Easy ways to connect with yourself, written by Lucy Miller
The current boom in mindfulness has given us a valid excuse to take time out for ourselves: for focus, for relaxation, and sometimes simply just to provide a quiet release from the noise of our day.
If you’re new to mindfulness, though, where to begin with your app-based practice might seem like a bit of a minefield.
So, where to start with mindfulness apps? Here are our recommendations for three that are easily accessible, good value for money, and have proved their value time and time again…
The original mindfulness app: Headspace
We’ll start with the biggest success story of them all: Headspace, the mindfulness app that launched a thousand others when it burst onto the scene nearly a decade ago. Succeeding in its aim to make meditation as accessible as possible, the app guides users through their mindfulness practice, working on overall goals of relaxation, stress reduction, and better sleep.
Headspace has proved so effective that it has contributed to scientific studies and there are now moves to make it a tool that medical professionals can prescribe to their patients. If you’re looking for a mindfulness app that has proved its worth and stood the test of time, this is it.
How much does Headspace cost? Start with the free version, which will take you through the basics and serve as a good introduction to the practice of mindfulness, before deciding whether you want to upgrade to the paid version for a more in-depth experience. The paid subscription costs £9.99 per month, or £49.99 if you want to take the plunge and sign up for a full year.
For those who want a calming diversion: Portal: Escaping Into Nature
This award-winning health app is based on the assumption that “your surroundings matter” — something that we definitely agree with. With app-based escapes to locations including Slovenia’s Lake Bled, where you can (virtually) witness a dawn chorus, and the Amazon, where you can rebalance your focus during a thunderstorm, Portal is ideal if you want to briefly remove yourself from your immediate context whilst building on your sense of calm.
Want to incorporate Portal into your working day? It also includes a “focus timer”, based on the Pomodoro technique: the idea that sustained periods of work can’t last longer than 25 minutes. So, open your app, escape to Mount Fuji or a Thai beach, and know that your focus and energy will be sustained for the exact right amount of time. True productivity, led by the principles of mindfulness.
Warning: may fuel an extreme case of wanderlust. Which is, of course, fine by us.
How much does Portal: Escaping Into Nature cost? The app itself is free, with an annual subscription (which will renew automatically) costing £29.99.
For tranquil music and visuals: Calm
Another big name in the world of mindfulness apps is Calm, which bills itself as “the number 1 app for meditation and sleep”. Its other goals include stress and anxiety reduction, self-improvement and increased focus — all of which are, of course, vital for our continued wellbeing.
You might recognise Calm for its striking visuals: think sweeping blue vistas of sea, lake and sky, all of which immediately make us feel incredibly, well… calm. Music is also a strong feature of the app, helping us as we begin our quest to close down our minds, switch off, and really allow ourselves to embrace the present moment.
Incidentally, Calm also won the (albeit, entirely made up by us) award for best use of advertising when it made the decision to appear on CNN’s ad breaks during the 2020 US election. And breathe…
How much does Calm cost? Calm comes in cheaper than Headspace and on a par with Portal, with a subscription to the Premium version costing £29.99 per year. As with most paid meditation apps, there is a free trial that will allow you to take it for a test run before you make the decision on whether it’s the one for you, as well as a limited version that you can use for free.