Try Headspace, Buddhify or Calm
A year and a half ago, Kasey Jones had separated from her husband and started a stressful new job. So the Portland, Ore., marketing consultant turned to Headspace, a popular guided meditation app she’d used on and off for years, to center herself during her morning train ride.
“I would be in a better mood, more focused, more present, less stressed throughout the day,” Jones, 35, told Moneyish. “I am better at getting into deep work and focusing on a particular task or project at a time … I am also much more patient and better at dealing with clients, hectic schedules and crazy deadlines.” (The Anxiety and Patience packs have proven particularly useful, she said.) If she misses her commute meditation or the day is “particularly frantic,” Jones makes time for brief meditation in a phone booth at WeWork, out of which she runs her consultancy.
Jones even turned her elderly parents onto the app: “Now whenever I complain (about stress) … both of them are like, ‘Well, have you been doing Headspace? You really need to do Headspace!’” For sporadic, one-off meditations, she added, she uses the mindfulness and meditation app Buddhify.
Actor Christopher Ashman, a 33-year-old Los Angeles resident by way of Stoke-on-Trent, England, also swears by Headspace for his before-work routine. The app’s emphasis on “being present,” he said, helps him prioritize at work and focus on “what is absolutely necessary in the here and now.” It’s helped Angie Coleman, community manager for the organization Lesbians Who Tech, reduce work stress, set boundaries around workload, and realize it’s fine to take breaks during work. “It’s OK if I get up to go to the bathroom,” the 27-year-old Oakland, Calif., resident told Moneyish. “It’s chill. No one’s going to die.”
Meanwhile, Vancouver-based personal finance writer Cait Flanders, 32, opts for the app Calm to transition between projects — often meditating between her morning writing and afternoon mix of editing, podcasting and administrative tasks. The break helps her “close off one thing for the day and just open my mind to ‘OK, now I’m shifting to this other thing,’” she told Moneyish, as well as set more realistic goals of what she can accomplish in a day.
These busy bees aren’t alone in reaping the apparent benefits of meditation: A 2012 National Health Interview Survey pegged the number of U.S. adult meditators at 18 million, and titans like Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, Google co-founder Sergey Brin and Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff reportedly all partake.
Though scientists caution there’s a lack of data to support the mindfulness-mania hype, a 2014 JAMA Internal Medicine analysis of 47 trials suggested mindfulness meditation had “moderate evidence” of improved anxiety, depression and pain. A 2011 review of 23 studies, stressing the need for further research, found “preliminary evidence suggesting that (mindfulness meditation practices) could enhance cognitive functions.”
If you’re meditation-curious — and want to dip your toe with an app — here are five of the best to try:
Headspace: This meditation mainstay for iOS and Android bills itself as a “gym membership for the mind” and claims its users total 15 million. Start with a free 10-day trial; if you like it, you can upgrade to a $12.99 monthly subscription or $7.99-a-month annual plan. The novice-friendly app lets you choose from a wide swath of session lengths and tailor them to your “mood and lifestyle.”
Buddhify: The $4.99 for iOS, $2.99 for Android app is this reporter’s winning pick. A serene rainbow wheel presents a variety of settings and scenarios (traveling, going to sleep, waking up, feeling stressed, work break), which collectively encompass more than 11 hours of varying-length guided meditation tracks. “Peace of mind for just the price of a cup of coffee with no hidden or additional costs,” the app boasts.
Calm: This mindfulness app offers some free meditations and many more behind a paywall ($12.99 a month or $59.99 a year). It also offers tracks with soothing ambient nature sounds, breathing exercises and “Sleep Stories” for hitting the hay. Choose from topics like self-esteem, managing stress, happiness, and focus and concentration.
10% Happier: This one goes out to the skeptics. ABC News correspondent Dan Harris, author of the book “10% Happier,” targets his app toward those “interested in meditation, but allergic to woo-woo.” Harris, along with meditation teacher Joseph Goldstein, offer daily video lessons, guided meditations and access to a personal coach. The first seven videos and meditation are free; coaching and additional content cost $9.99 a month.
Aura: Designed by meditation teachers and therapists, this app offers three- to 10-minute meditation sessions, nature sounds, mood tracking, 30-second “mindful breathers,” a gratitude journal, and an algorithm that personalizes meditations. The daily three-minute meditations are free; pay $7.99 a month for premium access.
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