Spend any time looking for mindfulness apps, and you will be overwhelmed by the sheer number of them. Many of the apps come with monthly subscription fees. If you are new to mindfulness and want to try it out, you don’t want to shell out money if there are some freebies to try. So are there free mindfulness apps to be had?
The best free mindfulness apps help you meet your meditation goals. Let’s Meditate and ToBeGood are great for beginners. Atom’s goal is for you to develop the habit of meditation. Although Insight Timer does provide premium services, most of the app can be accessed for free.
Meditation is key to mindfulness, so mindfulness apps focus on different kinds of meditation. Your meditation practice should lead to a mindset that will help you be present throughout the day. Before we start examining the best meditation apps, you should spend a few minutes thinking about what you want from mindfulness.
What Is Your Mindfulness Goal?
Your mindfulness goals can help you pick an app in two ways. First, you might be able to eliminate some because they won’t be a good match for your goals. And second, many apps categorise their mindfulness exercises by purpose. If you have no idea what you hope to accomplish, you will spend more time exploring the choices than meditating.
So take a moment to reflect on your goals. They might include that you:
- Be more present, not always thinking about something else.
- Help decrease stress and tension need a way to release tension.
- Stop getting easily annoyed at others and develop more compassion.
- Slow down your constantly racing mind.
- Feel calmer and more at peace.
The Different Types of Meditation
There is a meditation style for each of these. Let’s explore a few of these before we look at some apps.
Focused meditation is a mindfulness technique in which you use one or more of your five senses and focus on something. Although an internal focus, such as on your breath, can be used, this meditation practise works better if you focus on something external.
Prayer beads, also known as mala beads, are used in focused meditation. The practise of counting the beads calms your mind and grounds you. Adding a mantra or counting the beads gives you another way to stay focused while meditating.
This is one of several meditation techniques that comes from Buddhist or Hindu practices. Practitioners of mantra meditation focus on a word or phrase. Some focus on a sound instead, such as the mystical syllable “Om.”
Single words can reinforce a goal you have so that you might repeat words like “peace” or “calm.” Affirmations are also popular mantras. An affirmation like “Every day is a new beginning” can put you in a positive mood.
If you find it difficult to focus when you try to meditate, a mantra can help calm your mind.
Body Scan Meditation
Body scan meditation, also known as progressive relaxation, involves mindfully scanning your body. By doing this you notice areas of pain, stress, or tension. This awareness can lead you to be more connected to your body and help with relaxation.
Progressive relaxation is useful for people suffering from sleep problems. It can also lower anxiety levels and reduce stress.
Loving-kindness meditation, also known as Metta meditation, is a Buddhist practice. Its goal is to help you achieve positive emotions such as trust, gratitude, and appreciation toward others.
This is accomplished through the repeating of phrases that express those emotions. Examples would include:
- “May I be happy and peaceful toward others.”
- “May you find peace and joy.”
This technique will help you develop compassion.
One use of visualisation meditation is to create a feeling of calm and relaxation. This is done by focusing on a place where you feel peaceful. It’s essential to add as much detail as you can by using all your senses.
The other use is to direct your mind toward accomplishing a goal or future outcome. To use this mindfulness technique, you visualise yourself meeting your goal.
This technique helps reduce stress or to feel more peaceful, reduce stress, and bring you inner peace.
Mindfulness meditation is based on a Buddhist meditation practice. It is now a very popular meditation technique. It is different from many meditation practices where the goal is to stop your thought. Mindfulness asks you to become aware of your thoughts without judging them.
Try not to become involved with your thoughts, however. Observe them, let them go, and return to focusing on your breathing or object.
Mindfulness practice can help you be more present, but you might find it more helpful to slow the thoughts racing your head.
What to Look for in a Mindfulness App
Here are some of the factors to look for in mindfulness apps:
- Selective choices –Too many choices are overwhelming, especially for a beginner. An app that has too many options can be overwhelming. On the other hand, the app needs to have enough choices so that the program does not become monotonous.
- Gamified with goals–Some developers “gamify” their apps by setting goals and giving you badges for meeting benchmarks. If you enjoy apps that let you earn badges and other awards, look for more variety than just whether you practised a certain number of days.
- Intrinsic practice –Mindfulness practice can be guided or not. Beginners benefit from guided practice, and most apps provide plenty. Intrinsic practice has a minimum amount of guidance and is a worthy goal as you increase your mindfulness practice.
The Best Free and Almost-Free Mindfulness Apps
Although they say there is no such thing as a free lunch, there are exceptions. Let’s begin with free meditation apps.
Let’s Meditate: Meditate, Relax, and Sleep by the Heal Me Team
This is an excellent free app, ideal for beginners. Free means no ads, no annoying sign-ups, only an occasional reminder that donations finance the app.
- Clean design –The design of the app is simple and straightforward. Find a meditation and hit play. It’s that easy.
- Varied content–Regardless of your mindfulness goals, Let’s Meditate has a meditation for you. Meditations like gratitude, body scan, inner peace, and letting go are examples of what is available. The length of the meditation also varies, from 5-minute quick breaks to 40-minute complete recharges.
- Not overwhelming –Some apps have so many choices that it’s hard to know where to start. Not Let’s Meditate.
- Reminders – For those who need them, the app has two timers.
Let’s Meditate does have a few other shortcomings. First, the app does not have weekly or monthly plans, leaving a beginner to create their own. Second, most of the meditations are guided.
Let’s Meditate is an excellent beginner’s app because it is free and easy to use. Intermediate and advanced users will probably find it limiting.
Medito: Free Meditation, Sleep, and Mindfulness
The Medito Foundation created this app for people who have never meditated and those who want to continue. It meets most of the criteria of an excellent mindfulness app.
- Clean design –The home page lists the choices (daily meditation, sleep, meditation timer, and walking mindfulness). Pick the one you want, and it sends you to another, easy-to-navigate menu.
- The right number of choices–The ten-lesson beginner’s course covers mindfulness, the science of meditation, non-judgement, and the use of sounds. Daily meditations feature a series on meditation for stress management. It also has other ones balancing work and life and guided sleep meditations.
- Guided and unguided meditations –As you progress, you will be ready for unguided, intrinsic meditations.
- Simple gamification – The app keeps track of your stats, including current streak, longest streak, minutes listened, and the number of sessions. Earning badges would be a nice addition.
Impressive Reviews and Feedback
Users love this app. It has earned 4.8 out of 5 from 5,000 users. An occasional complaint is that the updated app was not working correctly. This happens with many apps, and the problem can usually be solved by reinstalling the app.
The amount of responses to user feedback and comments from the app designers is impressive. Directions are specific, and contact information is given if needed. Probably 85% of reviewers get some sort of a response, which is impressive.
And the app is genuinely 100% free! No ads, no spam emails, and signing up is not required.
Medito: Free Meditation has many features you would find in a paid app without having to fork over money. The volunteers who have created and work on it are continually updating and adding features. Worth checking out!
Atom: Building a Habit of Meditation (For Beginners)
The title of this app says it all. It is designed to get a person to develop mindfulness using the foundations of human psychology. If you’re looking for a meditation app to establish a habit in an easy and fun way, Atom says you can do it in 21 days.
The course begins with a two-minute meditation and increases the duration. Atom uses anchor habits to help you be successful in developing the practice. Anchor habits are those you already have, so Atom suggests you set the meditation habit after an anchor habit.
Finally, Atom uses gamification to make the process fun, using the metaphor of growing a forest. It’s a simple but effective technique that will have you wanting to add another tree to your forest
Nearly 5,000 people have given this app 5 stars. The most common reason is because the app has helped them to establish a routine. For that, Atom should be commended.
However, what happens after the routine is established? You want to continue. The habit setting part of Atom is free, but you will have to pay to access the rest of the library.
If you have given up on meditation before or haven’t been consistent with it, then this app could be for you. However, once the habit is established, you will need to pay for the additional library or find another app.
ToBeGood – Free Guided Meditation: Sleep & Mindfulness App
This is not a popular mindfulness app, but it might be worth trying if you are a beginner. The heart of the app is a series of guided meditations. The app builders liken the process of learning to ride a bicycle with training wheels. Just like a kid wants to be able to ride without the training wheels, you should want to meditate without a guide.
The guidance that ToBeGood provides for how to meditate is helpful. These include things like good posture and breathing techniques. There are also suggestions for improving focusing and quieting our minds which are very helpful.
Users generally like the app, with the biggest complaint that it lacks variety. Also, based on the comments, many people use it as a sleep aid. Currently, it is only available for Android phones.
If you want to try a simple app with guided meditations, this would be worth a try. It may help you transition to unguided meditations. And if it does not work for you, delete it from your phone and try another one.
Limited Access Mindfulness “Free” Apps
The following apps give you limited access to parts of their mindfulness library in the hope you will buy a subscription. They are free, but not for long.
Insight Timer: Meditation, Sleep, Music
Insight Timer has a premium subscription for additional courses and to support the many free offerings of Insight. However, the number of free choices will keep you busy meditating. Once you sign in, you can access 70,000 meditations on 200 topics, with more meditations added daily.
While other limited access apps provide only a few features, the following are available in the free version:
- A meditation timer you can customise.
- Track your stats and milestones.
- Ambient sounds and music tracks to help you achieve that calm feeling.
- Sleeping aids, including soundscapes, bedtime tales, and sleep meditations.
- Access to over a dozen meditation techniques.
- Ability to join a variety of groups, including beginners, sleep, and transcendental meditation.
You can access additional courses with a paid subscription, listen offline, have a more advanced player, and sleep mode.
Insight has a 4.9 rating from over 80,000 users. People praise this app for its variety, the number of free options, the ability to have a community, and its simplicity.
One common concern is the app has an overwhelming amount of available content for free. Again, for someone just beginning, this could be a reason to try a free one with less content and then move up to this one.
This app almost does not belong in the limited access because most of its features are free.
This feature-filled app would be an excellent choice if it were totally free. It has a five-day introductory course, guided and unguided sessions in a variety of lengths. You can customise the intrinsic meditations and use a library of themed meditations.
Mindfulness Daily gives you reminders throughout the day to help you stay mindful. You can track your meditation success with statistics. For those with children, the app has videos and activities to involve the family’s younger members.
This is an award-winning and highly-rated app with a ton of features. You will have to pay around $60 to start using this app. So unless you are sure it is right for you first try one of the free apps first.
Headspace is another highly rated and popular mindfulness and meditation app. It has limited free offerings in the hopes you will pay for a subscription.
What sets Headspace apart is also what might want to give a beginner pause—it’s many offerings.
It features courses for expected topics such as stress and provides guided meditation. Headspace also has physical health, movement, and sports meditations.
- Focus music –A dozen focus stations and new music. Think of it as a mini-Spotify in your meditation app.
- Move mode– A series of workouts, including building a mindful fitness routine. Also audio-guided mindfulness talks for your daily walks or runs.
- Wake up and sleep –Headspace wants you from morning to night. Wake up to videos to start your day in a positive mood and choose from several options to help you go to sleep.
This seems overwhelming for a beginner, and Headspace is among the most expensive meditation apps.
This app has almost everything, but the free options are limited. Still, a Basics 1 course, several single meditations, a quick workout, several sleep aids, and a sample of music are included in the free version.
If you want more information about what is free, their website provides that information. Mindfulness Daily does not.
You do not need to download an app to find meditation help on your phone. If you have Spotify on your phone, you have access to one of their channels devoted to meditation: Spotify: Meditation Relax Club. Podcasts, playlists, channels, and albums—you can find plenty of options. Pandora also has a large library of meditation podcasts and playlists.
Afterwards, make a playlist, and you are ready to get started. Some users find that creating a playlist adds buy-in and makes it more likely to develop a habit. If that sounds like you and you have Spotify, give it a try.
YouTube has become a great resource when people need to learn how to do something, and you have access to YouTube on your phone. To avoid spending an entire afternoon looking for videos, find meditation channels. Great Meditation is an excellent channel with over 400 meditations.
To simplify your search, go to Playlists and pick from 10-, 15-, or 20-minute meditations. Or Guided Mindfulness and morning meditations. If you prefer a male or female voice, it has playlists for that.
Tips for Successful Mindfulness Practice
Mindfulness isn’t a fifteen-minute exercise to be practised once or twice a day. Your goal should be to increase your mindfulness of the present moment. Remind yourself frequently to note your thoughts, feelings, and surroundings.
- Do not go on autopilot –Notice the little things as you go about your day—the everyday sounds and sensations we usually don’t pay attention to.
- Start small– Set an alarm and take a break for a few minutes, and practice focusing on your surroundings as well as yourself.
- Set an alarm –Practising at the same time daily helps develop a habit.
- Observe your thoughts – Mindfulness is not about clearing your mind of thoughts but about observing them and then letting them move on. Think of a thought as a gentle wave on water.
Don’t be fooled by mindfulness apps that claim to be free. Most have a short trial period, after which you need to pay to continue. Others have limited access. Most of the ones we highlighted are absolutely free, except for Insight Timer. But most of its offerings are available for free, so we have included it.
As to which one is the best—it’s difficult to answer. Your mindfulness goals play an important part in selecting one. What we can say is that these are the best free mindfulness apps we could find.