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The Best Meditation Apps for Reducing Stress in 2024

Our top picks of the best meditation apps to help you relax, feel less anxious and sleep better, whether you have half an hour or 2 minutes.

amandacapritto
amandacapritto
Amanda Capritto
9 min read
Shot of a young woman meditating at home.
Te Yapr/Getty Images

It's difficult to make and maintain a mindfulness regimen. Meditation apps are one of the easiest and most accessible ways to do it. You don't have to venture too much outside your comfort zone, and at the same time, it helps you stick to a routine. Whether you prefer guided meditation, deep breathing exercises, mindfulness exercises or calming sleep stories, mindfulness meditation can be a huge added benefit to your daily wellness regimen.

Research suggests that meditation can potentially reduce  stress levels, depression, anxiety and insomnia. It also can have some physical benefits. Mindful meditation and deep breathing can reduce blood pressure and improve your heart rate variability, a metric that can tell you how well you handle stress. Many studies show sleep meditation can calm your mind and help you get a more quality night's sleep. All in all, using a meditation app can get you started on the path to wellness. These are the apps that will help you get there.

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For many people, finding the time or energy to commit to a regular practice is difficult, and though in-person visits to a meditation studio for meditation programs and guided sessions are a great option for some, for others they may not be a practical approach to consistent meditation. With a little help from good meditation apps, zen could be as little as 3 minutes away. Here are the best meditation app options of 2024 to improve your mindfulness practice and relax your mind.

Read more about mental health:

1.  FitMind

Cost: One-week free trial, $12 per month, $90 per year

Nicknamed "CrossFit for the Mind," FitMind was developed by Liam McClintock after meditation helped him get off of medications and therapy for OCD and ADHD. McClintock believes that "mental fitness," a world in which we care for and train our minds, is the next major health revolution -- and it'd be a good thing if he was right

FitMind helps you master meditation via a 30-day mental fitness meditation exercise challenge complete with charts and graphs so you can visualize your progress toward mindfulness. This mindful health iOs or Android app has daily challenges and other features typical of a meditation app, but what I really love about FitMind is that this mindfulness meditation app offers point-blank scientific explanations about why the meditations work: If you're a meditation skeptic, FitMind might challenge your beliefs (in a good way). 

Read more: 7 Important Signs You Have Burnout, and How to Fix It

2. Unplug Meditation

Cost: One-week free trial, $13 per month, $60 per year

Born after the immersive Unplug Meditation Studio in Los Angeles became a massive hit, the Unplug Meditation app offers more than 700 mindfulness and meditation videos that range from 1-minute short meditations to guided sessions that are nearly an hour. You can filter meditations by mood, outcome, length or meditation teacher. The Unplug app has a unique dashboard on which you can view your total days, hours, minutes and seconds spent meditating, as well as set goals and write in a gratitude journal.

Unlike some guided meditation app options, all of the sessions on the Unplug app are filmed at the Los Angeles studio, so it really feels like you're in an immersive class with an instructor. This app is great for people who need a lot of structure when it comes to meditation and enjoy visuals in addition to audio. If you prefer to meditate on your own, however, you can choose from Unplug's ambient sounds, including nature sounds and set a meditation timer. 

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3. Meditation Studio with Muse

Cost: $8 per month, $18 per quarter, $50 per year

There's meditation, and then there's electroencephalogram (EEG) guided meditation. Muse is a high-tech headband that connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth and measures your brainwave activity, breathing rate and pulse. Its seven sensors collect data and translate it into easily comprehensible stats about your mental health. 

With the Muse headband and app, you can learn how your brain and body respond to particular meditation tracks, as well as how seemingly simple things -- like your posture -- affect the quality of your meditation sessions. Muse also analyzes your body metrics (pulse, breathing rate, and brainwave activity) and turns them into sounds that train your brain to focus and relax.  

Muse partnered with the Meditation Studio app to bring guided meditation sessions from expert meditation teachers, with activity-based meditation exercise sessions such as "falling asleep" and "morning intentions." Meditation studio is also compatible with Alexa. You don't need the wearable Muse headband to have a great experience with Meditation Studio (they can be used separately), but it certainly offers a unique element for those who are interested in getting the absolute most out of their daily meditation sessions. 

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4. Apollo Neuro

Cost: The app is free; Apollo wearable costs $349

Apollo Neuro is different in that it isn't intended solely as a meditation app, and you're not meant to use Apollo while doing nothing. Instead, Apollo is a wearable experience that looks to offset symptoms of stress and anxiety and restore your body to equilibrium. Developed by physicians and neuroscientists at the University of Pittsburgh, this mindfulness-based stress reduction app works by sending gentle waves of vibration to your body through your sense of touch, quickly improving your heart rate variability and signaling safety.

You wear Apollo on your wrist or ankle. From the app, choose the outcome you need at that moment -- energy, focus, mindfulness, sleep, relaxation, socialness, or recovery -- and set a timer for up to 30 minutes. Apollo will vibrate with frequencies that help your body achieve that outcome. You can choose to continue doing whatever you're doing or take a moment to focus on the vibrations. 

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5. Calm

Cost: $15 per month, $70 per year, $400 lifetime subscription

Calm app's wide range of guided meditations is mainly designed to assist people in relaxing (or calming down) in comparison to some other meditation apps that are designed to inspire deep thought or creativity.

Meditation length varies from 3- to 25-minute sessions. If you're keen on developing a daily meditation practice, try Daily Calm, the app's 10-minute program you can practice before the beginning or end of your day. Calm has a knack for creating interesting partnerships with celebrities -- for example, the newly released "Train Your Mind" series focuses on mental fitness with LeBron James.

Calm also offers breathing exercises, bedtime story options and soothing background tracks to help you get a good night's sleep. The premium subscription includes all that and more, including Calm Body programs, monthly Calm Masterclasses and exclusive music. This is perhaps one of the best meditation apps for a newcomer looking to relax, reduce stress levels and get better sleep.

6. Headspace

Cost: Free trial, $13 per month, $70 for an annual plan or $100 for an annual family plan

A "best guided meditation apps" list wouldn't be complete without Headspace, the mindfulness app developed by sports scientist-turned-Buddhist monk Andy Puddicombe. Originally an events company, now Headspace offers guided meditations, animations, articles and videos to assist beginners and experts alike in their meditation practice and has become one of the best known and most popular meditation apps in the category.

You can test out Headspace with the free Basics course, which offers 10 meditation sessions to teach you the foundations of meditation and get you in a mindful rhythm. You can also try a free meditation session from many of the app's collections of guided meditations.

Oh, and if you're a runner, check out the guided runs with Andy Puddicombe on Nike Run Club -- if your run is the only time to fit in your meditation, these guided tracks are a good way to do it.

Read more: Nike Run Club, Strava, Daily Burn: The 7 Best Running Apps

7. Simple Habit

Cost: $12 a month or $96 a year.

Burnout is real -- seriously, the World Health Organization designated burnout an official medical diagnosis in May 2019. The meditations on Simple Habit focus on daily stress relief, and the developers know you're busy, so they make it as easy as taking 5 minutes for meditation time. In fact, the app even offers a special playlist just for burnout symptoms, with topics like "stay calm with a busy schedule" and "relieving morning anxiety." There's even a guided meditation program just for commuting.

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8. The Breathing App

Cost: Free.

As you might gather from its name, The Breathing App focuses just on breathing and the physiological benefits you get from slowing your breath down -- increased pulmonary function, decreased stress and anxiety, lower blood pressure and improved emotional balance, just to name a few -- all of which are beneficial for overall health and sleep patterns.

Developed by Eddie Stern and author Deepak Chopra, The Breathing App is simple and perfect for those who want the benefits of mindfulness without delving too deep into spirituality. You can only modify two settings for the meditation program: length of practice and breath ratio.

9. Declutter the Mind

Cost: Free version, $8 per month, $80 per year, $220 lifetime subscription for Plus

Declutter the Mind is a no-frills meditation app that focuses on one simple thing: Pushing out unnecessary, chattery thoughts. Most people are familiar with the feeling of bouncing around from one thought to another, not really able to focus on a single task at hand or concentrate on one important thought in the present moment. 

Declutter the Mind aims to help you learn how to draw yourself back into that one thing you're supposed to be focusing on and training your brain to quit all that jumping around. You can search guided meditations by topics, of which there are many: stress, anxiety, body scan, depression, sleep, relaxation, concentration, clarity and cravings, to name a few. 

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10. Soundly

Cost: $3 a week, $8 a month, or $60 a year

First there was functional fitness; now there's "functional music." Soundly helps you sleep, focus and relax with soundtracks that go beyond just a good jam. These tracks are designed purposefully with ambient noise, soothing narrators and soundwaves scientifically proven to help calm brain activity. 

This functional music concept isn't entirely new -- people have been using music to help them focus and crush workouts for pretty much forever -- but Soundly newly applies it to meditation. You can discover mixes based on function, save your favorite mixes, create playlists with multiple tracks, speed or slow the narrator's words, and much more within the app. 

11. Mindwell

Cost: $10 per month or $50 per year

Mindwell blends isochronic tones, solfeggio frequencies and spoken words to induce creativity and focus, which differs from the main goal of many other meditation apps that aim to promote relaxation.

Mindwell offers meditations to help you recover from stressful or upsetting moments that occur throughout the day. For example, say you experienced a client meeting at work that didn't go well -- you could use a Mindwell meditation specifically designed to dampen negative emotions and help you move forward with your day.

The app also offers a feature called MoodShift, which maps your mood over time and allows you to track your mood and meditation progress.

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Bonus: Breathe

Cost: Free with in-app purchases.

I included this breathing and meditation app because it's even more convenient than iPhone or Android apps for busy on-the-go folks. Breathe is the mindfulness app for Apple Watch that allows you to squeeze in short meditations without ever pulling out your phone.

Using one of three presets -- classic, focus or calm -- you breathe in rhythm with the animation on the screen. If you answer a call or text or move around too much during the exercise, your watch won't give you credit for that session.

Breathe is a native app on the Apple Watch Series 4, Series 5 and the latest Series 9 so it doesn't show up in the iTunes store. Breathe isn't compatible with Android devices.

How I picked these apps

This guide to the best meditation app picks is a list of meditation, mindfulness and breathing exercise apps that claim some of the best ratings on the App Store and Google Play. 

In addition to ratings and favorable reviews, I looked for apps for Android and iPhone that offer more than just audio meditation. Throughout this list, you'll find options for customizable meditations, background music without words, engaging activities, inspirational push notifications and supplemental meditation or relaxation podcasts. Some apps go hand-in-hand with immersive experiences, such as a vibrating anklet or multi-sensor headband that translates body metrics (like your pulse) into sounds.

Lastly, nearly every app on this list was developed by a person or company with strong ties to meditation and mindfulness -- not just someone who hopped on the meditation train to make a few bucks, but rather touts formal training or developed their app after a personal revelation tied to meditation and mindfulness.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.