The Best Meditation Apps to Help You Find Balance

Calm your mind

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meditation apps

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To deal with the chaos of life, many people turn to wellness practices like meditation which can help reduce psychological stress and stress-related health problems."

Since the world of mindfulness can be an intimidating one given the number of options, meditation apps are a great way to ease your way in or keep up with a practice (plus you’re on your phone all of the time anyway!). We’ve researched and selected our favorites, which cater to everyone from beginners to insomniacs and those looking for variety. Find the zen that best fits you on this list.

The 6 Best Meditation Apps of 2021

Best Overall: Calm

Calm

 Calm

Why We Chose It: Calm offers a huge library of meditations, even narrated by celebrities and musicians. Plus, it tailors the user experience to meet your needs depending on your goals.

What We Like

  • Frequently updated with new meditations
  • Offers a range of perks
  • Provides a customized experience 

What We Don’t Like

  • Not many short guided meditations

Whether you’re looking to increase your happiness, build self-esteem, or develop gratitude, you’ll find something in Calm’s large library of meditations; a new original Daily Calm meditation is also added every day. 

The first prompt you see when you download the Calm app is one you'll take with you throughout every practice: Take a deep breath. Next, you’re asked a series of questions to help customize and curate your experience. Calm then selects the best meditations for your needs.

What makes the app truly stand out from the others are the special add-ons. There’s a Mood and Gratitude Check-in feature that allows you to track and document your "emotional rhythm," and essentially serves as a mini, digitized diary. In the Sleep Stories section, you can select from a variety of celebrity voices like Idris Elba, Harry Styles, and Kate Winslet who will help lull you to sleep.

The Spark gives users access to talks from bestselling author James Nestor, street artist Shepard Fairy, and many others. If you prefer more calming music and less talking, there’s a wide selection of ambient songs from popular musicians like Toro y Moi.

All are useful tools to help you to stay centered throughout the day and for about $70 per year or roughly $15 a month, it seems like a real steal. 

Best Budget: Insight Timer

Insight Timer

 Insight Timer

Why We Chose It: Insight Timer made our list because it's free and allows you to interact with others who are looking to calm their minds.

What We Like

  • No charge
  • Lots of variety in options
  • Provides a communal aspect 

What We Don’t Like

  • Not as aesthetically pleasing as the other apps
  • Can be difficult to navigate

A big complaint surrounding a lot of meditation apps is the price. Insight Timer provides an affordable alternative, with more than 20,000 guided meditations available free of charge.

Learn from seasoned teachers about how to calm the mind and reduce anxiety. Or, if you’re simply looking for a soothing ambiance, sort through a selection of relaxing music tracks, nature sounds, or sound bowls, blocks, and chimes. 

Since the offerings are free, they’re not as organized or structured as the other apps, so it might take you a while to weed through the meditations and teachers to find the ones that resonate with you. Luckily there are a bunch of community features and discussion groups to assist. 

If you’re looking to dip your toes into this particular wellness space but don’t want to shell out a bunch of money to do so, insight Timer is great. Once you get a taste and feel ready to upgrade, the premium version is always available. 

Best For Sleep: Slumber

Slumber

 Slumber

Why We Chose It: Slumber earned a place on our list for its focus on sleep, as meditation can assist with insomnia.

What We Like

  • Niche focus on improving sleep
  • You can track your progress
  • Option to customize background music

What We Don’t Like

  • Doesn’t add new content very often
  • Limited variety of meditations

While not specifically a meditation app, Slumber can be a great resource if you're looking for a way to help curb any sleep issues. The company provides meditation-focused guides that will help you quiet your mind at the end of the day and allow your body to repair itself.

The app—which costs about $40 per year—focuses on the best breathing practices and relaxation techniques, as well as hypnosis to encourage a good night’s rest. Other nighttime options include bedtime stories (for kids or adults) and ASMR soundscapes. You can even track your sleep over time to see just how much you’re improving.

One big draw seems to be the option to customize the background nature sounds to whatever you prefer. As an extra bonus, there’s a feature that allows you to keep the background music playing well after the meditation is over—and chances are, the app will be so successful, you’ll fall asleep long before the meditation is up.

Best for Beginners: Headspace

Headspace

Headspace

Why We Chose It: Headspace stood out for offering meditations that varied in length, so that newbies could ease into the practice without feeling stressed about the process.

What We Like

  • The easy to navigate design and cute, cheery illustrations
  • Ability to curate your practice
  • A wide selection of meditations

What We Don’t Like

  • Narrator variety is slim

Headspace is one of the better known and best-rated meditation apps for a reason. It offers a multitude of well-organized, guided meditations that are categorized depending on what you’re looking for that day—from staying focused and getting better sleep to managing everyday anxiety and stress and even a mindful workout.

It also takes into account how much time you have to spare, offering up shorter practices that clock in at five minutes or less and others that run up to two hours. One of the slogans of the app is that it provides "mindfulness for any moment" which also includes quick “SOS” practices for when you might be feeling overwhelmed or stressed.

Headspace is particularly great for beginners who might feel overwhelmed by the idea of meditating. If you're just starting out, you can find guidance in its sequenced classes that go over the basics of sitting quietly, calming the mind, and breathe work. Whenever you feel ready, you can build your own customized practice from there.

Headspace costs roughly $70 per year or about $13 per month.

Best for Skeptics: Ten Percent Happier

10% Happier

 10% Happier

Why We Chose It: We chose Ten Percent Happier because it is approachable and sticks to the notion that you’re not going to fix everything at once, but you can work on improving in increments of 10% at a time.

What We Like

  • Diverse selection of teachers
  • Unique chat feature
  • Refreshing, down-to-earth vibe

What We Don’t Like

  • The modern approach can be a turn-off
  • Design isn’t as engaging
  • One of the pricier options

ABC news anchor Dan Harris’ on-air panic attack is what inspired him to seek out meditation. In his book 10% Happier, he recalls his journey of quieting the voice in his head, taking control of his emotions, and fostering happiness. The Ten Percent Happier app helps users do the same. 

With a wide selection of video and meditation combinations, the app provides a no-fuss approach to meditation. If you’re turned off by spiritual, woo-woo, capital M-mindfulness, Ten Percent Happier is a great option. (It’s self-described as "meditation for fidgety skeptics.")

Sessions are taught by well-known meditation teachers with different styles and approaches who also come from an impressive variety of racial and cultural backgrounds. If you have questions along the way, there’s even a chat feature that allows you to ask them directly to an instructor. 

The app’s overall aim is to make meditation accessible and approachable to help you feel more in control of your emotions and, in turn, your life. The app costs about $99 for the year. 

Most Authentic: Sattva

Sattva

 Sattva

Why We Chose It: Meditation has ancient roots and it’s important to honor them; Sattva gives you a chance to do just that. 

What We Like

  • Provides an authentic experience
  • Experienced spiritual teachers
  • Ability to track your meditation and set challenges

What We Don’t Like

  • The meditation style might not be for everyone
  • Can be difficult to navigate 

This particular app recommendation won’t be for everyone, particularly if you’re looking for a more modern interpretation of meditation.

That said, if you’re seeking an authentic experience, then Sattva is an excellent choice. It’s based on the ancient Vedic style of teaching—which involves repeating a mantra either out loud or silently in your mind—and brings in spiritual instructors with this specific knowledge who have been practicing the method for years. 

The meditations begin at six minutes in length and you’ll find a variety of chants and mantras to choose from. You can use the meditation journal to track how much you’ve meditated and from where, set challenges to meet, as well as browse through the thought collections and playlists to inspire your sessions.

There are two subscription options: an annual one for about $50 or a month-to-month membership for roughly $13 a month. 

Final Verdict

There are hundreds of meditation apps on the market, with most making the same claims to help calm your mind and teach similar versions of mindfulness. We tried to focus on apps that not only provide an assortment of guided meditations for every level and mood but also offer up something unique.


Headspace and Ten Percent Happier provide more modern takes on meditation, which makes them great for beginners, while Sattva is rooted in tradition which might be more preferable for someone with more experience. Most of the apps provide meditations that help you sleep better, but Slumber takes it a step further and makes a proper night’s rest its top priority. And for those fed up with coming up against paywalls, Insight Timer is one of the few meditation apps that’s both free and accessible.

What Are Meditation Apps? 

Meditation apps are portable zen experiences meant to help reduce stress, increase focus, ease anxiety, aid in sleep, and, overall, help you to relax and calm your mind. This is usually accomplished through different approaches like breathing techniques, mantras, and/or training sessions. Apps allow you to access mindfulness anytime and anywhere. 

Are Meditation Apps Guided?

Most meditation apps are guided and this can be beneficial for those just starting out. However, most also provide unguided options for those who are more seasoned or prefer to do their own thing. 

How Much Do Meditation Apps Cost? 

Prices vary depending on the app and what’s offered. Prices can range from about $40 to roughly $100 per year. Insight Timer includes more free meditations than not, and most apps offer a free trial period or a few meditations at no-cost before they start charging. 

How We Chose the Best Meditation Apps

The meditation apps were reviewed based on a variety of factors, including the quality of the guides, unique bonus features, and overall presentation. Pricing, user reviews, and how easy it was to navigate them were also taken into consideration. 

Insight Timer was recognized for its abundance of free meditation guides; Slumber stood out for its niche dedication to getting a solid eight hours rest; and Headspace was highlighted for being both user-friendly and its accessibility for beginners. Calm took home the title of best overall for being user-friendly and easy to navigate, providing a variety of experiences, as well as its ability to customize. We also love that it was one of the most recommended and highest-rated apps of the bunch. 

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. Goyal, Dr. Madhav, Singh, Dr. Sonal, Sibinga, Dr. Erica M.S. "Meditation Programs for Psychological Stress and Well-Being: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis." JAMA Network. 2014 Mar;174(3):357-68. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.13018

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