Meditation is an excellent approach to refocus and center yourself, but with today’s hurried and distracting lifestyle, it can be particularly challenging.
Enter meditation apps, which offer technology-based guidance that can help make meditation easier and convenient, whether you’re a first-time meditator or a seasoned guru.
Meditating once or twice is better than nothing, but choosing the best meditation app for you lifestyle will ultimately determine whether or not the habit sticks. Studies show that regular meditation can help not only with anxiety and depression, but can also help to lower high blood pressure and minimize bowel disorders such as IBS. When testing out guided mediation apps, there are several things to…meditate upon.
While there are dozens of meditation apps available, we eliminated some guesswork by narrowing it down to just the top four: Calm vs Headspace vs Breethe vs Aura. This article will review the features, content options, and pricing for each — ultimately to help you select the ideal long-term fit for your goals. Before we dive into the head-to-head comparison, here’s more background on how mediations apps work to reduce stress in general.
How do mediation apps work?
There’s a ton of research showing how meditation lowers stress, improves focus, and helps deepen sleep. With so many meditation apps out there, and four of them reviewed here, it’s worth asking… how well do they actually work?
Well, as it turns out, pretty darn well. A 2019 study of 153 participants found that two weeks of mindfulness training using a software-based meditation app reduced loneliness and boosted social contact compared to those in a control group.
And according to a 2018 study, a single session can reduce mind-wandering by 22%. Another study from 2017 found that after 4 weeks of using Headspace, individuals had a significant boost in cognitive attention.
Most meditation apps allow you to choose between guided and unguided sessions. If you are new to the practice, guided meditation is designed to help you get started, offering step-by-step coaching. This is really nice in the beginning, while unguided meditations offer more discretion to customize your journey to your own requirements. Meditations usually last anywhere from 3 to 30 minutes, and are recommended once or twice a day. Longer meditation sessions may leave you tired; therefore, shorter meditation sessions are suitable for beginners. Starting with 5 minutes and gradually working to increase your endurance is ideal.
While meditation apps offer proven, positive benefits for most users — regardless how centered you already are — they may not be sufficient for those suffering from chronic depression, anxiety, PTSD, or OCD. More hands-on treatments such as prescription medication, counseling, and even psychedelic therapy may work better for more extreme cases. If you’re curious to learn more about these, check out our review of online psychedelic therapy proiders like Mindbloom, Field Trip Health, and MindMed, or read our roundup of the top three virtual therapy apps: Betterhelp, Regain, and Talkspace.
Comparing apps for meditation: Calm vs Headspace vs Breethe vs Aura
Before we get into the in-depth reviews of each app, let’s see how they compare in broad strokes.
Calm vs Headspace vs Breethe vs Aura
|Features||Guided and unguided meditations, short sessions available, and relaxation exercises||Guided meditations, soothing music, and ambient sounds as well as mindfulness body exercises, and short bedtime stories.||Flexible, simple meditation program designed to build up over time with a variety of sessions per pack, breathing techniques, mindfulness lessons||Breathing exercises, gratitude exercises, and mood patterns|
14-day free trial
Non-paying option: 90 free meditations with the free version
|7-day free trial, access to the tracks ranging from 10-15 minutes||
7-day free trial if you intend to purchase the monthly subscription
7-day free trial
Non-paying option: one 3-minute meditation per day for free
|Androind and iOS compatible?||✅||✅||✅||✅|
|iOS App Store Rating||4.7 Stars
from 49K Ratings
from 1.4M Ratings
from 859K Ratings
from 26K Ratings
Review of Calm for meditation
What if you could take a journey through time and space without ever leaving home? That’s the idea behind Calm, an award-winning mindfulness app that has been downloaded more than 100 million times worldwide. Michael Acton Smith and Alex Tew created it in 2012, and their first foray into this new business was a huge success!
Calm is a meditation app that goes above and beyond. It includes hundreds of relaxing exercises, helpful breathing techniques, and even sleep stories narrated by celebrities such as Matthew McConaughey and Idris Elba (who doesn’t like a bedtime story), in addition to guided meditations! Moreover, they are constantly adding new content, so you will never become bored with what is already on your device. Because of their rapid loading rates, the interface is relatively straightforward to browse, making utilizing the service a delight.
Calm is ideal for individuals who want to be guided through even the most delicate activities, like falling asleep, and who want to be reminded of different practices they may not have considered for living a healthy and happy life.
Calm includes guided meditations, relaxing music, ambient sounds, and mindfulness exercises.
How does the Calm app work?
After opening the app, the first thing you see is a soothing blue screen that prompts you to “breathe deeply.” There are clear icon options directing you to their “Meditate,” “Sleep,” and “Music” sections along a horizontal sidebar at the bottom.
Scroll down on the homepage, and you’ll find a slew of suggestions, including the “Daily Calm” meditation narrated by the app’s head of mindfulness, Tamara Levitt.
Then, a pop-up menu prompts you to select what brought you to the app in order for it to tailor recommendations based on your objectives. Do you want to increase your happiness or decrease your stress? Do you want to sleep better or feel less anxious? All of the aforementioned?
The meditation section is divided into sections such as Stress, Focus, Anxiety, and Relationships. Calm offers both guided and unguided meditations, with sessions ranging from 3 to 30 minutes in length. Calm focuses on Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction rather than religious or spiritual themes. This program teaches people how to use their natural resources to cope with stress and pain.
What type of content is available on the Calm app?
Meditation: Calm is best known for their meditations, which are without a doubt the app’s most popular feature. Anxiety, stress, emotions, focus, relationships, and other topics are covered in the meditations. Each category provides meditation packs or singles on a specific theme. In the anxiety section, for example, you’ll find sessions such as “Panic SOS,” “Calming Flight Anxiety,” and “Letting Go into Sleep.”
Calm’s meditations, which are typically 10-15 minutes long, begin by helping you settle and quiet your mind before guiding you to focus on anything specific. Calm’s meditations stand out from the crowd for one major reason. Their ability to combine education and practice is unparalleled. Calm explains what you’re doing and why, and gives you instructions to practice both inside and outside of the app. There is also a less guidance meditation category which provides less instruction, prompting you to sit in quiet more intentionally.
Stories: Have you ever wished for someone to tuck you in and give you a bedtime story? Then you’re in luck because Calm’s Sleep Stories feature will accomplish exactly that. A narrator tells a bedtime narrative, allowing you to drift off to sleep with ease. Fiction and fairy tales, as well as nonfiction and classics, are all covered in the stories. You’ll also recognize some familiar voices, such as Matthew McConaughey, Lucy Liu, Lavar Burton, and Nick Offerman.
Masterclass: Calm’s masterclasses are short workshops led by mindfulness specialists and respected professionals such as Shawn Achor, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Ryan Holiday.
This section is for you if you want to learn more about mindfulness, happiness, gratitude, or habit building. These workshops, taught by specialists in the field, are all about education and enhancing your understanding of a variety of psychological topics. Classes cover topics such as improving sleep, happiness, breaking bad habits, conscious parenting, and mindful eating.
Calm Kids: Children can learn to relax with Thomas the Tank Engine or fall asleep listening to famous stories such as “Peter Pan” or “The Velveteen Rabbit.”
The app teaches you how to translate mindfulness for your child through meditations, sleep stories, lullabies, and soundscapes. The meditations are divided into age groups, with the youngest being three years old.
Calm Body: So often, when we think of mindfulness, we simply think about our minds, ignoring our bodies. However, mental and physical health, on the other hand, are inextricably linked.
There are eight Calm Body sessions available on the app. Each session consists of a 10-minute mindfulness-based activity. You have the following options:
- Morning Wake Up
- Afternoon Reset
- Mindful Warm Up
- Mindful Cool Down
- Evening Wind Down
- Morning Stretch
- Evening Stretch
- Back Care
How much does the Calm app subscription cost?
Calm does provide a free version of their app, but it isn’t particularly good. The 7-day free trial includes access to over 100 guided meditations, the whole sleep stories library, special musical tracks for sleep and relaxation, and expert-led masterclasses. They range approximately 10–15 minutes, but that’s all there is to it.
After the free trial period expires, access to the entire library will cost $14.99 per month or $69.99 per year. If you pay in full for the year, it works out to $5.83 per month, which is less expensive than other meditation applications on the market.
Calm offers a 15% discount for groups of five or more. Calm also has a lifetime membership option for $399.99.
Headspace meditation app review
Headspace has been around for over a decade and is arguably the most popular meditation app ever. It’s designed to help people focus on being present by mastering basic breathing techniques. You can select from a range of session packs based on goals like focus, calm, happiness, and health. Each pack pack has roughly ten sessions, and is designed to help you develop over time in areas such as public speaking, relationships, and sleep habits. The app is ideal for anyone who values flexibility and wants to concentrate on using meditation to improve more than one aspect of their mental health.
Headspace is the only app that offers meditation sessions tailored to specific issues rather than general wellbeing. You can choose broad topics like sleep or happiness, or you can select a program based on your own objective, which you will work towards over time, usually 10-30 minutes per session.
Having used the app quite a bit, I do appreciate having more targeted sessions within my meditation practice. This helps me focus on individual outcomes — better sleep, better focus at work, etc. — and I try to measure my progress in those lanes specifically. Whether it’s placebo or legitimately rewiring of my neurons, I don’t particularly care. The Headpsace meditation app has been really calming and centering, helping me create some mental space between external stimuli and my own internal reactions to them.
How does Headspace work?
After you sign up, you’re directed to the homepage, where you’re greeted by “Wake Up,” a brief series of videos that explain ideas like letting go or moving away from mental pressures (often with a celebrity in the video).
The bottom menu bar offers four categories that you can switch between Meditate, Sleep, Move, and Focus.
A session timer, email reminders, progress tracking, program training, and an app community are all basic mindfulness mobile app features of Headspace. High-quality, brief video infographics supplement the guided meditation tracks. The interface is basic, adaptable, and straightforward to use on a computer or mobile device.
What content does the Headspace app offer?
Meditation: Headspace has a large and diverse library of meditations spanning from work stress to anxiety and sessions focused on coping with specific emotions such as loneliness and anger.
Many meditations are customizable. You usually have the option of hearing Puddicombe, the app’s co-founder, or a female narrator. You can also specify the duration of the session, which can range from 3 to 20 minutes. The app keeps track of how long you’ve meditated and sends you an update on your “minutes meditated” after each session.
Headspace also keeps track of how many days you meditate in a row and then sends you a nice quotation about mindfulness.
Sleep: Headspace’s sleep content is a wonderful benefit that offers enough diversity for a casual user. It contains a few guided sessions to help you relax before falling asleep, as well as sleepcasts, which are audio tours of certain (sometimes made-up) locations that span 45 to 55 minutes.
Sleepcasts begin with a “warm-up,” such as a brief visualization or breathing exercise. Following that, you will hear a complete description of an imaginary area that you will visit in your mind, accompanied by white noise to fit the setting. There’s also a sleep radio with over 8 hours of rain, ocean, or music sounds to assist you sleep.
If you’re only trying to improve your sleep and put an end to your insomniac spell, read our review of Dodow’s sleep device, which helps people fall asleep in under 8 minutes.
Move: In addition to the expected meditation content, Headspace provides a Move section that has several weeks’ worth of workout sessions ranging from “mindful cardio” to “rest day meditations.” Olympians Kim Glass and Leon Taylor guide you through the sessions and encourage you to focus on your breathing.
There is no emphasis on intensity in any of the classes. Instead, the lessons are divided into modules, such as reframing anxiety through yoga or practicing mindfulness while performing cardio.
Headspace Kids: Headspace also offers a variety of courses for children to introduce them to meditation at a young age. There are short teachings on the significance of compassion and giving and easy breathing exercises, and calming mindful activities.
There are also lessons on mindfulness that help kids better navigate today’s world. Teenagers in particular must juggle a bewildering number of balls, including school, social gatherings, extracurricular activities, and college prep. Meditation apps can help relieve anxiety, but if you believe your child or adolescent requires therapy, consider these top online teen therapy platforms.
What other features does Headspace offer?
The Focus tab in Headspace provides selected music and meditation tracks to help you focus on the task at hand.
Some playlists include ambient music and lo-fi beats, while others include soundscapes and 3D recordings from around the world.
There are also themed playlists produced by Grammy Award winners, such as John Legend’s favorite jazz hits.
You can also add friends and relatives from your contact list as buddies to see how long your friends have been meditating and send them encouraging notes such as “keep it up!” or “thinking of you!” This tool is a great way to hold one another accountable.
And lastly, you are invited to check in with the app’s Journey component once a month. This question-led journaling system allows you to track your stress month over month.
How much does Headspace cost?
Headspace Plus memberships cost $12.99 per month or $69.99 per year. Students only pay $9.99 per year if you qualify. A family plan also allows access to six accounts for just $99.99 per year.
You can start a free trial for access to one of three “Basics” foundation courses. Each course includes ten free sessions. Thus you can get a good feel for the app’s guided meditation at no cost, but must become a paying subscriber to access the course’s second and third series.
Headspace’s free trial also includes three sessions of:
- Today’s Meditation
- Stress Release
- Reframing Anxiety workouts in the Move section
- Rainy day Antiques Sleepcast
We love that Headspace gives back by affording FREE memberships to all K-12 teachers, school administrators, and support workers in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia. Very thoughtful of them during the pandemic.
Breethe meditation app review
Breethe helps users embrace meditation and adopt it into their daily lives by emphasizing brief sessions no longer than 5 minutes. These guide you throughout your day, beginning the moment you wake up in the morning and ending when you go to bed. For beginners, the “learn to meditate” guide is an inviting starting point.
Themes covered in Breethe’s course include:
- pain management
- knowing your mission as an individual in this world
- finding love, and finally…
- establishing routines so that everything from going through everyday duties at work / school becomes easier than ever before.
When you download the Breethe app, it will prompt you to set goals and ask you a few simple questions. These inputs influence how the app configures your personalized daily meditation regimen. Breethe leverages an extensive library of meditation content to personalize your meditation journey beyond just learning how to get started. There are programs to help you get more sleep, perform better at work, reduce stress and anxiety, lose weight, and more.
What kind of content does Breethe offer?
Breethe basically combines several meditation apps into one. Each of its key features takes a unique approach to healthy living.
“Today” This feature is intended to help you develop a daily meditation and mindfulness routine. This is ideal for beginners who are learning how to create a routine. It divides your day into segments, each with its own set of information based on the objectives you set previously. It is totally customizable, so you may configure each one at the best time of day for you.
“Start your day” offers five to twenty-minute guided meditations to help you start your day mindfully.
“Enrich Your Ride” is ideal for learning when commuting in the morning. It includes wellness seminars, masterclasses, and even peaceful music to help you relax in the morning.
“Focus at Work” provides white noise to block out distracting noises. You can also listen to music or practice short meditations.
“Unwind after Work” offers an hour of lengthier, more in-depth meditations and breathing exercises, followed by “Elevate Your Evening.”
“Fall Asleep” provides sleep meditations, a story, music, and nature sounds daily.
It might be challenging to maintain a healthy mindset and a work-life balance. Check out our review of the top online mental health platforms for employees.
Therapy: Simply press “Add Tracks to My Life Kit,” and Breethe will ask you, “What’s going on in your life?” This is where Breethe becomes really precise. For example, if you are going through a terrible time, select topics like unemployment, loss, sorrow, illness, divorce or breakup. Your meditation session will then help you address your most pressing anxiety, problem, or ailment.
Goals: Breethe’s Goals feature is intended to aid in long-term self-improvement. Tracks are listed here based on the personal information you already provided. The categories are all-inclusive, and you can always add new ones or remove mindfulness goals that you no longer believe you need to address.
How much does the Breethe app cost?
Breethe is a freemium app, meaning it’s 100% free to use. Breethe offers a 14-day free trial before you decide to purchase their paid subscription. In the trial or free edition, the app asks for your preferences for the free meditation classes that are accessible to you. If you decide not to subscribe after 14 days, you may continue to access their 90 free meditations on their free version, which will never expire.
The free version of Breethe provides a good amount for those looking to explore, but it’s worth investing in the app as well. You’ll find longer meditations and more content for about the same price point as Headspace.
With the premium version of Breethe, you can access all of the app’s content. Mindfulness coach Lynne Goldberg and personal growth professionals will give motivating presentations and sessions. You will also receive complete access to all of the courses offered on the app, such as guided meditation, relationship harmony, meditation for insomnia, meditation for success, and many others.
The costs are as follows:
- Monthly Membership: $12.99
- Yearly Membership: $89.99
- 2 Year + Free Lifetime Upgrade: $149.99
- Lifetime Membership: $399.99
Aura Health meditation app review
Aura uses artificial intelligence (AI) to give individuals tailored guidance during their zen-based practices. AI audio guides help you meditate in a way that is enjoyable and works specifically for your needs – simply open the program while listening through headphones as soothing music and flowing sounds guide you on your way to serenity. Sessions last anywhere between 3 to 10 minutes, providing you with plenty of options depending on what type of stressors you might face during the day or night; whether it’s being stuck behind traffic or out over lunch break–Aura has got you covered.
Aura is the perfect app to use when you need a break from your hectic life. Aside from meditations, the app provides inspirational stories and regular reminders to help you be a more attentive breather in an overstimulated world! With over 16k reviews on iTunes, virtually all of which are five stars, it’s no surprise that Aura has been selected “Best Of 2017” by Apple users everywhere.
Aura also offers ways to learn about mood patterns, making this a genuinely unique experience worth checking out.
How does the Aura app work?
- And more
The app also includes some of the most well-known names in mindfulness exercises, such as life coaches, therapists, and storytellers. Aura connects you with more than 50 psychology, life counseling, and meditation professionals. You can also follow your favorite mindful health coaches, making Aura extremely adaptable to your needs.
Based on your feedback, Aura also learns what types of meditation sessions work best for you. The featured content adapts to your preferences and mental health and wellness demands over time. This tool assists you in developing daily mindfulness practice without feeling overwhelmed.
Overview of Aura’s meditation content
Personalized meditations: You will be prompted to review your experience each time you use the program. This data enables the Aura app to learn what you prefer and provide you with suggestions that become more relevant and tailored over time. The developers of Aura say that their software employs the most powerful personalization engine and is based on the most recent advances in the field of machine learning.
Aura’s goal is to provide meditations and coaching sessions for everyone, from the novice who is still learning how to quiet their mind to the more seasoned user. Aura features one of the world’s most comprehensive and diversified libraries of mediation content, with thousands of various guided meditations, unguided meditations, stories, and life counseling sessions.
Life Coaching: Aura provides life coaching sessions on a variety of themes, including entrepreneurship, learning a new skill, and launching a new profession. These recordings are intended to motivate, instill self-confidence, and maximize the potential of the lister.
Sleep: Many of us struggle to unwind at night after a stressful day and end up tossing and turning all night. The Story function will help you relax by telling you a soothing story. There are also various calming meditations and soundscapes under the Sleep section.
What does Aura offer beyond meditation?
Mood Tracking: It enables you to monitor, follow, and learn about your mood patterns and can help you explain why you are feeling the way you are.
Reflections on Gratitude: It acts as a gratitude diary in which you can identify and record things you are grateful for each day. You might think of this as an excellent method to check-in with yourself and allow yourself to address how you’re feeling head-on. For example, if you’ve had a fantastic day, using Aura’s diary feature will allow you to return to your reflection on a less-than-perfect day.
Integration with Apple Health: Aura’s Mindful Minutes feature allows iOS users to save meditations and sleep sessions to Apple Health.
How much does the Aura subscription cost?
Aura is available for download and use at no cost. However, the app’s full functionality is only available to paying Premium subscribers. Non-paying users have access to one 3-minute meditation per day. Aura does provide a free 7-day Premium Membership trial for individuals who want to try it out before committing.
- Monthly Premium Membership – $11.99
- $59.99 per year or $4.99 each month (billed once, annually)
- Lifetime – $399
Aura’s premium features include the ability to meditate, listen to music, and participate in life coaching sessions, among other things. Choose from three, seven, or more than ten minutes of guided meditation. You can also download and store meditations to listen to them offline whenever you want.
Calm vs Headspace vs Breethe vs Aura: What are customers saying?
Reviews of Calm
Many people praise the guided meditations and the user-friendly layout of Calm’s app, but some negative comments are also to consider. Most of them have been about advertisements. Other more specific observations include a limited variety of narration voices.
Reviews of Headspace
This app has received a lot of favorable feedback, thanks to its simple design, a wide variety of sounds, and goal-setting programs. Headspace makes it easy to meditate anywhere, at any time. It’s also an excellent choice for inexperienced meditators seeking a more guided experience. This program not only offers users thousands of hours of content to explore, it also helps us grow compassion over time, which is one of the key reasons Headspace has become so enormously popular.
Reviews of Breethe
Breethe users adore the app’s content. Some complain that it can be buggy, which is terrible for an app with so much amazing information. Upgrades to the app are also relatively pricey, which is a turnoff for individuals who have already invested in Headspace or Calm. On the other hand, others applaud Breethe’s customer service for being understanding and generous.
Reviews of Aura for meditation
The vast majority of Aura users adore the app and find it helpful to focus their minds and learn how to be more attentive breathers in today’s hectic environment. Some users believe the in-app purchases are a touch pricey, but most Aura customers don’t seem to mind. Some users have also expressed a desire for longer meditation sessions in future app updates.
Users come from all around the world and have a variety of viewpoints! Most users will find at least a few guided meditations across these applications that are “like a warm hug for your mind,” can be returned to day after day, and will be good for their health in the long run. Hopefully, this has cleared up some misconceptions and provided you with a good understanding of what each app is all about!
The Verdict: Which meditation app is best for you?
Learning to meditate is similar to learning to ride a bike. It’s not easy at first, but it’s tremendously empowering once you get the hang of it. When it comes to meditation apps, you’ll want to find one that can help remove distractions so that your attention can be fully focused on one thing: breathing and how you feel in the moment.
After reviewing all four meditation apps, it’s clear that Calm and Headspace are best-in-class. Their apps offer users a one-stop-shop for learning how to reduce worry and stress, sleep better, and check-in with your emotions. These two apps even offer yoga and cardio workouts designed to work in tandem with your mindfulness practice, as well as a kids section to underline the importance of doing mindfulness exercises as a family. It suffices to say, both Headspace and Calm’s free trials are worth checking out.
We think seasoned meditation practitioners will prefer Headspace over Calm because of how well it supports untimed sessions. I can also imagine more advanced users enjoying traveling through fictitious countries on Headspace during Sleepcast. To be clear, however, both apps are extremely friendly and approachable for newcomers, with courses such as “How to Meditate” that get you quickly acquainted with the discipline.
Given the popularity of Calm and Headspace, should you even try Breethe or Aura? Price isn’t much of a differentiating factor since all four apps only cost between $12 and $15 per month, or between $60 and $80 per year.
For those hoping to avoid a subscription fee entirely and leverage a free version only, Breethe is your best bet. It provides an extensive collection of 90 free, full-length meditation sessions.
Aura excels in a variety of useful areas beyond just meditation. Specifically, they offer greater personalization as a way to keep you on track to a healthier and more active routine. After all, who wants to sift through thousands of guided meditations that don’t help you achieve your goals? Aura’s AI takes your preferences into account, tailoring tracks according to your stated aims that include a wide range of often-overlooked wellness disciplines, such as ASMR and hypnosis.
So, which meditation app is the best to help you live in the present — Headspace, Calm, Breethe, or Aura?
If you’re looking for the best FREE app for meditation, try Breethe. Their library of guided meditations is the most robust, even without any in-app upgrades. And finally, if you’re curious how AI can potentially offer more personalized guidance to mental health, go with Aura. Ultimately you cant really go wrong since all offer a free trial.
Let us know about your experience with meditation apps in the comments below!
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