Mindfulness has never been more popular. The last few years have seen it move from a little-known form of meditation to a mainstream activity – perhaps not unsurprisingly given recent events. But what exactly is it?
Mindfulness is a therapeutic technique used to manage and prevent feelings of depression, stress and anxiety (or so say the University of Oxford’s Mindfulness Centre). Mindfulness can help you to pay more attention to your thoughts and emotions and the present moment – something that can improve your overall wellbeing. While all of that sounds great, achieving this by yourself can be difficult. Luckily, you don’t have to go it alone. As with everything else these days, there’s an app to help you.
Here are five of the best mindfulness apps to either get you started or to help you continue on your mindfulness journey.
One of the most popular mindfulness apps out there, Headspace has accrued a whopping 65 million members. Former Buddhist monk Andy Puddicombe was on a mission to demystify meditation when he co-founded the immensely popular app – and he has done a pretty good job of that. The app features a huge catalogue of guided meditations. These vary in length and cover a wide range of topics, so there should be something to suit everyone.
The app itself is very user friendly. It is easy to navigate and the calming colours and beautiful illustrations make exploring it a joy.
Calm, Headspace’s main competition, comes with a large library of activities and some fun features.
Like its moniker would suggest, this app has been designed with calmness in mind. From the moment it launches with an instruction to ‘Take a deep breath’, Calm promotes a sense of peace.
The app is divided into three main sections: Sleep, Meditate and Music. It is well thought out and intuitive to use. The home screen features a customisable moving image as the background, which is accompanied by related sound effects – options include a thunderstorm, a waterfall and the sea. Each time you open the app you will be greeted by the sound effect and image of your choice.
The free basic offering is, well, pretty basic. But upgrade to the paid option and you can choose from a variety of features, including the popular Sleep Stories – read by well-known voices such as Lucy Liu, Matthew McConaughey and Idris Elba.
Wysa is a helpful – a kind of cute – AI (artificial intelligence) penguin who encourages users to talk through their feelings. Through the chat function – which is basically like chatting to someone on any other messaging platform – Wysa suggests exercises or toolkits that can help to build mental resilience.
Once opened, the app gives the option to just dive straight into the general chat area or to open one of the topic-based exercises. Because the app is based around conversations, it is simple and straightforward to use. Wysa delivers information one line at a time, like a normal conversation. This makes it really easy to follow any suggestions or tasks. While some responses do sound a little scripted, Wysa does a good job of making you forget you are chatting to a chatbot and helping you reflect on what’s bringing you down. It also has an option to talk to a real therapist, when you upgrade to the paid version.
This simple app focuses on helping users to achieve a state of mindfulness by concentrating on simple activities, for example, ‘Finger Tai Chi’. During this three-minute activity, you gently move a slowly growing dot around the screen, until it eventually fills the screen. Once finished, you are instructed to close your eyes while still moving your finger slowly across the screen – thereby helping to induce a meditative state.
Just like the activities, the design of this app is simple but effective. Calming colours and lava lamp style dots fade in and out of the background and all the activities are shown on the main home screen. This is a good option for situations where a guided meditation may not work, such as a noisy environment. It also offers a quick and easy way to achieve calm in the middle of a stressful situation.
Smiling Mind is a free mindfulness app run by an Australian charity. This app has a large catalogue of guided meditations covering a wide range of topics, varying from sleep and managing stress to mindfulness around sport (as you would expect from an Aussie app) and commuting.
This app is easy to navigate around and there are different programme options for teenagers, children and families, as well as some business and specific ones for students. The overall design is not as eye-catching as some of the previous apps, but it is user-friendly, and the number of activities and topics covered is impressive – especially if you consider it is completely free!
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