In trying times, your smartphone can actually be a source of relief, not stress — at least if you turn to one of the best relaxation apps to help ease any anxiety.
And there’s plenty of things to be anxious about these days, especially with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic keeping a lot of people at home. And as important as it is to keep healthy and stay safe during the coronavirus outbreak, mental health is every bit as important.
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Thankfully, there are ways to push back against any stressful situation, using techniques based on cognitive behavioral therapy and guided meditation to help hack our mind and bolster our spirits even as we do our best to protect ourselves and those around us. Check out ten of the best relaxation apps for mobile devices that do their best to promote meditation, mindfulness, and calm.
Best relaxation apps for Android and iOS
Headspace brings mindfulness and cognitive behavioral therapy techniques straight to the palm of your hand. When you sign up for Headspace, you set your objectives, such as dealing with stress and anxiety, relaxation, or physical health awareness, as well as telling the app your experience level with meditation. Headspace then provides you with a series of guided meditation courses as well as one-off short meditations that can help teach techniques to deal with stress, anxiety, or productivity issues.
Premium subscribers get access to a much expanded library of exercises, as well as a Sleep by Headspace add-on that tries to help improve your quality of sleep with soundscapes, meditations, music and sleepcasts to help you relax. If you've lost your job during the coronavirus pandemic, Headspace has announced that you can get a free year's subscription to Headspace Plus (opens in new tab).
Happify aims to put a smile on your face with activities, games, and other exercises that tap proven behavioral science principles to help overcome stress, negativity, and build resilience and healthy positivity.
Users of the free version get access to particular guided tracks and exercises based on their goals, while premium users get unlimited access to the full range of tracks and exercises, as well as progress tracking and more. A monthly subscription costs $14.99.
Anyone interested in trying different techniques and philosophies of wellness and meditation might want to check out the wildly popular Insight Timer. This relaxation app offers an eclectic mix of methods, whether based on secular mindfulness or faith-based approaches ranging from Buddhist mindfulness and transcendental meditation and Christian-based approaches. In other words, there’s something for everyone.
Insight Timer has music, meditations of varying times, and a rich selection of teachers, presenters, coaches and scientists, as well as a highly configurable meditation timer that lets you set duration, things like bell intervals, notifications, background sounds, and more.
While there’s a rich selection of free content, upgrading to the premium subscription for $9.99 a month unlocks offline access, more courses, and advanced playback controls.
10 Percent Happier
The 10 Percent Happier app builds on the success of Dan Howard’s bestselling book and podcast to help promote mindfulness and meditation as ways to de-stress. There no bold life-changing promises in this entry on our list of best relaxation apps — just the goal of making you 10% happier.
The app teaches you the basics of meditation, and sets regular reminders so that you can make it a habit, with guided meditation tracks as well as more bite-sized one-shots for a variety of purposes. While free users get some meditations to work with, the real gold is in the paid subscriptions, which unlock the full range of guided meditations, sleep aids, personal coaching, and offline access.
Formerly known as Pacifica, Sanvello bases its methods on proven cognitive behavioral therapy methods to attempt to help deal with stress, anxiety, and depression through guided meditations and other CBT techniques. Sanvello offers a library of guided meditations and exercises, as well as regular check ins, emotional logs, and other tools, as well as emergency contacts and the option to send your data to your therapist.
While you can pay $8.99 per month for Sanvello’s premium features, you can also sign up through your health insurance provide. Users with a valid .edu email can also access the full library of guided meditations. Sanvello says it's also offering free premium access (opens in new tab) during the duration of the COVID-19 crisis.
Stop Breathe & Think
Like you’d expect from one of the best relaxation apps, Stop, Breathe & Think encourages you to do just that, with notifications for regular physical and emotional check-ins and self-assessment. A variety of meditations and activities aim to help reduce stress and anxiety, as well as train breathing and mindfulness.
The app offers more than 30 activities for free, with many other guided meditations and techniques gated behind the premium subscription, starting at $9.99 per month.
Calm is a versatile guided meditation app designed to be able to offer something for beginners and meditation veterans alike, with sessions ranging from 3 to 25 minutes. Those sessions cover a variety of topics, including calming down anxiety and de-stressing, building focus, self-esteem, and helping you get into the right mindset for a comfortable sleep. Seven- and 21-day courses let you practice more focused techniques, while tools like breathing exercises and unguided meditation timers let you freestyle.
As usual with the best relaxation apps, there’s a limited selection of meditations and activities for free tier users. Premium subscriptions starting at $14.99 a month unlock the full range of offerings such as Daily Calm meditations, sleep aids, masterclasses and exclusive music tracks and meditations. Health-care provider Kaiser Permanente now offers free access to Calm to its 12.4 million members.
The Mindfulness App
The Mindfulness App serves as a solid intro to guided meditations, with free users gaining access to a simple 5-day course as well meditations ranging from 3 to 30 minutes to help users practice meditation, complete with notifications and customizable meditation timers.
Premium users gain access to an expanded library of more than 250 guided meditations designed to aid with a variety of themes from stress relief, focus, relationships and work, complete with offline access so you can download your favorite exercises and take them with you even without a wireless signal. A month of The Mindfulness App costs $9.99.
Omvana is an impressive app that not only provides guided meditations, but also serves as a toolkit to customize and build your own personalized exercises. The app provides users with an introduction to meditation techniques as well as a rich library of exercises for a variety of purposes.
The cool bit about this best relaxation app? Omvana lets you add calming music, sound effects, and binaural beats, as well as snippets from famous speeches and your favorite meditation tracks in order to build your own personalized meditation unique to your own style and circumstances.
Smiling Mind is another app worth trying out not least because it’s a totally free project by a non-profit that doesn’t gate content behind premium subscriptions.
Designed to teach mindfulness techniques and deliver guided meditations, Smiling Mind has courses for users of all levels of meditation experience and ages, with check-ins, mood journaling, and stat tracking to help you monitor your journey toward a more aware and mindful perspective.
It’s not quite as well polished as the other top relaxation apps, but at the price of free, Smiling Mind is well worth exploring if you can’t justify the price of other services.