6 Meditation Apps That Are Worth the Price Tag

Thinking about signing up for a subscription-based mindfulness experience? Here are our four favorite premium mindfulness apps to consider—plus, two extra self-care apps that caught our attention.

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Prioritizing self-care has been on the rise for years, leading a cultural shift toward paying attention to our well-being in a fast-changing world. Hop onto Instagram and there are 25.9 million posts tagged #mindfulness. More and more people are exploring the practice, with apps being one of the main ways we’re diving in. Quartz recently reported that more than 2,500 meditation apps have launched since 2015, and while their popularity was already growing steadily, the number of downloads these stress-relieving apps get has soared during COVID-19.

Ironically, the abundance of options can be overwhelming—so we’ve done the research to narrow it down to the apps that will offer the greatest value, with practice options galore, acclaimed teachers, and appealing, simple-to-use interfaces. While there are a number of great free apps to help boost mental health, subscription-based mindfulness apps offer certain bells and whistles that may elevate the overall journey and can allow you to customize your practice to find what feels best for you. Plus, for some, paying for a monthly service can incentivize us to keep up a regular mindfulness practice. 

Here are the top premium mindfulness apps you’ll want to check out:

1) Shine

Available for iOS and Android

Price: $14.99 per month or $53.99 annually; available with 7-day free trial

The Shine app is like having a supportive companion who checks in every day to see how you’re doing. She’s easy to confide in and her guided meditations are like hanging out with a friend over a cup of tea.

When you log in, you’re welcomed with an option to listen to a Daily Shine, a new guided meditation for the day. You can also jump right into My Daily Check-In to explore your mood and feelings. Depending on your selections, the app will recommend a specific meditation, or you have the options to read an inspirational article, free write, or “Talk it out” using their interactive chat feature. In this feature, you can share your thoughts and feelings and get responses from other Shine members in real-time to help you self-reflect and boost awareness.

Don’t feel like doing a daily check-in? Skip through and head straight over to the app’s library of meditations, which is organized into nine sections: Featured, Stress & Anxiety, Sleep, Daily Shine, Resilience, Daily Rituals, Confidence, Productivity, and Sounds. In Resilience, for example, you will find a three-part meditation series (under 6 minutes each) to “Lean In to Loneliness.” Most of Shine’s meditations are relatively short—typically less than 15 minutes and many around 5 minutes long—so if you’re in need of an extended meditative break, their sound and sleep meditations (up to 61 minutes) may be the ones to tune in to.

Shine was founded by a half-Japanese woman and a Black woman, and their staff are 80% people of color and 30% Black—so it’s not surprising that their 800+ meditations are voiced by diverse creators, offering a supportive and inclusive community.

2) Headspace

Available for iOS and Android

Price: $12.99 per month and $69.99 annually; available with a 14-day free trial.

The global popularity of the Headspace app is understandable. The app wins on a variety of fronts: Its aesthetic alone, with bite-sized animated videos and approachable thumbnail designs, creates a cohesive feel and relaxing experience from the get-go. Headspace offers a boatload of content, yet they do a fantastic job organizing all that content so that users can navigate easily. The Meditation category is mainly divided into four parts: Courses and Singles, SOS, Timers, and Techniques and Support. For example, in Timers, you will find three basic meditations (Guided, Semi-Guided, and Unguided with range from 5-minute to 120-minute options), while in SOS there are 3-minute meditations for quick relief from, for instance, feeling Burned Out.

The 100+ single meditation sessions are guided, but give ample room for breathwork and quiet time. Other highlights include the 10-minute Group Meditation offered every 30 minutes, which you can join live with other meditators, Focus music (featuring a 60-minute playlist created by John Legend, for example), calming Soundscapes (from 45 to 500 minutes), and much more.

Perhaps what makes Headspace seem like a cut above are the more than 50 alphabetized, thoughtfully curated Courses available; each course contains 10 sessions that seamlessly progress from one session to the next. The consistency and overall experience of Headspace feels premium—which is what we would hope for in a premium paid app.

3) Ten Percent Happier

Available for iOS and Android

Price: $99.99 annually; available with a 7-day free trial

The 10 Percent Happier app started off with some uncomfortable beginnings: Its founder, Dan Harris, a news anchor, famously had a panic attack on live TV, an experience that led him to the realization that he needed a way to reduce his anxiety and calm the chatter in his mind. 

He writes about his journey to meditation and its benefits in his New York Times bestselling book 10% Happier, which was followed by the Ten Percent Happier podcast and then the app.

This app is ideal for beginners, providing a combo of instruction and practice. There are over 350 guided meditations on the app to choose from, as well as courses (29 total) like a 59-day series that offers guidance during uncertain times, and the 12-day course Mindful Eating with neuroscientist and habit-change expert Jud Brewer. There’s also the Daily Dose meditation, a simple 10- minute -session to relax into every day.

What makes the Ten Percent Happier app stand out are their Talks with world-renowned meditation instructors. Harris spotlights teachers like Sharon Salzberg, Rick Hanson, Jay Michaelson, Diana Winston, and more. If you’re looking for guidance for better well-being from some of the world’s leading meditation and well-being experts all in one convenient listening library, this app may be just the ticket.

4) Calm

Available for iOS and Android

Price: $14.99 per month or $69.99 annually; available with 7-day free trial

Calm continues to be one of the most popular meditation apps, holding the number one spot of most downloaded English-language mindfulness apps globally in 2020. It’s no surprise as this app is a one-stop shop for mindfulness content, with new meditations added regularly and unique sessions from world experts and top celebrities from various backgrounds.

In some ways it’s pop culture meets meditation: You can tune in to Calm’s special “Sleep Remix” versions of hit songs, from millennial favorites like Ariana Grande, Post Malone, and Shawn Mendes, take part in a 5-part series to Train Your Mind with NBA great LeBron James, or drift off to sleep to the sound of actor Matthew McConaughey’s voice in a bedtime story. There are also ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) stories, meditations for kids (think Thomas & Friends engines help little ones to manage difficult emotions), mood check-ins, breathing exercises, mindful movement exercises to calm the body, and more. There’s plenty of variety on this well-organized app.

Along with the original Daily Calm meditation offered every day, the 100+ guided meditations cover anxiety, relationships, and inner peace, to name a few—as well as 15 masterclasses taught by experts like author Elizabeth Gilbert (a 1-hour class on creative living) and meditation teacher Tara Brach (a 5-part series on radical self-compassion), among others.

Calm’s mission is to “make the world happier and healthier” and based on the app’s millions of 5-star reviews, it seems they’re succeeding in creating happy users.

5) Happy Not Perfect

Available for iOS and Android

Price: $12.99 per month or $77.99 per year; the free version offers up to five daily check-ins and limited content.

If you’re looking for a mixed gamut of mindfulness practices, Happy Not Perfect may be the app for you. Every day, you’re invited to do a Mind Workout check-in to notice your mood, take a 30- second breather, and do a few mindfulness exercises—this might be journaling to increase self-awareness, playing a game that encourages you to slow down, or writing about your goals. 

Happy Not Perfect’s meditation section is both a library of guided meditations and advice series. You may find yourself diving into a 5-day series on learning about your attachment style, a 21-day mind writing challenge (with audio writing prompts), or listening to sound bath meditations, among others that vary greatly by topic, style, and guide. The app has over 30 guides from all wellness backgrounds (e.g. psychotherapists, coaches, yoga teachers, etc.) sharing their expertise and wisdom for whatever mood or situation you may find yourself in.

6) The Tapping Solution

Available for iOS and Android

Price: $12.99 per month or $89.99 annually; premium membership available with a 14-day free trial. (While the free version of the app offers more than 40 free tapping meditations, the premium membership unlocks more than 300.)

If the idea of tapping parts of your face and body as a therapeutic exercise has you head-scratching, you’re not alone. But research shows that EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) may help increase mental well-being and reduce anxiety, depression, pain, and cravings. EFT Tapping combines psychological and somatic elements by integrating acupressure points with situational thought statements like, “Even though I can’t help thinking about everything going on with my family, I give myself permission to relax.” (Tapping sessions are often called tapping “meditations,” and meditators may see a resemblance in the approach: tapping emphasizes dropping into your body and mind, and bringing self-kindness to the complexities of your thoughts and emotions.)

The Tapping Solution app is simple and user-friendly, allowing you to dive into the basics and learn the techniques in minutes via their videos. Their library of tapping meditations covers a wide range of topics, from Hot Flash Relief to Injury Recovery Boost; meditations to ease phobias like Fear of Needles; and collections like “School Support” for parents and kids. Other meditation themes echo those you may find in most other mindfulness apps, such as releasing anxiety, quieting the mind, and loving and accepting our bodies. Most sessions are less than 15 minutes long. For those looking to try a psychosomatic mindfulness experience, this app may just be the thing.

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