While mental health problems are a common affliction, many people don’t seek treatment or therapists due to stigma and limited access. Mindfulness apps are a relatively new tool to help those suffering with anxiety and stress find some relief from their digital life. The apps promise to help users train their brains, calm down and become more present in a convenient, affordable manner. And a recent study found that mindfulness apps may actually work. “Our research showed that a brief mindfulness meditation app treatment yielded measurable psychological and biological benefits, including lower systolic blood pressure and saliva cortisol levels in those who used it,” the researchers wrote in a journal article.
The newest mindfulness apps are designed with a variety of users in mind. Some offer a five-day introduction and guided meditations to get users acquainted with the concept of mindfulness; others are geared more toward experienced meditators. Some also offer programs like ‘Mindful Sleep’ and ‘Digital Detox’ to address specific issues. Others are more focused on the social impact of mindfulness, offering ‘Reach Out’ sessions to support those struggling with depression and ‘Self-Compassion’ to encourage those with anxiety to take some time to relax.
Some are free, while others offer a subscription that includes access to courses with well-known teachers, the ability to download meditations for offline use and advanced player functions. Insight Timer has over 100,000 meditation guides and is the most popular mindfulness app, according to app analytics company App Annie. It’s a good choice for beginners who need a clear path forward and structure, and also for seasoned practitioners who want to learn how to better work with difficult emotions or cultivate loving-kindness.
Another free option is Smiling Mind, a free mindfulness meditation app that has a clean, simple design and offers guided and silent meditations for all ages. It was developed as a non-profit and aims to put a smile on your face by increasing clarity, contentment and reducing stress via mindfulness instruction and encouragement. It’s also unique in that it offers a variety of activities, such as ‘Count Your Senses’ to encourage you to engage all your senses when you’re in a stressful situation.
If you have an Apple Watch, you can download the new Mindfulness app and use the new Breathe watch face to set a reminder to meditate each day. The app lets you change the frequency of the notifications, mute mindfulness reminders and adjust your heart rate monitor settings. It can be accessed from the Health app on your iPhone and requires an iOS 12.2 or later version. The app works with the Apple Watch Series 4 and later, with cellular connectivity or WiFi. The apps are not available in the US. The Apple Watch’s built-in health features are based on scientific data and medical advice from leading organizations, but they are not intended to replace medical care or therapy. A physician should be consulted with questions about any health condition.