Intrigued by the compelling research on mindfulness but unsure where to start? One of the best things about this practice (aside from how well it works) is its simplicity. Just a few minutes of quiet contemplation every day can make a huge difference in your health. And there are some excellent resources out there to help you learn, including many you can access with your smartphone. Here are the mindfulness meditation apps you won’t be able to live without.
10% Happier is my current favorite app—it’s free and has a ton of different meditations to follow, ranging from 1 minute to 60. With a wide variety of options to suit all levels, the 10% Happier app comes from Dan Harris, the ABC news correspondent and author of the best seller, 10% Happier, which is his terrific book about his investigation into the benefits of mindfulness after having an on-air panic attack. Dan was a real skeptic before looking into what he could do to decrease how much underlying stress was affecting him at work and in his life. I highly recommend the book as an accessible way to understand what mindfulness is all about with absolutely no “woo-woo” element. Because he’s a news anchor, his voice is great, so the audible version of his book is terrific.
Calm instructs users with sessions ranging from 3 to 25 minutes that emphasize relief from anxiety, stress, and insomnia. It features Daily Calm, a 10-minute program to help ease you into the day or unwind with before bed. While the app is excellent for those just beginning to explore mindfulness, even expert meditators may find it useful. According to app cofounder Michael Acton-Smith, calming the mind “is a superpower that rewires our brains, changes the way we see the world and helps to unlock our true potential.”
The idea behind Stop, Breathe, & Think is that taking a few minutes each day to feel the calm is as important as regular exercise. This app is useful for beginners because it features a section, Learn to Meditate, with information on the benefits and neuroscience of mindfulness as well as what to expect when you get started. It was born out of Tools for Peace, a non-profit dedicated to teaching the skills of mindfulness and meditation to inner-city teens. While the app has grown to reach a much wider audience and has since connected with people of all ages, Stop, Breathe & Think continues to support Tools for Peace by sharing 10% of all net revenues with the non-profit.
The tagline for Headspace is, “Brilliant things happen in calm minds.” Headspace was co-founded by Andy Puddicombe, who spent over 10 years studying meditation before becoming a Buddhist monk. This highly-rated app offers guided meditations for all experience levels, allowing you to browse their collections and pick sessions to suit your mood and lifestyle. You can choose your session length, replay your favorites, and learn how to apply mindfulness to your daily life. The app features an introductory series called Take10 that can teach you to meditate in 10 sessions of 10 minutes each.
Once you’ve armed yourself with these mindfulness tools, go beyond your smartphone with my Simple 10-Day Meditation Course. Why not take this easy and effective step towards stress reduction and gain a bigger brain in the process?
About Myles Spar, MD
Myles Spar, MD, MPH is board-certified in Internal Medicine and in Integrative Medicine. As a clinician, teacher