Wikipedia describes meditation as: “Meditation is a practice where an individual uses a technique – such as mindfulness or focusing the mind on a particular object, thought, or activity – to train attention and awareness, and achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm and stable state.”
There are many different techniques individuals of all skill levels can utilise to achieve that state of emotional calm and mental clarity. The idea is to remove the constant distractions of modern life for a time period. Some people find it helpful to listen to soothing music, others enjoy a task like painting or drawing, others may choose to use religious tools, like rosary beads, to assist them in finding that quiet zone.
What are the health benefits of meditation?
Meditation has benefits for both the physical and mental well-being of the large majority of people. Stress is considered one of the top silent health issues. It has been attributed to several serious health conditions, and it can seriously impact existing conditions. Meditation reduces stress levels, thus improving every aspect of a person’s overall health. Here are a few ways meditation can benefit the user other than lowering stress levels:
- Improve concentration and focus
- Reduce the severity of mental health symptoms like anxiety and depression
- Deep breathing can oxygenate the blood better
- Improve energy levels
- Achieve a deeper and more restful sleep
- Find it easier to build relationships
Why do people struggle to meditate?
Sometimes, physical conditions that cause pain or discomfort can make it difficult to sit still. Sometimes, the ability to sit still and concentrate is a skill that still needs to be developed. In this case, it can be quite challenging at first, but it becomes more comfortable with time and practice. The meditator might find the mind wandering instead of going quiet. It starts to daydream or even fall asleep. The person might already battle to focus and concentrate in general.
Can apps help?
They are designed to help create the quiet atmosphere needed, and they bring the attention back to the present when the mind begins to wander. Different meditation apps achieve this in their unique ways. But, the basic principle remains the same.
With so many apps available on Apple Appstore and Google Play, finding the perfect calming meditation can be quite a stressful choice – should users go for the app with the most reviews, the most downloads, or the top ratings? We are going to provide some insight into four meditation apps and compare the pros and cons of the digital approach to this timeless technique.
Headspace makes a few claims that set their app apart from their competitors. Firstly, the founder, Andy Puddicombe used to be a Buddhist Monk and takes his personal experience with achieving a calm space through meditation and uses that to guide the app’s users through their sessions. The creators of the app also claim to have clinically-proven research indicating the app’s success in reducing anxiety and helping their users.
- There’s a different guided meditation practice for almost any goal (reducing anxiety, improving concentration etc.)
- The app uses cartoons, analogies, and visualisations to explain the concepts of meditation
- Users can choose their session length, allowing them to do longer sessions over time
- Ideal for beginners because it enables people who have no prior knowledge
- The longest single session a user can have is 20 minutes (competitors go for more)
- The free version holds few features compared with the paid version
For beginners who are still developing the ability to sit still, they offer “mini” meditations that are short and easy to follow. Their “themed” meditation courses enable users to enjoy a meditation that focuses on their own goals. For example, if someone might battle with insomnia, they can make use of their “sleepcasts”. These are specialised meditation sessions designed to achieve a deeper and restful sleep.
Their easy-to-use interface and engaging animations make it an excellent option for beginners. However, their menu is extensive that it can be a bit daunting for those who are starting for the first time. Their soundscapes are lovely. If a user enjoys soothing sounds to get into a good headspace, they’ll love this app.
There are three basic plans to choose. A subscriber can choose an annual plan (paid in one single payment) of $7.99 per month. The monthly plan, renewed on a month-to-month basis is $12.99, and they have a family option of $19.99 per month. They do also have a free version but it is limited, users will need a paid plan to get the benefits of meditation.
Calm’s 7-day free trial is more of a free 7-day meditation course. Users will receive a 10-minute video every day, for the period. As soon as the user has completed a session, the next session becomes available. To unlock features like customising audio and visual cues a subscription is needed. After that initial 7-day course, meditators can also enjoy meditations that are tailored to their goals – like achieving improved sleep or managing stress better.
- Free 7-day program and some free features
- Statistics and meditation tracking features
- Optional daily reminders
- Customise audio and visual cues
- “Daily Calm” new meditation each day
- Specialised “Calm Kids” features to engage the whole family
- Requires engagement to track results accurately
- Paid program after the 7-day trial
It’s a valuable piece of software for both novice and experienced meditators. It even assists meditation guides in refreshing their style. Its user-interface is customer-centred and easy-to-use. Some reviewers have complained that the visuals tend to be repetitive, as are the soundscapes. However, the guidance is top-class.
This app is especially great for someone that knows exactly what they want. Its level of customisation is remarkable, and this makes it great for those with specific goals.
Happify names itself the app for stress and worry. The free version comes with plenty of features, a lot more than the other meditation apps. Subscribers can enjoy around twelve soundtracks and activities, and a whole lot more when a visitor signs up for the paid version. It’s incredibly involved with an online community and plenty of resources that help users to understand the method behind their practices.
It calls for users that have some patience and persistence – After all, happiness isn’t achieved without some effort. Its purpose will serve anyone seeking a way to enhance their overall experience of joy in their life. For those who battle with depression, it can help to find some hope and happiness in daily life. For those who are content, it can help to develop a greater level of appreciation and contentment.
- Offers more free features than competitor meditation apps
- Happify comes with 60 soundtracks that are sorted according to their themes
- The app also comes with 58 activities
- Read the articles and watch the videos in Happify Daily
- Participate in the Community
- It takes dedication to see the benefits
- Invasive prompts ask the user to unlock the paid version
- Minimal games
Sattva may not be as well-known as the other meditation apps, but it’s similar to Headspace. Its aim is to build a calming habit that trains everyday stressed-out individuals to incorporate meditation into their daily life. Sattva does also have an intuitive feature that gives reports on how the system is practically improving life.
- Offers anxiety-focused meditations
- Beautiful mantras
- Genuine Vedic/traditional practices
- Comes with video meditations
- Social media presence
- Offers exceptional website security & privacy policies
- No offline listening options
- No specific sleep-focused meditations
- No meditation goal variety
The mantras are phenomenal. Subscribers can start with sessions as short as 6 minutes, making this app wonderful for those that are just starting. With over 5000 user-ratings and still scoring a user-satisfaction rating of 4.5/5, the app is popular with those that use it. For users seeking a truly authentic experience, Sattva is the best app. The app comes with mantras, chants, and meditations that are all narrated by Sanskrit scholars. It is suitable for novice meditators as well as seasoned yogis and those seeking to improve their level of calm and concentration.
A digital solution for our digitally-led lives?
As technology brings work and correspondence closer to us wherever we go, stress levels in the modern world are naturally peaking beyond what we have ever seen before. However, these same tools that can bombard us with negative news and keep us on our toes, can also be used to help learn how to shut off and regain inner calm and mental peace. That is the beauty of being able to download a mobile application that teaches us to reconnect with our inner voice.