Life can be unpredictable, overwhelming, and just plain difficult. It’s often hard to find balance and easy to lose focus. That’s when a good meditation app can help. After talking with three experts, researching 21 apps, and testing 18 of them, we think Headspace offers the best experience. Its courses are organized and simple to navigate. And Headspace offers a daily personalized to-do list and group sessions, to create a sense of community and connection.
This app has the largest variety of meditations, with guided sessions for beginners and less-structured programming for pros. The interface has an appealingly cohesive design, and Headspace’s rich library of meditations is well organized and easy to navigate.
Headspace (iOS, Android, $70 per year) has a better mix of options than any app we tried, along with a fun interface and a vast, well-organized library of meditations. Courses are clearly labeled and structured, and they advance gradually over multiple sessions. So with Headspace it’s easier to find the exact type of meditation desired and to stick with it, compared with using apps whose libraries are disorganized or less comprehensive. Some of Headspace’s courses give you the tools you need to improve your practice in general. Others are solution-driven meditations that focus on anxiety, patience, self-esteem, and grief, to name a few. Short, one-session meditations offer help during specific emergencies (for instance, for pre-interview jitters or writer’s block) or provide a quiet break whenever you have a moment.
Calm offers guided and unguided meditations that focus on relaxing in general and keeping steady in tough times. And, as an added perk, the app lets you personalize your experience.
If you already meditate and are looking for strategies or features that may enhance your practice, Calm (iOS, Android, $70 per year) may be a better fit for you. In addition to guided sessions, it offers more free-form exercises and flexible meditation timers compared with Headspace, plus a dedicated music section. Not only does Calm record your stats, such as the number of sessions you’ve completed, it also allows you to track your mood over time more frequently than Headspace does. There’s also a robust section for kids. But Calm is less organized and more difficult to navigate than Headspace.
Healthy Minds Program
Healthy Minds Program is a free meditation app, so it won’t push you to subscribe. Unburdened by bells and whistles, it offers a well-structured, clear sequence of courses. It’s a great option for anyone who wants to see if meditation is right for them.
Healthy Minds Program (iOS, Android) is a free, no-frills app that centers on four key ideas: Awareness, Connection, Insight, and Purpose. Its content is more user-friendly and goal-driven than that of other free apps—and many of the paid apps—we tried. Upon first use, this app prompts you to take a survey that gives you a score for each of the four pillars—a baseline from which you can improve over time. You can choose from two teachers, adjust your course length in five-minute increments, and track your progress as you go along. If you’re looking for a simple, straightforward path to meditation without ads or constant pop-ups prompting you to pay for a subscription, this might be a good choice.