’s free is The Basics series, a one-week orientation to mindfulness. Each day features an introductory video by Harris (often in conversation with instructor Joseph Goldstein), and a meditation by Goldstein. Harris uses his journalistic chops to take these seven conversations with Goldstein to the heart of the most pressing questions new meditators have—like how to know you’re doing it right and how to deal with boredom. Goldstein, who is a seasoned meditator, offers wise insights based on his decades of experience.
A mindfulness blog written specifically for 20-somethings from the Koru Mindfulness Center
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