Over the last decade, mindfulness has moved from an explosive fad to a relatively normal phenomenon. The wisdom of the east that was introduced to the western world in the countercultural movement of the 70’s — before almost entirely falling back over the course of the next generation — seems to have quietly found its place in many of the homes and workplaces across the first world. This is a good thing, of course! But as any serious practitioner will tell you, it is one of the toughest lifelong pursuits that one can take on.
Luckily, however, we are living in the era of extremely smart, and economical, technology. App and web developers are continually coming out with apps for the iPhone and Android handsets that can help in mindfulness training. Your age, level of education or social background does not matter; everyone can practice!
Here’s my top 6 for 2016.
Headspace uses tested and proven meditation techniques aimed at training you to be mindful of your surroundings. You will get a 10-day program, Take10, which is free. Headspace has received a fair number of favorable reviews from users and app critics.
After the expiry of the Take10 sessions, if you feel it’s right for you, you can move on to the paid sessions which grant you unlimited access to the Headspace foundation courses, and ‘Meditations’ themed series. In my opinion, this is an extremely useful app if you’re just starting out, as it offers a very structured program that is easy to follow. It is available for download in the App Store as wells as Google Play.
Stop, Breathe & Think is basically a ‘check in’ tool. It brings you out of your head and back to present-moment reality, asking you to do just as its name suggests. Over time, it cultivates a growing awareness of both your external surroundings and your inner life, and it trains you to do so in an easy and interactive way. The only drawback? You need to be online to access the meditation techniques.
You can download SBT free of charge from Google Play or the App Store, but some meditations sessions will set you back $1-$3, which is a negligible amount if you consider the benefits.
This is a great app for those in the heart of a big city working the 9 to 5, or anyone who undergoes a lot of daily stress but has a hard time getting away as much as they’d like. Basically, it is designed as a portal into calm, natural surroundings, with both the audio and visual aspects built to relax you. It has a breezy, beautiful interface, a narrator with a soothing voice and a variety of background sounds and visual settings to choose from. It doesn’t matter where you are, if you have access to your phone or laptop, you can escape.
Calm is available both as an app and a full-blown website. You initially get “7 Days of Calm” free, after which you you can proceed to the advanced “21 Days of Calm”, a subscription service for $9.99 per month, or the more popular annual subscription which breaks down to $3.99 per month.
In my opinion, Buddhify is one of the best paid apps you can buy, available from the App Store or Google Play for $4.99. With it, you gain access to more than 11 sessions of meditation for the different periods of nearly any given day, which the designers break down in into 16 separate segments — travelling, eating, walking in the city, going to sleep, etc — causing you to tune in, relax, and get in touch with your body, thoughts and emotions as you partake.
Users of this mindfulness app really support it, heaping praise onto the design team for its ease of use, functionality and the results they feel they’ve garnered. The sessions are available offline and boast over 80 tracks of high-quality mindfulness training. If you are looking for a tested and highly popular form of mindfulness practice, Buddhify is one of the best.
Omvana is touted as the “#1 Meditation App in over 30 Countries”. Indeed, it appears to have the most clout behind it, offering certain features many similar apps don’t, such as guided meditations by famous authors, poetry and even binaural beats. It also packs in more than a thousand meditation sessions in total, with the mix-match feature of the app allowing you to tailor the extensive library to a number of different settings or scenarios.
You can download Omvana from the App Store or Google Play, but you must have a Facebook account in order to do so.
This one is slightly different. While we’ve written about it before, it is so interesting it deserves another mention here. Created by clinical psychologists Edrick Dorian and Drew Erhardt, Moodnotes is based on concepts from cognitive behavioral therapy and is designed to provide you with insights into personal patterns and triggers you may not be aware of over time. Everything from specific behaviors to ‘thought traps’ — the beginning of a downward spiral of negative thought — are eeked out over time and used to help you grow more self aware in the long run. It even offers graphs after a certain amount of time has passed.
Moodnotes is available to download for $3.99. It’s also compatible with the Apple watch.