Approved by the NHS and even trialled in Parliament, mindfulness is everywhere lately. The buzz around it makes it seem like a revolutionary new concept.
Based on ancient Eastern meditation practices, mindfulness simply refers to the ageless idea of being fully aware of the now momentinstead of fretting about the past or the future.
Sound like something you don’t have time for in your busy modern life? Then you might need mindfulness more than you realise. It helps immensely if you are rushed or stressed, teaching you not to be thrown by your thoughts but to stay calm.
And there really is no excuse not to learn, given that nowadays, as with everything, there’s an app for it. Here are 5 mindfulness apps that can get you started, and if you are already a mindfulness practitioner, can keep you consistent.
5 Mindfulness Apps to Help You Stay In the Present
Designed by Andy Puddicombe, a former Buddhist monk turned self-help guru, Headspace touts itself as “your gym membership for the mind”.
Headspace not only believes that mindfulness aids with stress, worry, lack of focus, addictions, and more, they invest in mindfulness research partnerships worldwide to prove the above. One of their research partners is none other than the NHS.
This app is a good starting point for mindfulness beginners, with a free ten-day program designed to take you through everything you need to know about mindfulness.
Admittedly all the intro animations can be annoying, but once you being the actual program it boils down to simple recordings. In fact despite Headspace being one of the most well-known mindfulness apps out there, it’s free offering is rather basic compared to other apps.
Andy’s voice won’t be for everyone. You’ll be disappointed if you expect a calm, guru-like voice, but thrilled if you want to learn meditation from someone who sounds very much a regular bloke. There is a tracker so you can see your progress, and a social element where you can connect with friends also using the app.
If you enjoy the ten-day program you are encouraged to take out a monthly subscription. This apparently includes hundreds of guided and non-guided exercises that range anywhere from two minutes to an hour, and are targeted to help with certain areas of your life such as difficult relationships and work performance.
Available on iOS and Android as well as on your computer.
2. Buddhify 2
Buddhify is a well laid out app that is probably the best choice if you already practice mindfulness but want more of your life to be mindful.
There is a large colourful wheel you choose a slice of, depending on what area of life needs your attention. This includes things like sleep problems, work breaks, having to wait around, eating, illness, and traveling. Once you choose your area, it then further breaks down into meditations of different topics and lengths.
For example, ‘eating’ breaks into ‘chew’, ‘taste’, or ‘grace’. If you choose the 4-minute ‘chew’, you are talked through paying attention to each bite of a meal, from noticing the sensations in your arm as move food to your mouth to the movement of your jaw and contraction and expanding of throat muscles.
If you don’t like one of the voices on offer, try another meditation. It’s quite a cast of characters here, including an American girl, a man with a regional accent, and one woman trying very hard to be posh.
There are some options available, such as a choice to fast forward or rewind the guided meditations in increments of 15 seconds (although a bit strange as it goes against the very concept of mindfulness). A simple timer is great for when you want to meditate by yourself, and there is a place to rate your sessions and track your progress.
Using the theory that it takes regular practice to form a habit, Mindfulness Daily starts you on a 21-day course of regularly practicing mindfulness every morning and evening using different guided meditations of six to eight minutes each.
You are taught techniques of positive mental awareness, body scans, and guided imagery and then are encouraged to use the app to guide your own practise.
Reminders to stay mindful can be scheduled throughout the day, asking you reflexive questions like, ‘Where are you noticing your emotion?” and, “What can you let go of?”. These few seconds of encouragement to bring your attention to the present moment can really make you feel less flighty.
available on iOS only £2.29
4. 7 Second Meditation
This is the app for those who want the fastest taster of being mindful or like bare bones apps.
The free version of the 7 Second Meditation app allows you to pick one time a day where you are sent a reminder to be mindful. It’s nothing revolutionary, more along the lines of ‘be grateful’ and ‘smile’, but it’s a good start or good if you know there is one time a day you could use a nudge, such as when you are commuting.
available on iOS only
If you find it easier to practise mindfulness meditation with soothing music and your eyes open on gorgeous visuals, this app is for you. The Calm app lets you choose a scene, whether that is a lake, mountain, beach, or just watching leaves in a storm.
It is also perfect for nature lovers stuck in the city who find the sound of rain or birds instantly soothing. You choose whether you want to just meditate with the sounds of your scene (birds chirping, running water) or would like a guided meditation – even so, the soothing sounds of nature stay in the background.
There is a timer for the solo meditations, and you can choose anything from one to 120 minutes.
The guided mediations run from two to 30 minutes. You choose what you would like your meditation to target, although ‘calm’ is the only choice for the free app. Things like ‘anxiety release’ and ‘compassion’ involve taking out a monthly subscription.
Their program for beginners, “7 Days of Calm”, is, however, entirely free.
The woman’s voice on the Calm website wins the award for the most soothing and best to meditate with. Sadly she does not lead all the guided meditations when you download the app to your phone. Then again, using this app on your laptop can be better overall if you like visuals anyway.
available in iOS, Apple Watch, Android, on your laptop.
Do you use an app that has transformed your mindfulness practice? Share below.