Tech Talk

Your smartphone helps you take it all in.     Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto/anyaber

The Best Meditation Apps

Who says smartphones take you out of the moment? Used smartly, they can open your mind and make you more present than ever.

Meditation. It’s not a New Age thing anymore, or a Buddhist thing, or even a David Lynch thing. It’s gone mainstream and secular, and now, like everything else in your life, it’s available as an app.

The catch term these days is mindfulness. This is in fact a slightly different pursuit than meditation. As Ira Israel points out, it’s sort of the opposite, since traditional meditation is a mind-emptying practice. But studies abound documenting the positive effects of meditation and mindfulness, from the obvious—stress reduction, help with anxiety and depression—to the not-so-apparent, like stronger immune systems, lower risk of heart disease, better relationships, and overall increased happiness.

Smartphone technology—too often the greatest enemy of enjoying the present moment—can help you get there. There are apps that aid with relaxation, breathing exercises, and “mindfulness-based stress reduction.” You can find screen after screen of effective methods to help people feel better and work more productively, whether in New York cubicles or NFL training rooms. (This year’s Super Bowl champs? Lotus posers.)

What you’ll find below is the best of what’s available now on iTunes and Google Play. We focused on apps that have a human feel, with voices offering instruction and guided meditation. The following apps feature real people whose experience is apparent and who have a good bedside manner. We steered clear of the cloying, the motivational-speaker-esque, and those unmotivating sleep-inducing instructors who sound like they’ve enjoyed a little too much weed and can’t pronounce their consonants. 

But a lot depends on your own personality, the vibe you go in for, and the techniques that work for you. So take some time to play around with various apps; the ones here all cost $1.99 or less. (Note: most of these require additional purchases once you’ve run through the included content—from 99 cents per meditation to $10 or more for an annual subscription.)

And don’t forget one key fact: You do have time. I need to remind myself of this whenever I get too caught up in the rush. Every minute invested in resting those neural pathways will pay itself back—you’ll need less sleep, and you’ll be sharper and more efficient.  

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