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Wellness

The 10 best meditation apps of 2019

Try these 10 mindfulness apps to reduce stress, sleep better and relax more.

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Whether you prefer deep breathing, guided meditation or to just go at it on your own, meditation can be a huge added benefit to your usual wellness regimen.

Research suggests that meditation can improve the symptoms of stress, anxiety, depression and insomnia. And don't forget the physical benefits: Meditation and deep breathing can also reduce blood pressure, induce quality sleep and improve your heart rate variability, a metric that can tell you how well you handle stress.

For many people, finding the time or energy to commit to a regular practice is difficult. With a little help from the right app, Zen could be as little as three minutes away. Try these apps to improve your meditation practice and relax your mind.

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How I picked these apps

This guide is a list of meditation, mindfulness and breathing apps that claim some of the best ratings on iTunes and Google Play. None fall below four stars, and they all boast gushing reviews from happy customers.

In addition to ratings and favorable reviews, I looked for apps that offer more than just audio meditations. Throughout this list, you'll find options for customizable meditations, background music without words, engaging activities, inspirational push notifications and supplemental podcasts.

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.

Stop, Breathe & Think

Cost: Free or $9.99 a month.

Stop, Breathe & Think calls itself the emotional wellness platform for the "under 25" generation. The app offers meditations designed to help teens and young adults tackle tough emotions like depression and anxiety. In addition to meditations, you can engage in short activities that allow you to check in with yourself, ask questions and truly notice how you're feeling.

With the premium subscription, you get access to more meditations, music and activities.

iTunes rating: 4.8 stars

Android rating: 4.1 stars

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Calm

Cost: Free with in-app purchases ($60 annual subscription).

Calm's wide range of guided meditations are mainly designed to assist people in relaxing, in comparison to some meditations that are designed to inspire deep thought or creativity.

Meditation length varies from 3-minute to 25-minute sessions. If you're keen on developing a daily practice, try Daily Calm, the app's 10-minute program you can practice before the beginning or end of your day.

Calm also offers breathing exercises, sleep stories, and soothing background tracks to help you improve your sleep. The premium subscription includes all that and more, including Calm Body programs, monthly Calm Masterclasses and exclusive music.

iTunes rating: 4.8 stars

Android rating: 4.5 stars

Buddhify

Cost: $4.99 for iPhone, $1.99 for Android. An additional premium membership is available for $30 per year.

Buddhify categorizes all of its guided meditations by activities and emotions. Examples include walking, taking a break from work, going to sleep, stress and empowerment. Buddhify is a bit advanced, so it's better suited to people who have already broken into the world of meditation and want to develop a regular practice.

Buddhify taps into the social nature of humans: The creators of Buddhify developed some meditations that only work if you're with a friend, your partner, a coworker or someone else. Additionally, the app's Give feature offers users the unique ability to send a targeted meditation to a friend. For example, you can send a calming meditation to a friend who's going through a hard time, or send a cheerful one just to brighten someone's day.

iTunes rating: 4.8 stars

Android rating: 4.2 stars

Insight Timer

Cost: Free with in-app purchases ($5 per course).

Insight Timer offers a paid subscription, but if you're new to meditation or only meditation occasionally, chances are you won't need to purchase anything. This app offers 15,000 free guided meditations from more than 1,000 instructors, as well as access to 750-plus soothing music tracks.

This app is unique in that it allows you to design a custom meditation practice suited to your needs and interests. A $5/month subscription gets you premium mindfulness courses, offline listening and other extras.

iTunes rating: 4.9 stars

Android rating: 4.9 stars

Omvana

Cost: Free with in-app purchases.

Omvana offers hundreds of free guided meditations across several categories: sleep, focus, relax, body, productivity and more. Created by the mindfulness experts at MindValley, Omvana can help you find the perfect guided meditation by mood, stress level and other factors.

You can choose from a variety of instructors and program length, and you can tailor the background music to meet your preferences.

iTunes rating: 4.1 stars

Android rating: 4.5 stars 

Simply Being

Cost: $1.99.

Richard and Mary Maddux, creators of the popular Meditation Oasis podcast, developed Simply Being. This app gives you gentle nudges to meditate regularly, encouraging you to practice meditation at different times during the day -- complete with soothing graphics and music.

You can customize the length of meditations, choose to listen to meditations with or without music and nature sounds, or simply stream the audio to help you focus on another task at hand.

iTunes rating: 4.7 stars

Android rating: 4.2 stars

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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.

Developed by Eddie Stern and 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: length of practice and breath ratio.

iTunes rating: 4.6 stars

Android rating: 4.1 stars

10% Happier

Cost: Free 7-day trial, $100 annual subscription.

The app 10% Happier is a mindfulness app for meditation skeptics and fidgety people. The app offers a no-nonsense, relatable way for beginners to dip their toe into meditation, and it's more geared toward performance enhancement than soul-searching. It's great for people with high-pressure jobs and busy lives.

The free trial includes a basic one-week introduction to meditation and mindfulness, but after that, the free offerings become sparse. You can always listen to the free 10% Happier podcast, though.

iTunes rating: 5 stars

Android rating: 4.9 stars

Breathe

Cost: Free with in-app purchases.

I included this 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 squeeze in a quick meditation without ever pulling out your phone.

Using one of three presets -- classic, focus or calm -- you breathe in rhythm with the animation on 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, so it doesn't show up in the iTunes store. Breathe isn't compatible with Android devices.

Headspace

Cost: Free trial, $12.99 per month, $95 per year or $400 lifetime subscription.

A "best 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, Headspace now encompasses guided meditations, animations, articles and videos to assist beginners and experts alike in their meditation practice.

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

iTunes rating: 4.9 stars

Android rating: 4.5 stars