The research on mindfulness apps is very new. One 2018 article stated, “research began in earnest only about four years ago.” At best, the research on mindfulness apps is new and therefore limited. At worst, there have been examples of some apps making, “health claims with no research to back up their programs.”
Because the research on this topic is so new and limited, there is not much current evidence of the effectiveness of mindfulness apps. Some of the different studies have looked at specific apps, compared some mindfulness apps to others, compared using an app to a traditional, in-person mindfulness class and others have questioned if individuals actually followed the recommended use of a specific app.
We cannot recommend an app over any other resource on mindfulness. Our intention is to offer suggestions for individuals to determine what will work best for them. As you preview different apps, please consider the following five questions from the National Institutes of Health.
After asking those five questions, here are some additional details to consider about apps:
- What is the cost? It might be free, have some free features and the option to pay for more, include a one-time cost to download or a monthly fee.
- It is appealing? What do you like about the colors, images, sounds, length of practice times, and the number of options?
- Is it convenient and practical? Will you use this to bolster your mindfulness practice? “It is important for individuals to find the right technique and mindfulness program” to create a habit and benefit from the practice.
There are hundreds of apps related to mindfulness. Although some of the apps below have been part of research studies, the research is still limited. This list is not really a recommendation but more like a starting point to use the five questions and additional considerations for your situation.
A few examples of current, free mindfulness related apps:
- UCLA Mindful App. Although this one is fairly basic, for some people (like me) a limited list of options is a good way to stay focused. https://www.uclahealth.org/marc/ucla-mindful-app
- Insight Meditation Time. There are many guided meditation options on this free app. https://insighttimer.com/
- Smiling mind. A free app from Australia, selections for youth as well as adults. https://www.smilingmind.com.au/
These apps have a selection of free options in addition to the option to pay for more:
- Asks you to personalize with your name and top goals, and gives options for different times of the day. https://breethe.com
- MyLife app will give you a recommended mindful activity after you answer ‘how are you?’ about your physical, mental, and emotional condition. https://my.life/
- Relax Melodies. This app allows you to combine different melodies for use when falling asleep. https://www.relaxmelodies.com/
The following apps offer a limited-time free trial before purchasing:
- Includes a seven-day free trial and multiple features. https://www.calm.com/
- Headspace app. Free 10-day trial and discounted student plan. https://www.headspace.com/headspace-meditation-app
This one-page handout from the OSU Health Plan Health Coaching team summarizes a few additional apps. Remember, “the purpose of practicing mindfulness exercises on a regular basis is not necessarily in order to get better at it. The goal of the practice is to make mindfulness a habit or routine as part of a healthy lifestyle.” If you find an app that helps make mindfulness practice a routine part of your healthy lifestyle, keep it up!