Meditation may seem unattainable at first (who has the time, you wonder?) but balancing a packed work-from-home schedule or facing stress at school often requires some element of inner peace for optimal efficacy. Meditation practices help us organize thoughts and calm an otherwise busy brain, even in short guided sessions. And many are shocked to learn that there isn't a right or wrong way to meditate; it could revolve around a chanted mantra, or simply repeating a chosen routine daily, explains Yogmata Keiko Aikawa, a Siddha Master known for her work with the United Nations' Culture of Peace Program.
Establishing these daily habits is easier with mobile apps and guided meditation services that aim to educate new users and inspire self-proclaimed enthusiasts. Rachel Rothman, chief technologist and engineering director in the Good Housekeeping Institute, says the best meditation apps blend both auditory and visual cues (like videos!) to help people practice meditation daily. Experts in GH Labs have tested dozens of wellness apps and services that tout meditation offerings; most of the best options require users to pay a monthly or semi-annual membership fee, unlocking thousands of hours of content. Rothman adds that there are free options to choose from — including a best-tested option on this list — but those who regularly meditate often find a wider, more comprehensive selection via paid apps.
Below, we're sharing the 13 best meditation apps based on our expert reviews, editor's picks and current user ratings. The following is a selection of the best meditation apps and services to download now.
Best meditation apps:
- Best Overall: Calm
- Best Budget Service: Ten Percent Happier
- Best Guided Meditation: Core Meditation
- Best Audio Selection: Headspace
- Best for Beginners: Waking Up
- Best for Sleep: Aura
- Best for Short Sessions: The Mindfulness App
- Best Free Service: Insight Timer
- BIWOC-Focused: Exhale
- LGBTQ+-Focused: Sowl Mate
- Best for Consistency: Unplug
- Best for Mindfulness: Simple Habit
- Best for Mantras: Sattva
One of the most popular apps on the market, Calm has skyrocketed to trending top 10 charts in the health space. Calm is celebrated for its relaxed approach to empowering users to generally ease into meditative practices. Daily guided meditations are easy to complete in schedule-friendly sessions — and targeted programs help address anxiety, stress, or a lack of sleep. Plus, with auditory bedtime stories as well as a suite of relaxing audio, this app can help you establish mental guided imagery, allowing you to use more than one of your senses to mentally remove yourself from your current surroundings.
Cost: $70 annually after a seven-day free trial.
User Review: "I got it solely for the sleep stories and I’m absolutely obsessed. It’s like being a kid again and getting a beautiful story read to you by a soothing voice. While I use the app mainly for sleep stories I’ve used the meditation, background music, and breathing exercise options on the app as well."
Modeled off the New York Times best-selling book by the same name, 10% Happier has skyrocketed to popularity during the pandemic. While its basic version is free, the premium version of the app can actually connect you to a library of more than 500 guided meditation videos that are designed for particular scenarios or moments in your day. Premium users will also be able to connect with experts who can answer questions as you go. But many reviewers say this app's video offerings set it apart from other options, as new series about mindfulness are regularly made available to subscribers.
Cost: Free to start, $100 for an annual subscription with a seven-day free trial.
User Review: "The hardest part for me was getting in the habit of using this daily. Luckily they have so many ways to integrate meditation and mindfulness into your daily life and tips to help you do it."
Many meditation apps on this list may be interactive for users via the phone's display, but Core Meditation takes it a step further by incorporating a 3D handheld device that's linked to the app. Developed by fitness manufacturer Hyperice, Core Meditation employs its separate linked device to help center your attention and educate users on better breathing techniques. The device contains ECG biosensors to monitor your progress as you embark on daily sessions at home. Dan DiClerico, the Good Housekeeping Institute's home improvement and outdoor director, named Core Meditation one of 2022's best wellness services for its wide selection of curated guided meditations — modes are available for better sleep or reducing stress-related anxiety on the spot.
Cost: Free two-week trial; $10 monthly or $70 annually thereafter.
User Review: "Perfect for someone like me who has tried other meditation apps but has never been able to focus or keep at it consistently. With the trainer in my hand and the soft vibrations that sync to the app, I’m instantly more centered and focused."
It's one of the most popular options for people trying to improve their focus, but other users say Headspace can also provide temporary relief from daily stressors as they arise. You'll find plenty of quirky illustrations to help guide you along your meditation period, which could be guided, a mini session, or for designed for kids. Subscribers will also be able to partake in audio sessions designed to get you to sleep soundly through the night. While there's a small free trial, Headspace does eventually require you to fork over a membership fee, so it may be best for a family or someone really invested in daily practice.
Cost: $13 monthly with a seven-day free trial, or $70 annually with a two-week free trial.
User Review: "Amidst my sometimes wild schedule I always try to meditate once per day, and the “daily meditation”, 3-minute version is great."
Are you well into your meditation journey? This service, which skips handheld guided sessions, might be for you. Rothman says tests revealed that users can create a custom session with flexible time periods, from 3 to 30 minutes in length, and select sounds like bells to best fit your needs. A premium subscription unlocks full courses on developing focus if that interests you, but the free version still allows you to integrate your phone's health app to keep an eye on how long you've meditating throughout the week.
Cost: Free, with optional in-app subscriptions of $60 for one year.
User Review: "I appreciate that my meditations are available at any time... It's simple, easy to follow and the people who provide the sessions are some of the most respected in the whole mindfulness movement."
Developed by neuroscientist-turned-philosopher and bestselling author Sam Harris, Waking Up doesn't encourage passive meditation, but provides more structure and intent as you go. Waking Up's 28-day Introductory program, for example, packs in lessons on all the ways you can be more intentional (which is good if you have a hard time with letting your mind simply wander). With 50,000+ positive reviews, many users have already shared that Waking Up feels more like "meditation university" than anything else.
Cost: Free 7-day trial, $99 yearly for Premium access or $139 for a Family plan for multiple users.
User Review: "It can change the way you think and process the world. The guided meditation courses will teach you all you need to know to meditate on your own but the conversation topics are what really blew me away and challenged my thinking the most."
This meditation app has many avenues for helping you self reflect, including guided stories and music options — but it generates them for you based on the mood you're in! Along with tracking how much meditating you're doing, there's an option to track your moods over time, plus set reminders to practice mindfulness throughout the day in order to improve those moods.
Cost: Premium membership costs $12 monthly, $60 annually, or $400 for lifetime use.
User Review: "I love the three-minute meditations for days when I’m really rushed, and I listen to the life coaching or stories back-and-forth on my way to work and throughout the day as a pick me up."
This app is the only leading option that is entirely free to users, and it still manages to maintain a near perfect 5-star rating with more than 200,000 reviews on Apple's App Store. There are over 30,000 pre-recorded guided meditation sessions loaded onto Insight Timer, as well as the ability to refine sessions based on how long you have to practice. Furthermore, it comes with an in-app progress keeper that enables you to chart your progress and earn badges for the time you've spent meditating. The guided sessions are led by well-known yogis and mental experts as well.
Cost: Free, with optional in-app premium purchases for certain features.
User Review: "There are so many options to help beginners get started, from short meditations that can help busy clients dip their toes in the water and build their meditation muscles to guided meditations that really help people learn to calm their minds."
A recent addition to the digital mental health space, EXHALE was founded and designed in 2020 to service BIWOC (Black, Indigenous, Womxn of Color) users and provide targeted services that aren't yet available on other leading platforms. Founder Katara McCarty created EXHALE in the hopes that users will have better trust in services upon downloading the app, which includes offerings directly targeted for issues like microaggressions, grief and childhood trauma, among 15+ other crucial topics.
Users can sign up for free to begin meditations and guided "imagining" sessions, as well as daily affirmation services, that feel more intentional for the app's core issue-directed offerings as opposed to general wellness.
User Review: "This is the app that recognizes the challenges of being a woman of color and fills in that space, where many mainstream strategies that promote wellbeing fail to address the nuances of women of color. This is that app! Love it!"
Loaded with guided meditations, users who identify as LGBTQ+ may opt to take part in courses that are specifically tailored to shared experiences. Topics in these special meditations include breakups, gaslighting or rejection, and the coming out process. In addition to meditations, there's an AI-powered mood tracker and journal you can use in the app.
Cost: $15 monthly or $40 annually.
User Review: "This app allows me to vent and meditate, and the coming out stories are amazing. Now I feel confident enough to come out to more of my family, which is really affecting my mental health in a good way."
Some meditation apps are extensions of physical studios out in the world — like this one, which comes from Los Angeles-based Unplug Meditation Studio. It offers more than 700 meditation videos that vary in length; some are one minute while others are a full hour. You can customize your session by your mood, its time range, or your favorite teacher once you get going. All of the sessions are filmed live in the studio, so this is a great option if you feel like you practice best in a class setting with an instructor. Plus, the in-app progress options help you track just how far you've come since signing up for a membership.
Cost: After a 1-week free trial, $8 per month or $60 per year.
User Review: "I’ve been using this app for over a month and it’s really helped me build a steady practice through keeping me accountable by keeping [usage] stats! I also love the journal aspect of it…"
If you feel like you don't have any time to actually practice meditation, Simple Habit's developers created their service with you in mind. The app is focused on daily stress relief, with five-minute sessions at the top of the list as well as sessions that are developed for traveling, like a morning commute program. You'll find motivational guides and bedtime stories as well.
Cost: $11.99 a month or $96 a year.
User Review: "It’s made meditation simpler for me. The instructors’ voices are soothing and visually I like the organization and simplicity of the app."
If you're someone who enjoys auditory or vocal meditation, the Vedic-style meditation featured in these guided sessions — plenty of mantras and chants — will appeal to you. Sessions range between 6 minutes up to 1 hour and beyond, and there are sessions developed to be straightforward while you work on extending your sessions in length. Additionally, there are in-app playlists and audio collections that can help make your sessions that much better.
Cost: $12 monthly or $49 annually; $199 for lifetime usage.
User Review: "For me, the mantra techniques help strengthen my breath and get me to a meditative state rather than waiting for vague directions as my mind drifts. "