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Mindfulness to Go: Meditation Apps, Appraised
My experience with apps designed to help guide (and prompt) a very healthy, soothing habit 03/31/2015 by Michelle Lee
My husband and I are under doctor's orders to find a little more R&R in our everyday lives. Like everyone else, our days can feel overly full and hectic.

One recommendation she had: a little more mindfulness or meditation.

I'm realistic enough to know that my husband isn't going to just start a new meditation practice on his own.

So, I spent a week or so researching a meditation app to get the ball rolling, perhaps something with guided meditations and a reminder feature.

In my quest to find one perfect app, I actually tried four that I just loved for a variety of reasons.

All four apps are available for iPhone and Android devices ... at the end of each review, you'll find links to the app at iTunes and Google Play.

Give one a try and let me know what you think! I'd love to hear what features you enjoy, or if you've found a different app that you love.


#1 Simply Being: The essence of simplicity
This meditation app is perfectly named – Simply Being really is quite simple and straightforward.

While it may lack the bells and whistles of other meditation apps, it makes up for that with ease-of-use and simplicity.

Open the app and choose from a soothing guided meditation of 5, 10, 15, 20 or 30 minutes. Then select your preferred background sound, ranging from silence to a variety of nature sounds to several soothing music choices.

One feature I really like is that you can adjust the volume of the guide's voice separately from the volume of the background sound.

So, if you prefer to start with the guide, then drift off into your own meditation, you can tune the voice to the background.

You can also select how long you'd like the background noise to continue after the guided portion of the mediation, from a few seconds to hours.

For me, this is a great option. When I sit for meditation, I sometimes like to start with a short, guided meditation to help me unwind (say 5-10 minutes), then mediate on my own without the constant interruption of a voice.

The Simply Being app is $1.99 in the iTunes store, $1.49 in Google Play, and also has an iPad version if you prefer not to use your phone.


#2 The Mindfulness App: Beyond meditation
To begin, you select from a number of guided meditations, ranging from 3-30 minutes, with an additional five-minute body scan” (which can be great for quickly identifying and releasing tension).

You can also choose from a few silent meditations, ranging from 3-30 minutes. These are nice if you're comfortable sitting without guidance, and they include bells at intervals to help draw your attention back to your breath.

One unique feature of The Mindfulness App that I didn't find elsewhere was Mindfulness Notices. These alerts can help you achieve moments of mindfulness throughout the day.

Mindfulness Notices can be tailored to your particular concerns, can be randomly chosen by the app, or can be written by you.

Examples include "Notice any areas of holding or tension in the body,” "Bring your attention to your breath,” and "Take five breaths with full attention and awareness.” You're alerted by a soft chime and a notification on your screen.

You can request that the app send you a notice at a particular time of day, or even at a particular location, when you leave or when you arrive.

The beauty of this feature is that it can help you practice brief moments of mindfulness when you're not mediating, and you can tailor it to specific days, times or places when you may need to be reminded to be present and relaxed.

Within the app you can view your "statistics,” to track how often and for how long you've practiced mindfulness meditation.

To make this app more robust, you can make a number of in-app purchases of expert guided meditations from masters such as Eckhart Tolle and Pema Chodron.

At just 99¢ each, these individual added meditations are a great way to add periodic newness to the app, or to focus on a particular type of mindfulness, such as mindfulness at work, self-healing or compassion.

The Mindfulness App is $2.99 in the iTunes store and $1.99 in Google Play.


#3 Buddhify: Mindfulness for every aspect of your day
To be honest, the first thing that drew me to this app is its beautiful design.

The interface is colorful, and the on-screen movement as you move through the app is very pleasing and relaxing.

Buddhify is another great app for integrating more moments of mindfulness throughout your day.

When you open the app, you're presented with a color-wheel of life situations. Select the moment you're in, and then choose from a range of guided meditations specifically tailored to that situation.

Situations you can choose from include: Walking in the city, Waiting around, Work break, Can't sleep, and Just meditation.

Many meditation apps use a single voice, and if you don't find it soothing, then the whole app isn't going to work as well for you.

Buddhify avoids that pitfall by offering a wide range of voices, both male and female, American and British.

You can also meditate without guidance using the Solo function, and check your weekly and monthly progress with the Stats function.

On the Stats screen you can also enter how you're feeling, then chart your level of mindfulness, concentration and balance over time, and see how that compares to the frequency of your mindfulness practice.

The beauty of Buddhify is that you needn't be in the ideal place or situation for meditation to grab a few moments of restful mindfulness. Buddhify can move with you throughout your day, and it's frankly just fun to use.

Buddhify is $4.99 in the iTunes store, $2.99 in Google Play, and also has an iPad version.


#4 Calm: A little bit of everything
The free version of Calm (available for iPhone and Android phones) includes a 7-day meditation course, "7 Days of Calm,” that provides an excellent overview of the basics of mindfulness meditation.

Each 10-minute meditation teaches a new, easy-to-follow skill. A calendar keeps track of your meditation practices, and you can even set a daily reminder to practice.

In addition to the 7-day series, Calm has a meditation timer that you can set for any number of minutes.

You can choose one of many "backdrops” for your practice, which include music or nature sounds … and even select the sound that alerts you when your practice ends (I like the Buddhist bell).

While the basic app is free, you can upgrade to the "Pro” version with an in-app purchase, unlocking a 21-day program and a number of excellent guided meditations, each tailored to a specific need, including: anxiety release, energy, focus and sleep (my favorite).

If you like the idea of a guided program that has a beginning, a middle and an end, with the added bonus of guided and self-guided meditations, this is the app for you.

Calm has an easy-to-use, aesthetically pleasing interface, and I love that you can "practice” with the app for free before upgrading to pro level ($9.99 a month or $49.99 a year).

Calm is free in the iTunes store and Google Play.


Michelle Lee is a writer and avid home chef, with 20 years of experience focusing on healthy lifestyle, diet and the home kitchen.

When not playing around with words, she loves to cook, spend time with her two children, play cribbage with her husband, and tackle The New York Times crossword puzzle.

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