Do you feel as though you’re always under pressure? Are you searching for some much-needed stress and anxiety relief? If your answer is no, then you’re a rare bird, indeed. Last year, the polling gurus at Gallup found that 79 percent of Americans feel stress sometimes or frequently every day. What’s stressing us out? In its latest Stress in America report, the American Psychological Association found that most of us are stressed by violence and crime, the current political climate, work, money, and the future of our nation.
That’s quite a load to bear, but being mindful of our stressors is a good first step toward giving your thinker a much-needed break. A lot of us could use some help, which is why practicing mindfulness is on the rise. Here, we’ve compiled a list of the best mindfulness apps to help you put your mind at ease.
It’s All in Your Mind
Psychologist Amishi Jha, Ph.D., of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, sums up mindfulness this way: Our minds are kind of like a digital audio player, she says; basically, our minds are really good at mental time travel, constantly fast-forwarding to obsess about the future or rewinding to reflect over and over again on past experiences. Mindfulness is more or less about keeping your finger on the play button, she says, and about being completely aware and in the present moment.
Easier said than done, right?
Other experts add that mindfulness is a state of being, without judgment. The term can also encompass meditation, which practitioners describe as an intentional, formal, seated practice, often with a focus on breathing.
Don’t worry too much about the semantics here. What’s important is that you learn to benefit from either or both to bring yourself stress and anxiety relief.
What Science Says
People unfamiliar with mindfulness are often unfamiliar with its benefits. A study in Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging found that mindfulness-based stress reduction, or mindfulness training, could change our brain’s gray matter, the area responsible for learning and memory processes, emotion regulation and more. A systematic review and meta-analysis in 2014 in the Journal of the American Medical Association of more than 18,000 citations determined that a mindfulness meditation program may help reduce anxiety, depression and pain in some people.
Mindfulness isn’t a cure-all and might not be for everyone, and there are calls for further research into its concrete benefits. A 2017 Perspectives on Psychological Science article calls for delineating “the proper scope of research into mindfulness practices.”
But until they have reasons not to champion this age-old practice, millions of users will stand by the mindfulness and the benefits that practicing it offers.
There are a wide variety of apps that make it easier to get into the mindfulness groove. Here are some of the best mindfulness apps out there:
- Calm: Apple named Calm, a guided meditation and mindfulness app, its App of the Year in 2017. The app’s Sleep Stories are “bedtime stories for grown-ups to relax the body, settle the mind and drift into dreamland.” Downloading the app is free, and you can try it for free for 30 days, but additional programs are available on a subscription basis.
- Headspace: Headspace aims to make meditation simple, offering a free, 10-day basics pack that guides you through the essentials of meditation and mindfulness. The app’s a free download; a subscription program, which isn’t free, gives access to all content beyond the basics.
- The Mindfulness App: This app is about meditation for everyone — and that means you. Right at your fingertips, you’ll find lots of meditations with famous teachers and a reminder function that won’t let you miss meditation when you need it most. There’s a five-day free trial that comes with the free app download, and a premium section is available through subscription or one-time purchase.
- Buddhify: This app offers guided meditations categorized by what you’re doing or how you’re feeling. (Buzzfeed named it its best meditation app against anxiety). Sessions last between four and 30 minutes. This one doesn’t offer a free trial, but its cost is relatively low: The app is $4.99 for iPhone or $1.99 for Android, and a subscription is $30 a year.
What’s on your mind? Hopefully nothing for at least a few minutes each day. Apps like these will help you master mindfulness and see the many benefits of learning to sit still.