If you're feeling emotionally frazzled, or going through a tough time that's taking its toll on your stress levels, downloading one of the best mindfulness apps could help you manage or just 'check in' with your mental health. Such apps can also supplement medical therapy for more serious illnesses such as depression and anxiety. While the word 'mindfulness' can make certain people raise a sceptical eyebrow, practising living in the present moment and tuning into thoughts and feelings can help people enjoy life better, according to the NHS.
If you're interested in mindful meditation but don't know where to start, then an app that will offer easy, guided sessions is a lot more accessible and convenient than trying to find time to attend a meditation class – pick up one of the best yoga mats (to avoid a numb bum) and you're all set up to practice at home. Other apps can offer breathing exercises and sleep coaching if you're finding it difficult to nod off. Some even have gaming exercises for those who find it difficult to sit in silent contemplation, or allow you to share your moods with others via a social networking platform, if conversations about mental health make you feel awkward and uncomfortable.
Being able to journal and track your moods is an effective form of mindfulness for many people, especially those feeling isolated, which is what makes this type of app so brilliant. Here are the best mindfulness apps to download right now.
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Launched in 2010, Headspace is one of the most popular meditation apps on the market and for good reason. Ideal for absolute beginners, it divides meditation sessions into easily digestible three, five or 10-minute helpings so it can be done on your morning commute, in your lunch break or in-between feeding the baby at 3am.
Meditations are guided by the app's founder Andy Puddicombe, whose voice is reassuringly down-to-earth and thankfully not too lofty and 'enlightened' – which can be off-putting to some. There are also useful breathing exercises for those looking for quick relaxation, together with physical fitness sessions, which reviewers of the app seem to enjoy. Others were recommended the app by their therapists as a way of supplementing their CBT sessions. Paying subscribers can unlock mood-specific content appertaining to subjects like sleep, anger and stress. More than 60 million members across 190 countries can't be wrong.
- Basic meditations free, £9.99/mo or £54.99/yr for additional content
- Download on the Apple App Store / Google Play
The nifty thing about award-winning mindfulness app MyLife is that it offers personalised meditations, depending on how you're feeling that day. You first 'check in' with your particular emotion, from anxious, sleepless, hopeful or angry. It then serves up a customised mindfulness activity, depending on whether you want to feel de-stressed, energised or just ready to sleep – and can also help manage symptoms of depression.
Even the free 'basic' content has glowing reviews, with users liking how it tracks their mood over a period of time helping them to recognise certain patterns. Exercises range from breathing timers, to suggestions for gentle yoga poses as well as guided meditation sessions. Each activity varies in length, so it can conveniently fit into anyone's schedule, with sessions designed for adults, teenagers and even little ones. It you use it over a long period of time, it will even celebrate your progress with stickers, which many people find motivating!
Recommended by the NHS, this is probably the best mindfulness app for those who are completely new to the game and perhaps a little sceptical of the idea of 'self-care'. This uses gaming-like activities to keep users engaged, enabling them to unlock points for each one they complete. Their 'Wise Words' game aims to help users disengage from negative thought patterns by setting them the task of finding positive words in a grid of letters. (Proving mindfulness doesn't always involve being sat in silent, Zen-like contemplation.)
As well as meditation exercises, the app also offers virtual CBT programmes, ideal for those dealing with anxiety conditions such as agoraphobia or panic disorders but who may find traditional therapy too expensive. Like many similar apps, it contains supportive messages and mood trackers to keep users motivated. Their research showed that sustained use of the app over six weeks reduced mental health symptoms compared to zero usage.
- Download on the Apple App Store
One of the more original apps out there, Moodit was created by a psychiatrist with the aim of promoting mood awareness and normalising negative emotions – it's designed to let others know your mental state if you don't feel comfortable talking directly about it. Once you register your particular mood, it connects you with an online community providing tips (or 'moodhacks') on how to deal with whatever emotion you're feeling.
You can choose to link your account to those of friends and family, or instead connect with other users from around the world. You can track your own mood patterns as well as those of others. Reviewers said that by putting their mood 'out there' and sharing with others, as well as following some of the app's meditation techniques has made a big improvement to their mental state, be it anxiety or depression. For serious mental health issues, it also has an SOS feature, which users can input an emergency contact if they are particularly struggling.
5. Portal - Focus, Sleep, Escape
- 5 'Portals' free, one-off payment of £4.99 for additional content
- Download on the Apple App Store
Portal is the best mindfulness app to try if guided meditation isn't your cup of tea. It allows users to escape stressful, distracting or mundane situations by swiping through 3D soundscapes or 'portals' ranging from Amazonian thunderstorms, to a Hawaiian ocean, to a log fire in Switzerland. It offers a range of programmes, designed to improve focus while working or studying, or relaxation if you need help masking noise in a busy office or a packed train carriage – while their 'sleep' setting is a godsend on a long-haul flight if you're trying to nod off. There's also an alarm function for alternative wake-up calls as opposed to the intrusive bleeping from your phone. You can even mix it with other apps to add an extra dimension to your daily news podcasts. Easy and straightforward to use, one you download you'll wonder how you ever got through your daily commute without it.