Best Meditation Apps

Headspace is user friendly and the best overall meditation app

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Meditation is a great way to refocus and center yourself, but when life is hectic and distracting, it can be an unusually difficult task to master. Enter meditation apps: technology-based applications that contain guided meditation sessions as short as one minute or as long as 30 minutes. These apps can help make meditation easier and more intuitive, whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro. 

We have rounded up the best meditation apps based on criteria like having evidence-based design, expert involvement, practitioner level, ease of navigation, variety of meditations offered, and cost. Use this list to find the perfect fit for your needs.

Best Meditation Apps of 2023

Best Overall : Headspace


Headspace

 Headspace

Key Specs
  • Cost: Free 7- or 14-day trial; $12.99/ monthly; $69.99/ annually; family plan for up to six users is $99.99/ year
  • Platforms: iOS + Android
  • Free to Download: Yes
  • App Features: Meditation guides for all levels
Why We Chose It


Headspace has a user-friendly interface with hundreds of guided meditations promoting mindfulness, better sleep, reduced pain, and more for beginners to experts.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • User-friendly app

  • Guided for beginners

  • Cues to cope with external sounds

  • Hundreds of meditations to choose from

Cons
  • Membership is a bit expensive

  • Need a subscription to enjoy the majority of the app's features

  • Can be a little difficult to navigate

Overview

Headspace says it's on a mission to improve the health and happiness of the world with science-backed meditation and mindfulness tools that help create life-changing habits to support better mental health. With over 70 million downloads in 190 countries, Headspace is well on its way to achieving its mission.

Those new to the app can take advantage of a 7- to 14-day free trial depending on your subscription of interest (monthly or annual). Headspace Plus opens access to hundreds of guided meditations that promote everything from reduced stress to better sleep. There are short meditations you can do anytime with expert guidance from Headspace co-founder and former monk, Andy Puddicombe. Or, choose sleep sounds to ease your mind into a truly restful night.

Note that to take advantage of the full benefits offered by Headspace, you will need a membership, which runs $12.99 a month or $70 annually.

Best for Beginners : Ten Percent Happier Meditation


10% Happier

 10% Happier

Key Specs
  • Cost: Free 7-day trial; about $100/year
  • Platform: iOS + Android
  • Free To Download: Yes
  • App Features: Experts available for questions
Why We Chose It

We selected Ten Percent Happier when beginning your road to meditation enlightenment because it's important to seek out a service that caters to newbies with easy-to-follow guided meditations and shorter-timed options that can be increased over time.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Good for sleep and stress

  • Experts available for questions

  • Hundreds of meditations available 

  • Easy to use

Cons
  • Above average membership cost

  • Not great for more advanced practitioners

Overview

Based on ABC news anchor Dan Harris's book, the Ten Percent Happier app will teach you meditation basics in a fun, easy, and accessible way. It's well-suited for anyone, but especially those who think they're "not the meditation type" and can't find the time to start a meditation practice.

When starting on the app, you're asked a series of questions about what you're hoping to get out of meditation and what you would like to address through meditation, like sleep, mindfulness, and anxiety, to name a few. After that, you'll have your meditation plan, and you're on your way to learning meditation via a personalized program tailored to your needs.

You'll start with short on-the-go meditations designed to be listened to whenever you can fit them in (like during your commute or before bed). See how many consecutive "Mindful Days" you rack up. With time, these moments of calm will become second nature.

Best for Sleep : Calm


Calm

 Calm

Key Specs
  • Cost: 7-day free trial; $14.99/ month, $69.99/ year
  • Platforms: iOS + Android
  • Free to Download: Yes
  • App Features: Calming background sounds and short meditations
Why We Chose It

Calm is well-known for promoting relaxation and sleep thanks to its soothing background sounds and to-the-point meditations.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • App offers more individual exercises

  • Less structured

  • Calming sounds in background

Cons
  • App isn’t the most intuitive

  • Limited free content

Overview

What's keeping you up at night? Anxious thoughts? Lack of focus? A stressed-out psyche? Calm’s guided meditations will have you sleeping soundly and feeling more relaxed almost instantly. Beyond that, the app provides several meditations to help reduce stress and improve mindfulness and self-compassion.

Calm stands out from the crowd because of its offerings and impressive meditation catalog. Its newest offering is Calm Body: 10-minute guided videos that teach gentle stretching to help you unwind. One of the best features is Sleep Stories, which feature bedtime stories read by the soothing voices of celebs like Matthew McConaughey.

To get the most out of the app, you'll need a subscription, paid either monthly at $14.99 or $69.99 annually. The good news is that the tools and meditations you'll learn may benefit you for a lifetime.

Best Budget : Insight Timer


Insight Timer

 Insight Timer

Key Specs
  • Cost: Free; Premium subscription is $9.99/month or $69.99/year
  • Platforms: iOS + Android
  • Free to Download: Yes
  • App Features: Over 45,000 free meditations
Why We Chose It

Insight Timer has a giant library of free meditations, so if your budget is tight, this is the meditation app for you.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Over 45,000 free meditations

  • Easy to search and filter content

  • Free 7-day intro course

  • Free community of meditators

Cons
  • Not the most intuitive app

  • Too many choices overwhelms some users

  • Technical glitches

Overview

Insight Timer offers more than 45K free meditations—that’s a big deal since one of the biggest complaints about other meditation apps is their lack of free content. The library allows you to filter by need (e.g. stress, sleep, self-esteem), time (from five to 30+ minutes), or specific benefit (e.g. pain relief, relationship woes, teaching kids to meditate). If you’re new to meditation, opt for the seven-day free course on how to meditate.

Another cool feature is the community of fellow mindful folks you're able to interact with on the app. Connect in group chat rooms like "Be Here Now" and "Loving and Kindness" or choose a group by topic like LGBTQIA+, Relationships, Nutrition & Wellness, or Weight Loss.

Between the sleep music and the group chats, Insight Timer is one meditation app worth downloading.

Best Guided : Buddhify


buddhify

 buddhify

Key Specs
  • Cost: $4.99 for iOs users; $3.99 for Google Play users, plus in-app purchases
  • Platforms: iOS + Android
  • Free to Download: No
  • App Features: “Wheel” of meditation practices
Why We Chose it

Buddhify has hundreds of targeted meditations for many mental health issues you may be struggling with.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Over 200 targeted meditations

  • Easy to use

  • “Wheel” of meditation practices

Cons
  • No desktop version

  • Have to pay to use the app

  • In-app purchase

Overview

Buddhify is the only app on our list that requires you to pay for it before downloading. Touted as a family-made and operated app, it promotes meditation and all its benefits through one app, including its newest addition, Buddhify Kids. So while this app costs money to download, there is something for the entire family to enjoy.

Buddhify excels in the meditation app category for its “wheel” of meditation that looks like a spinning pinwheel with each section color coded and labeled with a different meditation for a particular need: alleviate anxiety, improve relaxation, calm sleep meditations, improve focus, and more.

It's super easy to use, and you can create your own “wheel” of meditation practices for quick access when you need them. Each one lasts four to 30 minutes. As you advance in your skill, you can use the timer to meditate on your own without guidance.

Whether you’re grabbing a minute in between to-do’s at work, taking a walk, boarding a plane, or dealing with overwhelming feelings, this app has a targeted meditation (over 200 of them) available.

Best For Focus : Unplug


Unplug

 Unplug

Key Specs
  • Cost: About $8/month; $60/year
  • Platform: iOS and Android
  • Free To Download: Yes
  • App Features: Meditation timer, progress tracker
Why We Chose It

The Unplug app has short, powerful meditations led by world-renowned teachers, and since they're just a few minutes long, it’s great to use when you need to quickly refocus and destress.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Expert guides to tackle mental health issues

  • Intuitive design

  • Progress tracker

Cons
  • Have to pay to keep using the app

  • Somewhat expensive

Overview

Unplug is the self-professed "meditation app for people who don’t have time to meditate but want to experience all the benefits." The app offers short and long meditations that help address anxiety and stress through calming, easy-to-follow, expert-guided meditation.

With over 100+ world-renowned guides and 1,000+ videos filmed in its
Los Angeles meditation studio, Unplug surely has a meditation to fit your schedule and needs. Classes include mindfulness, guided imagery, sound baths, hypnosis, breathwork, and more.

If you want to make meditation a part of your daily routine, commit to the 30-day challenge. If you find yourself so immersed in meditation that you want to become a teacher, Unplug offers teacher training through its website as well, starting at $3,500 for a five-week course.

Best Selection : Simple Habit


Simple Habit

 Simple Habit

Key Specs
  • Cost: Free; about $12/month, $90/year, $300/lifetime for premium
  • Platform: iOS & Android
  • Free to Download: Yes
  • App Features: 5-minute meditations, bedtime stories
Why We Chose It

Simple Habit has an extensive library of meditations that are intuitively cataloged and easy to find.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • 5-minute meditations

  • Expert guides

  • Bedtime stories

  • Free

Cons
  • Not many longer meditation offerings

  • Need to pay to unlock all features

Overview

If you want to get more out of your meditation than relaxation and better sleep, Simple Habit is for you. It's designed to help you boost your confidence, shake off anxiety, get over a breakup, or simply be more present. You’ll love how each meditation is specifically titled, making mindfulness something you can turn to at any time.

There are over 160 experts guiding hundreds of meditations specifically geared to helping you get through difficult life events, emotions, and experiences you may be facing. The app also offers special meditations designed to help you overcome panic attacks or lessen stress.

In addition, Simple Habit offers free and paid guided yoga sessions. If you opt for a premium subscription, you can use the app offline, which makes catching a few minutes of mindfulness even more accessible.

Best for Learning Breathing Techniques : Breathwrk


Breathwrk

Breathwrk

Key Specs
  • Cost: Premium subscription for $7.99/month, $38.99/year, $199/lifetime
  • Platforms: iOS + Android
  • Free to Download: Yes
  • Features: Learn breathing techniques you can use anywhere anytime
Why We Chose It

While many breathing apps only focus on meditation and relaxation, Breathwrk also offers classes and programs promoting the long list of benefits of focused breathing.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Meditations geared toward relieving pain and improving energy

  • Wide variety of meditations available

  • Teaches calming breathing techniques you can do without the app

Cons
  • Premium subscription needed to unlock the wide variety of options

  • Requires internet access while using

Overview

The app has numerous breathing exercise programs that promote calm, relaxation, as well as pain management, and offer an energy boost to help carry you through your workday.

Breathwrk's wide range of breathing exercises will benefit you for a lifetime. Learn focused breathing techniques during classes called Calm, Sleep, Awake, Energize, Anxiety, Ease Pain Relief, Unwind, Reboot, Recharge, and Stamina.

Studies show that "slow, voluntarily regulated breathing practices are non-invasive, easy to learn, and generally safe for treating patients with symptoms of anxiety, insomnia, depression, stress- and trauma-related disorders, ADHD, schizophrenia, and substance abuse."

Best for Kids : Smiling Mind


Smiling Mind

Smiling Mind

Key Specs
  • Cost: Free
  • Platforms: iOS + Android
  • Free to Download: Yes
  • Features: Meditations for children and the entire family
Why We Chose It

Smiling Minds has easy guided meditations and activities designed specifically for children, including easy one-minute meditations and fun guided meditations like The Bubble Journey.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Totally free

  • Geared toward children 3 and up

  • Meditations start at one minute to help children build on the practice

Cons
  • Children will need a phone or tablet to use the app

  • Email address is required at signup

  • Australian accent may be distracting for some children

Overview

Smiling Mind was developed by psychologists and educators in Australia to help bring mindful balance to children and adults. The app's creators believe "accessibility and inclusiveness are key to empowering a new generation to thrive. We approach everything we do in an open, curious, and non-judgmental way."

Smiling Mind meditations is perfect for children 3 and older thanks to programs like The Bubble Journey, Smiling Starfish, and the Snow Globe. There are also guided meditations for older children that focus on being a better student, being more present, and how to use mindfulness to excel while playing your favorite sports.

Meditation and mindfulness can help lead to better attention, memory, regulation of emotions, and self-awareness. In turn, improvements in these areas can bring about reduced stress, anxiety, and depression, as well as better academic skills, social skills, and self-esteem.

Best for BIPOC : Shine


Shine App

Courtesy of Shine 

Key Specs
  • Cost: Premium subscription is $14.99/month; $64.99/year
  • Platforms: iOS + Android
  • Free to Download: Yes
  • Features: 80% BIPOC run and BIPOC focused
Why We Chose It

Shine was developed by two BIPOC women and is operated by an 80% BIPOC team, ensuring the app's focus on inclusive and welcoming content to all who download it.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Self improvement activities to battle anxiety

  • Peer-to-peer support

  • BIPOC-focused topics

Cons
  • Limited access without a premium subscription

  • Not very budget friendly

Overview

Shine's mission is "creating a self-care tool that assists with reducing anxiety, improving mental health, and providing peer-to-peer support," and it certainly does all of that. The app opens to calming wind chimes and light music that instantly invokes a feeling of relaxation.

Those using the free version can take advantage of the daily mood check-in that allows you to record your feelings and begin a gratitude journal. You'll also be able to enjoy a daily self-care article and guided meditation.

If you opt for the premium subscription for $14.99/month or $64.99/year, you'll unlock an exclusive library with over 1,000 meditations created by a diverse set of experts. Premium members will also gain access to members-only events and the private digital community offering 1:1 support.

Final Verdict

The meditation apps on this list will help you harness the healing powers of meditation with the swipe of a finger. Headspace is our overall winner because whether you’re a meditation newbie or a seasoned pro looking for some structure, the app is jam-packed with meditations, sleep and nature sounds, calming music, guided self-help courses, and more.

If your budget is limited or you want to get an idea of how meditation apps work or what meditation is all about, try Insight Timer. With thousands of meditations to choose from, you can easily take a deep dive into the world of meditation without spending a cent.

Compare the Best Meditation Apps

Company  Cost Platforms Features
Headspace: Best Overall Free 7- or 14-day trial; $12.99/monthly; $69.99/annually; family plan for up to six users is $99.99/year iOS + Android Calming background sounds and short meditations
Ten Percent Happier: Best for Beginners Free, 7-day trial; about $100/year iOS + Android   Experts available for questions  
Calm: Best for Sleep 7-day free trial; $14.99/month; $69.99/ year   iOS + Android Calming background sounds and short meditations  
Insight Timer: Best Budget $99.99/month or $69.99/year iOS + Android Over 45,000 free meditations
Buddhify: Best Guided $4.99 for iOS users; $3.99 for Google Play users; plus in-app iOS + Android "Wheel" of mediation practices
Unplug: Best for Focus $8/month, $60/year iOS + Android Meditation timer, progress tracker
Simple Habit: Best Selection Free; $12/month; $90/year; $300/a lifetime for premium iOS + Android 5-minute mediations
Breathwrk: Best for Learning Breathing Techniques $7.999/month; $38.99/year; $199/lifetime iOS + Android Breathing techniques you can use anywhere, anytime
Smiling Mind: Best for Kids Free iOS + Android Mediations for children and the entire family
Shine: Best for BIPOC Premium subscription is $14.99/month; $64.99/year iOS + Android 80% BIPOC run and BIPOC focused

Guide for Choosing Apps for Meditation

How to Choose the Right Meditation App for You

When choosing the best meditation app to meet your needs, make a mental list of what you're hoping to achieve with the app; for instance, you might want to see what meditation is all about, learn breathing techniques, master anxiety coping skills, or achieve better sleep. Next, consider how much time and money you can devote to the practice.

What to Look for in a Meditation App

Below are a few factors to weigh before downloading any of the above-mentioned apps to ensure you get the most out of them:

  • Pricing: The above-mentioned apps range in price from totally free to $200 for an annual subscription. Balance your financial investment with your time investment so you don't blow your budget on an app you don't have the time fully explore.
  • Devices: Even though all the apps on this list are available for iOS and Android, that doesn't mean they will work with all of your devices. If you want an app to work with your smartwatch or tablet, make sure it's available on those devices before you download it.
  • Expert Involvement: Apps geared toward improving mental health should have research-based information and expert-driven techniques. Better yet, look for apps with meditations guided by experts.
  • Programs Offered: As you can see from this list, meditation apps don't just target meditation. Find an app that meets your needs and offers a few additional options you are interested in, like breathing techniques, soothing soundtracks, sleep stories, self-help activities, and more.
  • Time Investment: Some apps offer one- to five-minute guided meditations, while others have 20- 30-minute sessions. Consider the amount of time you are comfortable committing.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do Meditation Apps Work?

Meditation apps help you learn and master various meditation skills like focused deep breathing, mental clarity, and being present. They do so by offering various tools like mood trackers, expert-guided meditations, timers, and a community of fellow meditators.

What Are the Benefits of Using a Meditation App?

Dr. Seema Sarin, MD, DiplABLM, Medical Director of Lifestyle Medicine at EHE Health told Verywell Mind, "In the case of meditation, these apps can guide a user through a session. It has been shown that meditation can help with stress levels, help you find a new perspective on a stressful situation, help you build self-awareness, reduce negative emotions, and improve your creativity and patience. [They] can even help lower your heart rate and blood pressure, and improve sleep."

Are Meditation Apps Worth It?

While self-meditation or using more basic online guides can certainly help you meditate, apps have the advantage of providing intuitive tools, like trackers, that can help keep you accountable and improve over time. Many also offer expert support at the touch of a button in case you have questions as you practice.

Is 15 Minutes of Meditation a Day Enough?

Yes, almost any amount of daily meditation can offer benefits. If you want to recenter, it may take only 30 seconds. If you want to achieve pain relief or a night of more restful sleep, a guided meditation session could last anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes. You could aim for 15 minutes a day and adjust as needed.

Are There Any Meditation Apps that Are Completely Free?

Yes, Smiling Mind is totally free, as is the Healthy Minds Program app that's affiliated with the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (although, there is a donation button for those who wish to contribute). The Healthy Minds Program app offers thousands of hours of free guided meditations, podcast-style teachings, and progress-tracking features. Many other apps have free meditations with the option to pay if you want more.

Methodology

Our writers diligently researched the best meditation apps on the market before making their final recommendations. They considered more than 20 meditation apps, read over 150 reader reviews (both positive and negative), and used many of the meditation apps themselves. The apps were rated on the evidence-based programs offered, expert involvement in the creation of the meditations, whether the meditations were guided or self-led, the overall variety available, the issues addressed in the meditations (e.g., better sleep, reduced anxiety, or better focus), and price.

Man lying in grass meditating

 Martin Dimitrov / Getty Images

Article Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Patricia L. Gerbarg MD, Richard P. Brown MD. Neurobiology and neurophysiology of breath practices in psychiatric carePsychiatric Times. 2016;33(11)

  2. Guendelman S, Medeiros S, Rampes H. Mindfulness and emotion regulation: insights from neurobiological, psychological, and clinical studiesFront Psychol. 2017;8:220.

By April McCormick
April is the health editor for performance marketing at Verywell, where she oversees family health, wellness, and lifestyle content. Her work has appeared in Time, Parents Magazine, The Huffington Post, TripSavvy, Parenting.com, First Time Mom and Dad, Mama Mia, All4Women, the New York Times Bestseller, A Letter To My Mom, and more.

Edited by
Ally Hirschlag
Allison "Ally" Hirschlag

Ally is a senior editor for Verywell, who covers topics in the health, wellness, and lifestyle spaces. She has written for The Washington Post, The Guardian, BBC Future, and more.

Learn about our editorial process