Seven of the best wellness apps to help you live more mindfully
From on-the-run meditations to self-hypnosis, find out how plugging in could help you reconnect
Think mindfulness and meditation have to mean pulling the metaphorical plug on your beloved smartphone, tablet or laptop? Not any more – the latest wellness apps combine immersive technology with a wealth of expert guidance, holding your hand as they guide your mind into a state of calm, focused awareness.
If you’ve never quite managed to get into meditation, coming at it from a new angle could make all the difference – maybe hypnotherapy or mindful toothbrushing might turn out to be your thing? Whether you’re sceptical, sold or curious, a tot, a teen or a time-poor parent, here you’ll find seven of our favourites.
Best for beginners: Headpsace
Whether you’ve never meditated before, or you’ve tried and failed to make it part of your routine, the free (and fuss-free) Headspace Basics course is a great way to get started. To date, Headspace has taught more than 65 million people in 190 countries how to meditate.
Once you’ve nailed the fundamentals (in ten easy-to-digest ten-minute sessions) you can explore mindful workouts, access bite-size micro-meditations on demand, nod off to dream-inducing sleepcasts or expand your meditation practice with a longer course – from Coping with Cravings to Dealing with Distractions.
You’ll also find short meditations designed to help kids focus, cool off, stay positive and sleep tight – with assistant teachers including Sesame Street’s Elmo and Cookie Monster.
Best for sceptics: Ten Percent Happier
Can’t sit still long enough to catch your breath, let alone clear your mind of internal chatter? Think small. Targeted at ‘fidgety’ sceptics and time-poor newcomers to meditation, Ten Percent Happier aims to reduce stress, anxiety and mental clutter while improving sleep, focus and relationships – all without asking you to sit still for 10 minutes.
The app combines straight-talking, bitesize recordings designed to demystify meditation with no-fuss guided sessions to do on your commute, in the shower or even while you brush your teeth. You can choose from more than 500 guided meditations led by a variety of expert teachers, with courses covering everything from parenting to mindful eating.
Best for runners: Nike Run Club
While you might place running and meditation at opposite ends of the wellness spectrum, bring them together and you could be surprised by the benefits – not only can mindful running reduce symptoms of depression, it can also enhance endurance, speed and pain tolerance.
In theory, it should be easy – simply fix your awareness on your breath, or the sensations of your body moving through space – but if you typically rely on tunes, podcasts or audiobooks for motivation, ditching the headphones can be tough. Enter the guided mindful run: the free Nike Run Club app includes a Mindful Running Pack with more than 20 guided runs to choose from, many created in partnership with Headspace. Just the thing to help you keep your head in the game if you like a little company on the run.
Best for families: Smiling Mind
Mindfulness isn’t just for grown-ups – it has huge benefits for children’s social, emotional and psychological development too, enhancing focus, reducing anxiety and improving emotion regulation.
Created with kids in mind and based on the idea that parents looking to nurture calm, mindful children should practise what they preach, Smiling Mind offers a variety of free programmes for families with kids of all ages (from over-threes to teenagers). It dishes up activities and meditations specially designed for bedtimes, meal times, weekends, after school and on the go, making it easy to build mindful pauses and time to connect into your daily lives. If you’re short on time, it can be as quick and easy as stopping what you are doing to be still together and take three big breaths as a family.
Best for nature lovers: Portal
Eager to escape from the concrete jungle? Even with lockdown easing, we're spending more than 90% of our time indoors at the moment, but that doesn’t mean we can’t bring a little bit of the outside in. The benefits of spending time in nature are well established – researchers recommend clocking up 120 minutes a week for optimal health and wellbeing (yes, your local park counts). But if life isn’t quite as wild as you might like, Portal’s immersive technology might just help.
The app provides a ‘portal’ into 44 stunning natural settings, combining cinematic visuals, binaural 3D audio and smart lighting with breathing exercises aimed at calming the nervous system and reducing symptoms of stress and anxiety. Use it as a meditation aid, to sharpen your focus at work, or to help you wind down before bed – you could even combine the sounds of Pacific waves breaking on Hawaiian shores with your favourite audiobook, podcast or guided meditation for ultimate zen.
Best for confidence: Clementine
Forget pocket watches swinging and arms flapping like a chicken: if you struggle with meditation, hypnotherapy can be a great way to dip your toe into mindfulness. Clementine’s bitesize audio recordings and longer courses use elements of hypnotic suggestion, cognitive behavioural therapy and neuro-linguistic programming to reduce stress and anxiety, boost confidence and improve sleep – essentially, you're training your brain to get better at accessing thoughts and feelings of calm.
‘It’s about having tools that can be used in any situation to make yourself feel better, and improving your emotional literacy by helping you become more aware of your own thoughts,’ explains Kim Palmer, who created the app. And the real joy of self-hypnosis? ‘You can zone in and out and it will still work.’
Best for kids: Insight Timer
Boasting the world’s largest free library of guided meditations, Insight Timer offers more than 750 meditations for toddlers, teens and everyone in between. Think body scan relaxations, guided gratitude practices, yoga nidra and even yawning yoga.
Along with guided meditations and visualisations to enhance focus and help kids deal with difficult emotions, you'll also find 60-second affirmation tracks designed to build confidence, three-minute breathing exercises to calm and soothe and relaxing bedtime stories to encourage more restful nights.
Done regularly, just a few minutes of meditation could help your child learn to manage their attention and emotions, build resilience and sleep more soundly, so why not get them started early?
Main image: Getty Images