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The 5 best meditation apps: Make time for zen

What is the best meditation app? ZDNet chose Simple Habit. We compared factors like pricing, reviews, features, and the levels of meditation each app offers. Whether you're looking to learn to meditate or make it a daily practice, these are the top meditation apps.
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Written by Allison Murray, Staff Writer on
Reviewed by Elyse Betters Picaro

The daily stresses of our lives can be overwhelming: between work, family matters, maintaining a social life, free time for hobbies, financial issues, and taking care of our physical health, it can be hard to add in taking care of our mental health as well. Meditating is a great way to take a moment for yourself and clear your mind to improve focus and memory, reduce stress, increase creativity, and lift your overall mood. 

If meditation is something you're looking to do more of or wanting to learn, we've rounded up the best meditation apps that will help you zen out. 

Simple Habit Best Meditation App
Simple Habit

Features: 4.75 stars | 5- to 60-minute meditations | Yoga flows

Our pick for the best overall meditation app is Simple Habit since there is something for everyone, whether you are new to meditating or a daily meditator. Meditations are sorted into different categories to find one that is right for you, such as relaxation, focus, anxiety, sleep, parenting, etc. There are even meditations labeled for specific situations, such as disconnecting from negative media, before a doctor's appointment, walking meditations, and a meditation while in the shower.

A majority of the app is free to use so, you don't have to commit to anything before knowing if meditation will be a daily thing for you. However, to get access to more advanced features like a complete meditation series, you'll have to pay $11.99 per month. 

Pros:

  • Free meditations available
  • Offers quick, five-minute meditations
  • Helps you make meditation a more consistent practice

Cons:

  • You'll have to pay for complete access
  • Lacks a comprehensive search feature 
Calm Best Meditation App
Calm

Features: 4.55 stars | Calm Kids section | Compatible with Apple Watch

If you've meditated before and want to expand your practice, Calm is a great meditation app. Beyond just basic guided meditation sessions, Calm has an expansive selection of music and stories to meditate to. In addition, a feature known as The Daily Calm is a short, 10-minute meditation session that changes topics every day and helps form a dedicated practice.

Calm also features more than 100 Sleep Stories which are relaxing tales meant to help you fall asleep and are voiced by famous people such as Matthew McConaughey, Michael Buble, Kate Winslet, and more.

One downside is that after a free seven-day trial, you'll need a subscription to access Calm, and its subscription is by far the most expensive at $69.99 per year (it doesn't offer a month-to-month option).

Pros:

  • Sleep Stories to help you fall asleep
  • Award-winning app
  • Different levels for meditators

Cons:

  • Requires a pricey subscription 
Headspace Best Meditation App
Headspace

Features: 4.65 stars | Ambient nature sounds | Breathwork

Those who are entirely new to meditation should check out Headspace. The app offers a comprehensive and easy way to explain how meditation works and helpful tips and tricks on the best way to meditate. For example, you'll learn that it's not about quieting your mind altogether but acknowledging thoughts and feelings as they come up and just letting them pass by at the moment.

Once you learn the basics, the app also offers breathwork and mindfulness sessions, as well as ambient nature sounds to relax or meditate without guidance.

Headspace is free for one week, but you'll have to pay $12.99 per month for most of the content.

Pros:

  • Courses specifically aimed at beginner meditation
  • Build personalized mediation plans for you
  • Mindfulness and breathwork lessons

Cons:

  • Requires a subscription for most content 
Yoga Wake Up Best Meditation App
Yoga Wake Up

Features: 3.5 stars | Alarm clock feature | Certified yogis and meditation experts

If you're looking for a meditation app that also incorporates yoga, Yoga Wake Up is a great subscription app option. It features over 300 audio-guided yoga and meditation sessions with a great combination of soothing music, guided breathing, visualization, and affirmations.

What's excellent about Yoga Wake Up is that it helps make meditating a daily habit with little effort on your part since it offers an alarm clock feature. Choose a meditation to act as your alarm and ease you into awareness, so you can start to meditate as soon as you wake up, making it easy to incorporate meditation into your daily life. While this app is specifically meant for morning meditations, there are mediations for middle-day breaks and nighttime ones.

You'll have to subscribe to Yoga Wake Up for $10.99 per month to access its content.

Pros:

  • Meditations and yoga sequences
  • Download meditations for later
  • Use a meditation as your alarm

Cons:

  • Requires a subscription
  • Can be challenging to set up the alarm function
Insight Timer Best Meditation App
Insight Timer

Features: 4.85 stars | Customizable meditation Timer | Workshops and live events

Those on a budget can download Insight Timer for free and access more than 130,000 guided meditations surrounding topics such as sleep and wellbeing, morning energy, gratitude, anxiety, stress, negative thinking, accountability, affirmations, etc.  

You won't have to pay for meditations or for events that you can attend within the app. Choose from daily events like special full moon meditations, healing circles, book clubs, sound baths, and more. A great feature of this app is that you can filter by location to find meditation teachers, groups, and events right within your area.

While meditations are free, more in-depth workshops meant to take your practice deeper will cost you, starting at $20 per session.

Pros:

  • Free to use
  • Thousands of meditations to choose from
  • Can attend virtual workshops and live events

Cons:

  • Amount of choices can be overwhelming 

What is the best meditation app?

My pick for the best meditation app is Simple Habit since it offers short and quick meditations that will help you make meditating a daily practice. There are plenty of topics to choose from, no matter what you're looking to meditate on, and the app makes it easy to make meditation a daily habit. 

Meditation app

Price

Average Rating

Notable Features

Simple Habit

$11.99/month

4.75 stars 

Quick, five-minute meditations and meditations for specific situations

Calm

$69.99/year

4.55 stars

Sleep Stories with famous voices, The Daily Calm meditations

Headspace

$12.99/month

4.65 stars

Beginner meditation series, learn breathwork, and ambient nature sounds

Yoga Wake Up

$10.99/month

3.5 stars

Alarm clock feature, guided yoga sequences

Insight Timer

Free

4.85 stars

Live workshops and events, location filter

Which meditation app is right for you?

What's great about meditation is that there is no right or wrong way to meditate, and each of the apps on this list caters to different types of meditation, topics, and experience levels. Since all of these apps offer at least a free trial, you can download which one(s) interests you to see if it's your style of meditating before making any subscription commitment. 

Choose this meditation app...

If you want...

Simple Habit

The best overall meditation app

Calm

An option for more experienced meditators or something to help you sleep at night

Headspace

To learn how to meditate

Yoga Wake Up

To wake up to a meditation 

Insight Timer

Access to more than 130,000 meditations for free

How did we choose these meditation apps?

We chose these meditation apps by a mix of research and using the apps ourselves. We compared factors like pricing, reviews (both good and bad), different features, and the level(s) of meditation each app offers. 

It should be noted that to come up with each app's rating, we took the average rating between their Apple app and their Android app. 

What are the benefits of meditation?

There are so many different benefits to meditating that will significantly impact your life, even after just one meditation session. Among these benefits are managing stress better, reducing negativity, increasing patience, lowering resting heart rate and blood pressure, improving sleep, helping with anxiety or depression, and so much more. 

What are the different types of meditation?

There are various ways to meditate, and there is no one right way—it's about whatever works for you. While there are other types of meditation outside of the list below, these are some of the more common ways to meditate.

Guided meditation: A type of meditation when someone is guiding you through the meditation, telling you when and how to breathe, what to do if thoughts come up or even what to think of, and just basically guiding you through the process, so the meditation has some structure. 

Mantra meditation: Repeating the same word or phrase in your head to keep the focus on that intention.

Mindfulness meditation: Being aware of the present moment and acknowledging the sounds, thoughts, and feelings that come up as you are meditating. One popular way people utilize mindfulness meditation is by focusing solely on their breath during the entire meditation. 

Visualization: A type of meditation that can also be like daydreaming, where you think of a situation in great detail and focus on that mental image while meditating. 

Sound bath: Listening to bowls, gongs, and other instruments to create sound vibrations that help focus and relax the mind into a meditative state. This type of meditation is better in person than with an app. 

When should you meditate?

You will get the benefits of meditation at any time of the day, but most people meditate either in the mornings or night. Mornings are a great time to meditate since you are just beginning your day and haven't had any tasks or stresses impact your mood or mindset yet. Nighttime is also ideal since it's a great way to unwind and clear your mind for sleep. 

What is the best free meditation app?

Insight Timer is the best free meditation app since it's the app that offers the most free content out of the other options on our list. 

Are there alternative meditation apps to consider?

Here are a few other options to look into: 

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