Mindfulness Apps with Mass Appeal

By Radha Marcum
Senior Editor

More than a buzzword—and certainly more than something just for cave-dwelling monks—mindfulness is as accessible as your next breath. If only you knew how to find that door in everyday life, right? Here are three apps to help simplify the process, establish a practice and commit already; because, like most worthwhile things in life, the magic of mindfulness unfolds best with dedicated investment—if only 10 minutes per day—regularly, over time.

1.  Headspace. The brainchild of modern-day meditation expert Andy Puddicombe—whose voice sounds both down-to-earth and delightfully like the British bloke you just met at an urban co-working space—Headspace demystifies mindfulness meditation and is an excellent app for beginners (or begin-againers, as many of us are). Download the basic 10-day, 10-minute introduction to mindfulness kick-starter package for free, with the option to subscribe once you finish the 10 days.

What I love: This app is truly fun. With short videos and guided meditations that won’t induce a trancelike sleepiness, Headspace anticipates common roadblocks, such as our minds’ tendencies to wander or get distracted by sounds, turning those instances into tools to develop mindfulness.

2.  The Mindfulness App. Maybe you’ve read a Pema Chödrön book or two and you’re looking to start a regular practice. This is an excellent choice if you have some idea of what mindfulness means to you but little formal training. Narrated by Catherine Polan Orzech, a mindfulness expert who sounds reminiscent of Star Trek’s Deanna Troi, The Mindfulness App is just $1.99 and includes guided arriving and centering meditations, silent meditation and personalized meditation sessions, statistics, reminders and customizable mindfulness notices. Optional guided meditations on a variety of themes by world-renowned experts such as Pema Chödrön, Jack Kornfield and others are available for $0.99 each.

What I love: This is a great design-your-own option for people who prefer open-ended exploration to prefab progression, plus the ability to personalize the experience.

3.  Insight Timer. If you’re a meditator who already has a well-established practice, this classic timer may be all you need. This free app provides a variety of bell sounds (from tinkling Zen temple bells to gongs), plus guided meditations from a variety of contemporary masters like Jack Kornfield and Sharon Salzberg, courtesy of Sounds True. Just set session duration, select bell sound and optional interval bells, and press “Start.”

What I love: Insight Timer’s simplicity won’t sidetrack you into guided meditations that you don’t need. Plus it tracks sessions to give you helpful statistics, such as total sessions recorded, as well as average number of sessions per week and duration—helpful if, like me, you’re pulled in a million directions and tend to overestimate the times you’ve successfully blocked to practice recently.