Navigating meditation apps doesn’t have to be a minefield – we tested the most popular subscriptions and this is what we found.
With one in four adults in the UK experiencing mental health problems the NHS, workplaces and the media are shining the spotlight on mental health. As a result, organisations and individuals are investing in tools to support our mental wellbeing and practice self care. Combined with the growing number of us who have access to smartphones and digital apps, a number of mindfulness and meditation apps have emerged to help us take a break from everyday stresses.
The offerings are plentiful and exciting but can be difficult to know where to start! So we decided to trial four of the most popular paid-for apps and give you our thoughts to help you pick the best one for you.
Calm offers a desktop site and has a very well thought out app that has a plethora of awards to boot.
The first thing we noticed is the immediate relaxation it evokes – the home screen has a wonderful wild nature soundtrack and a beautiful moving image of a mountain lake. There is so much available that it could feel overwhelming, but it is packaged just right – with clear sections that are easy to navigate.
All of the voices seem to be female with a warm American accent and feel caring and almost motherly.
In terms of functions, the app offers a mix of audio story files, as well as more active instructional videos for those who wish to really hone their skills. There are bedtime stories for kids and adults to help you drift off as well as cosy nature stories, similar to those you would expect to hear around a campfire on a warm, balmy night. The stretching videos are easy to follow and encourage you to focus on movement to warm up your body and develop physical awareness. There are also a number of masterclasses, which offer step-by-step advice on how to relax.
In terms of meditation, the content is extensive but, again, easy to navigate. There are choices of sessions depending on what you want to achieve and once you have chosen your goal, you can choose the length of session to fit your schedule or preference.
The sleep meditation incorporated progressive muscle relaxation, guided body scans, mind-calming techniques and everything in between. It was broken down into any size video you needed and it literally covered every base!
- 7 day free trial
- Huge variety of content
- Easy to navigate
- Good for kids and families
- $59.99 (Approx. £45 per year)
The layout for Headspace is very different to the other apps we tested but offers the same great variety. It covers a multitude of topics from handling grief to prioritising workloads in the workplace – with between 10 and 30 sessions in each category.
Overall, we felt the app was much less ‘spacey’ and emotional but much more practical and straight forward.
We tried the introduction course and liked the strong, warm voice of an English man, who spoke in a very nurturing way. The sessions themselves are designed for beginners and there is a real focus on first teaching you how to meditate and be mindful, before progressing to the different ways you can practice your new skills.
Headspace offers a daily meditation delivered to your phone, there are sleep sounds and also meditation for children.
- Free basic access
- Huge offerings
- Easy to navigate
- Good for kids and families
- Priced from £71.88 a year with various other pricing options
Ten Percent Happier
The first thing we noticed about 10 Percent Happier was its no-frills approach, which is very much aimed at skeptics and people who are allergic to what they call “woo-woo”.
The platform offers a similar amount of content and a lot of variety to the other apps we tested. We particularly liked that each meditation had a ‘learn’ part and a ‘meditate’ part to make you feel like you were progressing and refining your skills.
The app uses a wider variety of both male and female professionals to guide you through practices. Ahead of each meditation, you can choose to watch a video from the teacher you are about to listen to, and hear them explain what the meditation is about and how it can help. However, there are no meditation sessions for children.
We were prompted to set a daily reminder to meditate to help us incorporate into our rouine and get in the habit of meditating. To provide further support, there is also a facility to have real-time chat with a coach if you need help.
- Free 7 day trial
- Variety of content – very straight talking
- Offers coaching videos and live coaching
- No kids meditation
- The most expensive app we tested, an annual subscription is $99.99 (approx. £75 per year) or $14.99 a month (approx. £11.50 per month)
The Mindfulness App
The initial course consists of five days of guided practice plus a huge selection of practical exercises and guided and silent meditations ranging from 3 to 30 minutes in length.
There is a good variety of warm American voices, both male and female who cover a whole host of categories. Our favourite feature is the option to personalise each meditation. For guided meditations, you can choose to have no background soundtrack or pick from a variety of sound effects to transport you to the beach, a forest, a stream or a rainy day. Silent meditation is seemingly unique to this app and not something the other apps promote, so may appeal to you if you are less keen on listening to a teacher’s voice.
This app can also be synched with Google Fit, if you use it to track your fitness.
We were really impressed with the functions and content available through the trial alone. The trial gives a good amount of time (31 days!) to explore before you need to commit to the annual subscription. While this was one of the less expensive platforms we tested, the quality and variety of content was not compromised and we felt it offered the best value for money.
- 31 day free trial
- Variety of content with capacity to personalise with your preferences
- Practical exercises
- Meditations for kids and adults
- Silent meditation sessions available
- £45.49 per year
For advice on relaxation and how to introduce mindfulness into your workplace, contact Moaning Cow Corporate Massage & Wellbeing today via our team email address, firstname.lastname@example.org or call 020 7129 7310.