Final Post in a 3-Part Blog Series on Meditation
Welcome back! I hope that since my last piece, which you can read here, you were able to hone in on a couple of types of mediation that are best suited for you. Throughout this series, you may have noticed I touched upon a variety of different apps and I’d like to expand on that today.
Meditation can easily be done without the assistance of technology simply by sitting in a quiet place with your eyes closed. However, many people find background sounds and the time-limited nature and gentle guidance of online sessions to be grounding. In this piece, I’ll provide a rundown of some of the most popular meditation apps along with the perks and pitfalls of each.
This app boasts a wide array of meditations, music tracks, talks, and lecture series all with varying lengths. Categories are broken down into issues such as depression, anxiety, relationships, and sleep. World renowned teachers such as Sharon Salzberg and Tara Brach lead some meditations found in the app. There is also a feature that allows you to bookmark your favorite meditations.
One great feature of Insight Timer is it’s namesake, the timer. This feature allows you to personalize your meditation by selecting a length of time, a soothing background noise, and optional bells or gongs, which serve as reminders to bring yourself back inward when your mind has wandered.
Insight Timer is a very interactive app with a busy interface that contains a newsfeed listing what different users are currently meditating to. There is also a social media feature that allows users to communicate with one another, which may be enticing or distracting depending on your personal preferences.
All of the meditations and features I just described are included in the free version of the app. So what are the down sides? The sheer volume and wide variety of meditations available may make it difficult to navigate the app. In the free version, you won’t be able to listen to meditations offline, meaning you’ll need to stream data or connect to the Internet in order to use it. As we’ll see, this is the case for many of the meditation apps I review today.
The premium version of Insight Timer, which touts higher quality audio as well as repeat and fast forward options, costs $4.99 a month or $35.99 a year.
Stop, Breathe & Think
There are quite a few features unique to this app that you won’t find in other apps. To start, there is a “check in” feature at the beginning and end of your session. The “check in” asks you in detail how you’re feeling and then the app uses your selections to generate the ideal meditation for you. The guidance in the meditations is well orchestrated and there are similar themes to those you’ll find across the board in all of the apps, although not quite as extensive. The app also contains a video section with clips leading the user through yoga and acupressure.
In addition to the check-in feature, there are sessions tailored to different issues such as stress, anxiety, sleep, and focus. These meditations tend to fall on the shorter side – around 10 minutes – which may please a busy meditator but might not be ideal for someone who wants a more in-depth retreat within. Also, the amount of meditations you have access to is limited in the free version.
Like many of the other apps, Stop, Breathe & Think tracks your progress and meditation streaks; it also offers you “stickers” as incentives based on your meditation history. Those who find it difficult to motivate themselves to meditate may find these features helpful.
The premium version of Stop, Breathe & Think gives you access to more meditations, unlimited journaling, and longer versions of the meditations offered. The cost is $58.99 annually or $9.99 monthly.
Like the other apps, Calm has different categories with meditations tailored to specific foci. The free version offers a series of “7 days” on particular topics, which someone new to meditation may find helpful. You can select soothing background noises such as raindrops, ocean waves, or birds chirping. Like Insight Timer, the app has an option for a freestyle meditation with bells to signal the beginning and end.
The premium version of Calm offers more benefits, such as Emergency Calm for use during times of particularly high stress and emotional overwhelm. Premium users also have access to “masterclasses” which uses a course-like format to delve into topics such as “Discovering Happiness,”“Mindful Eating,” and “Rethinking Depression”. “The Daily Calm” is another great feature of premium; each day this feature offers a meditation geared towards a specific topic.
One potential drawback for those who are not new to meditation may be the length of the meditations; on average they are each about 10 minutes, which may not feel long enough. There is a seven day free trial period. The cost is $12.99/month and $59.99 annually.
One of the more well-known apps, Headspace, offers 10 free days of meditation sessions which caters to beginners because it tackles the basics of meditation like bringing awareness to the breath, noticing thoughts, using your five senses, and feeling grounded. A free trial will also get you access to a sample of 10 meditations from their “packs,”which are meditations grouped into categories similar to Calm’s format. Headspace helps you get into the groove of making meditation a habit by offering a helpful reminder system, suggesting you meditate at the same time each day. It’s interface is very user-friendly, easy to navigate, and doesn’t feel overwhelming.
Headspace Premium allows full access to the packs of meditations and also has “singles” options including meditations for various scenarios including “rough day,” “SOS,” early mornings, sleep, and even working out. Unique to headspace are “minis,” which are short one to three minute meditations optimal for those with little room in their schedules to meditate but who would still like to check in with themselves. The app even has a kids section.
Unfortunately, without access to premium, Headspace can only offer you so much; it’s a great app for beginners who don’t need a plethora of options but those looking for specific types of meditation will be disappointed with the free version. Premium will run you $12.99 a month, $94.99 for the year, or $399.99 for a lifetime subscription.
That concludes our meditation series! I hope you’ve found these posts enlightening and that you reference them as you incorporate this wonderful practice into your life. Namaste and good luck!