Whether it’s to handle stress or to get better sleep, there’s an app out there that can help you.
Meditation is part of many religions around the world, including in India, its widely-believed origin. Contrary to the misconceptions that it is only for a select group of people with specialized knowledge, that it has no practical use, or that it is only for spirituality—the practice has many benefits backed by science.
In a Forbes report, multiple studies have shown just how meditation changes the brain for the better. Long-term meditators or those who have been practicing mindfulness for an average of 20 years have better-preserved brains as they age.
“We expected rather small and distinct effects located in some of the regions that had previously been associated with meditating,” says Florian Kurth, the author of the UCLA study which explored the effect of meditation among people. “Instead, what we actually observed was a widespread effect of meditation that encompassed regions throughout the entire brain.”
Mindfulness meditation also dials down mind-wandering, according to a Yale University study, which is often associated with being less happy or worried about the past and the future. Activity in the default mode network (DMN), responsible for mind-wandering and self-referential thoughts, is considerably low in activity compared to those who do not meditate.
A John Hopkins review study also reveals that meditation reduces symptoms of depression, anxiety, and pain just as much as antidepressants. It’s not a treatment that will eliminate depression, but having an active form of brain training helps.
“A lot of people have this idea that meditation means sitting down and doing nothing,” says Madhav Goyal, the study’s researcher. “But that’s not true. Meditation is an active training of the mind to increase awareness and different meditation programs approach this in different ways.”
Those methods include but are not limited to in-person classes or even guided meditations using mobile apps, the latter being a safer option during a pandemic. Here are apps to help tap one’s way to zen.
Rating: 4.9 (Android) / 4.9 (iOS)
Price: Free, with in-app purchases from P92 to P2,850
With more than 45,000 free meditations, Insight Timer could easily be a go-to for beginners of the practice. The app’s library includes guided meditations for specific concerns such as stress, sleep, self; timed sessions from as quick as five to as long as 30 minutes; and for benefits in spirituality, relationships, among others. For absolute newbies, there’s also a seven-day free course on how to meditate.
Rating: 4.3 (Android) / 4.8 (iOS)
Price: Free, with in-app purchases from P44 to P18,000
As the name suggests, this app focuses on calming exercises and breathing techniques for relaxation, complete with access to sounds and scenes of nature to soothe the mind. It also has a section called Sleep Stories, which include bedtime stories in audio format to lull adults to sleep. The likes of Mathew McConaughey and Jerome Flynn have lent their voices for this feature.
Rating: 4.6 (Android) / 4.9 (iOS)
Price: Free, with in-app purchases from P129 to P5,750
For guided meditations and mindfulness techniques, Headspace is an excellent option. It has breathing exercises, sleep meditations, and wind-down practices. The screen is dimmed, too, so as to not distract the user from meditating. The app also offers a paid feature called SleepCasts, which can be likened to storytelling podcasts. With some input from the user, the app can also build personalized plans.
Rating: 4.7 (Android) / 4.8 (iOS)
Price: Free, with in-app purchases from P2,499 to P4,900
For confidence-boosting, anxiety-easing, or simply mindfulness, Simple Habit can be of help. Its array of meditations have specific titles, making it easy to find and access. A paid subscription allows offline use of the app, so meditation is possible—and maybe even better—without a proper Internet connection. Lessening stress and addressing panic attacks through the app is also possible through the app.
Rating: 3.6 (Android) / 4.0 (iOS)
Price: Free, with in-app purchases from P630 to P4,700
Meditation does not have to last for hours. Sometimes a quick five-minute quiet time is enough. With Unplug, guided meditations only take a few minutes for letting go of stress and gaining back focus through ambient sounds and unobtrusive timers. Help turn it into a habit by taking on their 30-day challenge.
Rating: 3.9 (Android) / 4.8 (iOS)
Price: P195, with in-app purchases from P1,400 to P1,550
This app has over 200 targeted meditation to choose from, ranging from four to 30 minutes. This flexibility allows the user to squeeze in a session any time: while on a walk, while preparing for another day at work, or even over a lunch break. Users can also create a personal wheel of meditation practices for quick and fuss-free access the moment any are needed.
Rating: 4.4 (Android) / 4.8 (iOS)
Price: Free, with in-app purchases from Php525 – Php18,000
If having a meditation instructor is preferred, Breethe connects the user to a personal mindfulness coach to learn how to de-stress and sleep better even for just five minutes a day. This is on top of sleep music playlists, nature sounds, and bedtime readings. It also contains a series of guided meditation, inspirational talks, and master classes from Lynne Goldberg, a mindfulness coach.