When friends tell me they don’t have time to meditate or don’t know how to, I always say that downloading an app is a great place to start. Welzen, Calm and Headspace are the ones I’ve tried and would definitely recommend.
I might be a bit biased here, as while I use the free versions of the other apps, I have the paid-for version of the Welzen mindfulness app. You can also read a more detailed review of the Welzen app in one of my previous posts.
I have definitely learnt a lot from the Welzen app, and here are some of my favourite things about it.
- The 5 Days of Welzen. If you’re new to mindfulness meditation you can start with 5 really clear explanations that take you through the principles of mindfulness meditation over short 5-7 minute sessions.
- The Mindfulness Coaching category. Here you have about 17 different short sessions that go a little deeper into how mindfulness meditation can help you. So you learn about why a body scan is important, about how mindfulness can improve your relationships with others and even the quality of your sleep.
- The Office Hours category. This is designed to help you when you’re at work – I haven’t found something like this anywhere else, and I know how much I would have needed it in my office job! I so wish I had found this before!
- The visualisation meditations. I had not come across these before either, and I love them. You can find a River Downstream visualisation in the Better Sleep category or a Forest one in the Enhance Creativity category, for example. The guided meditation helps you visualise a specific, calming and soothing environment, and helps you imagine you’re right there, relaxing. Visualisations really work for me and help me feel a lot calmer.
- You have a choice between a male and a female voice. A male voice guides you through most of the mindfulness meditation sessions. But if you prefer a female voice, you can go through the meditations in the Female Guidance category instead. It’s ust nice to have that choice, right?
The Calm app was the first mindfulness meditation app I stumbled upon and reviewed. And I certainly learnt a lot from it. These are some of the features from the free version of the app that I enjoyed the most.
- The 7 Days of Calm. You take a short meditation every day and get to focus on different aspects (awareness, gratitude etc.)
- The guided breathing exercise. It’s a very very simple, visual trick to guide you to take a deep breath in, hold, and take a deep breath out. So so simple and yet totally effective and calming.
- The ability to track your progress. Probably one of the best ways to help you create a habit for yourself is to track how many days you’ve been able to keep it up. Or, as Calm calls it, you can track your ‘longest streak’. Effectively it’s a little calendar that shows you how many days you’ve meditated this month. It’s a very visual reminder of how you’re doing towards your goals.
- You can change the background images and sounds to whatever you find more soothing and relaxing for you. You just get to experiment with what works best for you, really.
- The sleep stories. As soon as you open the app, you can choose whether you want to breathe, meditate or sleep. If you select sleep, Calm have a number of sleeping stories (both for adults and for children) that you can listen to to get a more restful night’s sleep.
All in all, I think the free version gives you a great amount of value in terms of what you can learn and do.
Out of the 3, Headspace is the only UK-based app. So it’s perfect if you perhaps find a British accent more familiar and therefore less distracting when following a guided meditation.
Once again, I’ve only used the free version of the app, but here is why I would recommend it.
- The guided meditations are all recorded by Andy Puddicombe, who is the co-founder of the app. Andy Puddicombe’s story is quite fascinating. In his twenties he decided to travel to the Himalayas to study meditation. And ten years later he became a Tibetan Buddhist monk in Northern India. Back in the UK, he set up his own practice as a mindfulness consultant. He also wrote a few books, and co-founded the Headspace app. Via the app you get access to some of his TED talks as well. And I recommend you watch them. They really give you an idea of who is guiding you through the meditation sessions.
- The app has easy-to-follow, engaging cartoon-style video explanations. Andy Puddicombe’s voice is behind these as well. So you get a sense of continuity, brand and personality really coming through wherever you are in the app.
- Similarly to the other apps, Headspace takes you through the basic of mindfulness meditation in 10 sessions. You can take these over 10 days (they’re only 10 minutes each) via the Take 10 programme.
- You can track your progress and stats (including the average duration of your meditation sessions, the total number of sessions you’ve taken and total time you’ve meditated). But you can also buddy up with friends, so you can track each other’s progress and cheer each other on.
- The paid-for version (which I haven’t used yet) has quick SOS sessions designed for you to take when you’re feeling overwhelmed and about to have a meltdown. They’re only 3 minute long and can help you achieve calm and clarity. And who doesn’t need that when your toddler is having their 10th tantrum of the day?!?
And that’s it from me for now. I hope this encourages you to give a mindfulness meditation app a go. I’ve not just learnt a great deal about mindfulness meditation thanks to these apps. I’ve also found them a great way to get me started and kick off my daily practice.
What about you? Do you have any other recommendations for a mindfulness meditation app?
*I was provided with a free subscription to the Welzen app, but all ideas expressed in this post are my own.