Free Mindfulness Apps Worthy of Your Attention

Mindfulness apps are trending in a big way. Here are five we're happy we downloaded.

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There’s no shortage of mindfulness and meditation apps these days, promising to help you combat anxiety, sleep better, hone your focus, and more. We scoured the app stores to find the most comprehensive and easy-to-use mindfulness apps that are available for free. The majority of mindfulness apps include free offerings and starter packs alongside premium packages, so we considered a few of those, too, to see how they stack up.  

1) Insight Timer

insight timer app screenshot

Available for iOS and Android

Price: Free with in-app purchases ($5 per course)

Insight Timer has an insanely huge library of content: nearly 13,000 guided meditations from over 2,600 teachers on topics like stress, relationships, creativity, and more.

Right from the beginning, the app feels like a community—the home screen announces, “420,065 meditations today, 5,059 meditating right now.” In fact, Insight Timer has attracted more than 5 million meditators from around the world. After you finish a meditation, you’ll learn exactly how many people were meditating “with you” during that time—and by setting your location, you can even see meditators nearby and what they’re listening to.
Once you find a teacher you enjoy—like Jack Kornfield, Tara Brach, or Sharon Salzberg—you can follow them to make sure you don’t miss any new content. If you prefer a quieter meditation, you can always set a timer and meditate to intermittent bells or calming ambient noise.

Insight Courses

This year, Insight Timer launched Insight Courses, which feature 10-15 minutes of audio per day alongside group discussions. You can start with the free “Learn to Meditate in 7 Days,” but the other 10-day courses will cost $4.99 each. You can also tune in to hundreds of free talks and podcasts for life advice and inspiration, and music tracks to soothe your mind or help you sleep.

Depending on your preferences, Insight Timer’s extensive collection can be either a blessing or a curse—an endless list of choices that leave you overwhelmed or a buffet of tempting options to sink your teeth into.

2) Stop, Breathe & Think

Stop, Breathe & Think app screenshot

Available for iOS and Android

Price: Free or $10 a month

If other apps expect you to dive right in, Stop, Breathe & Think wants to create a more deliberate, intentional experience. A section called Learn to Meditate explains what mindfulness is and why it’s beneficial, including some of the neuroscience and physiology behind it. Each day when you open the app, you’re invited to check in with yourself—to rate your mind and body on a scale of “rough” to “great,” and note up to five emotions you’re feeling. Then, Stop, Breathe & Think will recommend meditations, yoga videos, and acupressure videos tailored to how you feel.

Meditations based on how you feel

The app features 34 free sessions. For many of them, you can choose between different lengths and either a friendly male voice (Grecco) or a calming female voice (Jamie) as your meditation guide. Most of the meditations are short, up to 15 minutes, and feature simple introductory practices like Being Kind to Your Body, Forgiving Yourself, and Joy. You can also simply set a timer and sit in silence, or learn different breathing techniques, or listen to relaxing forest sounds.

Stop, Breathe & Think is ideal if you need to understand why you’re meditating and see how it’s benefitting you in order to keep up the habit.

A progress page keeps track of how your mind and body have been feeling over time, and your most common emotions (before and after meditating, when the app invites you to check in again). Plus, you can earn cute stickers: As a newbie, I’ve collected “Good Start” and “Trio of Tranquility.” Stop, Breathe & Think is ideal if you need to understand why you’re meditating and see how it’s benefitting you in order to keep up the habit.

3) Calm

calm app screenshot

Available for iOS and Android

Price: Free, with in-app purchases ($59.99 annual subscription)

The moment you open the Calm app—rated the 2017 app of the year by Apple—you might feel a sense of…calm. Relaxing sounds of falling rain play automatically in the background, but you could also opt to be greeted by lake noises or birds trilling.

Calm’s free offerings include basic mindfulness practices. These free meditations, about 25 in total, come in different lengths, from a quick 3-minute meditation to a half-hour sit. You can start off with 7 Days of Calm, a week-long beginners’ series that includes practices for cultivating awareness, returning to the breath when the mind wanders, and training for how to bounce back when the brain switches into “autopilot mode.” Other free sessions include 7 Days of Sleep and Calming Anxiety. Plus, like many other apps, you can set a timer for silent meditation or meditate to intermittent bells.

Calm lives up to its name

For nighttime relaxation, Calm features seven free “sleep stories”: bedtime stories for adults that help you transition into slumber with their soothing voices and tranquil nature settings. Calm’s music section—a feature that more and more meditation apps seem to be adding these days—includes over 100 free tracks to help you relax, sleep, or focus.

Calm entices you to subscribe by making the first sessions free in series like 7 Days to Focus, 7 Days to Happiness, and 7 Days to Self-Esteem, which feels like a bit of a teaser. But its subscription is one of the cheapest out there if you do decide to make the investment. And if calm is what you’re after, the design of the app—with its soft lines, soothing sounds, and uplifting photos—lives up to its name.

4) 10% Happier

Available for iOS and Android

Price: Free 7-day series, $99.99 annual fee.

The tagline for 10% Happier tells you the most important thing you need to know about the app. It’s “meditation for fidgety skeptics”—a relatable, no-nonsense way to learn mindfulness for people whose goals veer more toward sharpening their brains than befriending their souls.

It’s “meditation for fidgety skeptics”—a relatable, no-nonsense way to learn mindfulness for people whose goals veer more toward sharpening their brains than befriending their souls.

Unlike some other mindfulness apps, 10% Happier comes with a tour guide. Dan Harris is a news anchor who famously had a panic attack on live TV, an experience that eventually led him to pursue meditation.

Authoritative conversations about meditation

There are sparse free offerings on 10% Happier, but what it lacks in quantity it makes up for in accessibility and authority. What’s free is The Basics series, a one-week orientation to mindfulness. Each day features an introductory video by Harris (often in conversation with instructor Joseph Goldstein), and a meditation by Goldstein.

Harris uses his journalistic chops to take these conversations with Goldstein to the heart of the most pressing questions new meditators have—like how to know you’re doing it right and how to deal with boredom. Goldstein, who is a seasoned meditator, offers wise answers based on his decades of experience.

Harris also hosts the 10% Happier podcast for free (outside the app), featuring conversations with people from Richard Davidson to Jon Kabat-Zinn, Arianna Huffington to the Dalai Lama. If other mindfulness apps don’t speak your language, 10% Happier might be the app for you.

5) Meditation Studio

Available for iOS and Android

Price: Free with extras you can buy, $49.99 annual fee

Meditation Studio is a more traditional offering. The app features an introductory series with Dr. Elisha Goldstein—a licensed psychologist and co-founder of The Center for Mindful Living. Goldstein guides you through ten days of meditation to cultivate calm, energy, and compassion, mostly by focusing on the breath.

You can also preview what the paid app has to offer in the Discover series. Discover is a selection of popular tracks on anxiety, sleep, negative thoughts, and more, featuring teachers like Chrissy Carter and Faith Hunter. At the moment, it includes a meditation for kids and one for college students (while the paid version has targeted content for moms, veterans, entrepreneurs, and even first responders).

An app for experienced meditators

Meditation Studio might be more suited to people who are familiar with the basics of mindfulness and breath awareness techniques, such as using the breath or an external object as an anchor for your attention. For example, the end of the first session invites you to take one minute to “completely be,” being present to your whole experience—breath, thoughts, life—which feels like a tricky practice for a novice. The free meditations last up to 33 minutes, a long time to sit still for someone who’s not used to it. More advanced meditators can also set a timer and pick some background music for an unguided session.

If you’re more of a seeker than a skeptic, and you enjoy the experience of completing a series and getting to know different teachers, Meditation Studio could be a helpful resource on your journey.