Mindfulness with the smartphone – the best meditation apps of 202119. January 2022 Published by Jana Greyling
Mindfulness with the smartphone – is that even possible? After testing the best meditation apps of 2021, we say: Yes!
From relaxation, focus and better concentration to deep sleep – meditation promises many positive effects. Yet many people find it very difficult to switch off and do absolutely nothing in the hustle and bustle of their daily life. And in particular to regain control of their own mindfulness. In particular, the smartphone and what we do with it play a key role in that.
The Zukunftsinstitut cites a British study, according to which people check their smartphone an average of 85 times a day. But anyway, we’ve known for a long time that being able to be reached at all times on a wide range of different channels and apps that are addictive is anything but mindful. The first step toward greater mindfulness is therefore definitely a bit of a digital detox. That means, for example, using your smartphone consciously – and also consciously not using it. We need to recognize the short dopamine rush triggered by a few new likes for what it is: a brief and addictive pleasure.
Our brain is not a hard-wired machine. It changes along with our experiences and habits. And so meditation is the ideal antithesis to the quick dopamine kick.
It counteracts precisely those effects directly related to bad digital habits: from an extremely reduced attention span to being in a state of constant mental alert.
Does that sound good? Then let’s get going!
Meditating regularly has been proven to change our brain.
However, you don’t have to start lighting the incense sticks and intoning mantras right away in order to experience the impact of meditation. It’s simple to build gradually into your everyday life. Just ten minutes a day are enough.
The right meditation apps are a great way of becoming familiar with the topic, trying out various forms of meditation and staying motivated. However, the market is full of them. Demand for, and hence the supply of, meditation apps has soared in the past years. And the two long lockdowns we’ve gone through have given a further massive boost to that trend.
So that you don’t lose your bearings in the nirvana of app providers and can focus your valuable attention directly on what counts, we present here our three
top favorites for the best meditation apps of 2021.
Our number one among the best meditation apps of 2021 is Headspace.
From TED talks, Netflix documentaries to the app: The founder of Headspace and former monk Andy Puddicombe has created an entire ecosystem around his type of meditation. And with great success. With over 70 million users, Headspace is the most well-known and widespread meditation app. The effectiveness of the meditation exercises it offers has been proven in studies. And its design also uplifts your spirits. The interface is tidy, designed in fresh colors and a constant delight with its cool, pleasant illustrations – a style that is also replicated in the animated videos.
Incidentally, Andy Puddicombe himself presents the courses in the English version and the sound of that is pretty good. Headspace is suitable for both beginners and the experienced alike. The app offers a very wide range of interrelated courses, individual meditation exercises, sleep aids and music. Check-ins help you keep a good eye on your own condition. You can set reminders to mediate to suit your taste, while many exercises can be downloaded for offline use. The German consumer organization Stiftung Warentest gave the overall package the rating “Very good.”
Interrelated courses in Headspace enable you to acquire the basics of meditation or the ability to deal better with changes. There are also meditation exercises that make it easier to cope with difficult emotions or help boost your personal growth. And short SOS exercises are also part of the program. You can use them to alleviate acute fears or overstressing in a few minutes by doing breathing exercises and pausing for a moment.
Headspace offers various means to help your mind wind down at night: stories to help you sleep (called sleepcasts), sleep music, soundscapes and relaxation exercises.
Headspace is also great for kids and families. There are special meditation exercises for when children start school and for the challenges with children if you work from home.
Anyone who wants to learn more about the subject of meditation is taught the basics in beautifully designed, animated videos.
Concentration-boosting music with titles like “Fog patches,” “Chords in purple” (piano and nature sounds) and “Power of the stars” (atmospheric sounds) or playlists, compiled by artists such as St. Vincent or Hans Zimmer, are great to listen to and help you get into and stay in the flow.
Languages: German, English, Spanish, French and Portuguese
Cost: 14-day free trial phase if you conclude a subscription at €57.99 a year or €4.99 a month or a 7-day free trial phase if you conclude a monthly subscription at €12.99 a month.
Operating system: Android, iOS, Amazon, browser
7Mind is the most popular meditation app in Germany. It was also rated by Stiftung Warentest as “Very good” and by us as the number two among the best meditations apps of 2021. In case you’re surprised, the name 7Mind dates from the earlier concept of only offering meditation exercises that lasted exactly seven minutes. The offering is now quite a bit more diverse, ranging from short mindfulness snacks to expansive fantasy journeys. The particular advantage of 7Mind is that the charges for using it are subsidized by health insurers. They pay up to 100% of the costs for an access period of 12 months. Another unique feature is the meditation exercises tailored specifically to students.
Anyone who first wants to try out the app without any commitment whatsoever will be happy with 7Mind. It can be downloaded free of charge and you can start on the basics course right away. Paul J. Kohtes, the app’s founder, has also recently started narrating some of the medication exercises himself. As a PR expert and Zen master, he sees his mission as being to reconcile the two apparently conflicting worlds of mindfulness and business. Incidentally, 7Mind’s minimalistic interface does away completely with photos or illustrations and exclusively uses colors. That makes it particularly clear and helps you find your way about very easily. Here, too, you can be reminded about meditation units, if required, and document your “own journey.” And: 7Mind uses the informal German means of address “Du.”
With 7Mind you can learn basic meditation techniques, breathing exercises and body scans There are numerous units on mindfulness in everyday life – from mindful eating, walking meditation to exercises tailored to the different times of day. So if you’re looking for new morning or evening routines, you’re bound to find something here.
In addition, meditation on topics such as procrastination, self-confidence, perception, relationships and dealing with various emotions are offered.
And the positive aspects of achievement are also addressed here. You can strengthen your focus or rid yourself of fears and excessive pressure in special meditation exercises on professional development and related to sport.
7Mind offers relaxing fantasy journeys and bedtime stories for every taste, with titles such as “Evening on the campsite” or “Lavender field under the stars.” A continuous course is also devoted to the subject of sleep.
From pregnancy and parenting to relaxation, calm and stories to help kids sleep: 7Mind offers a wide range of meditation exercises for children and the whole family.
The app imparts basic know-how on the subjects of mindfulness and meditation. The latest findings on healthy sleeping or background knowledge on traditional topics such as Zen are also explained in a well-founded and pleasant way.
The range of music and sounds in 7Mind is not quite so refined. There are no playlists or different genres. Instead, there are the Gong Bath, the Indian flute, a purring cat or summer rain.
Languages: English, French and Dutch
Cost: It is the only one of the three apps that is free in the basic version and subsidized by health insurers. The full version costs €11.99 a month under a monthly subscription and €59.99 a year under an annual subscription, or there is a life-time license for €199.99.
Operating system: Android, iOS
Calm is the number one app for a better sleep and we also rate it among the select top three of the best meditations apps of 2021. However, the app also has quite a bit to offer for all the other times of the day. Just opening Calm gives you a sense of relaxation. You are welcomed by a calmly rippling mountain lake, the twittering of birds and a pleasantly clear interface. There are the main menu items Meditation, Sleep, Breathing and Mood Checks, as well as extensive collections of music and soundscapes.
Incidentally, Calm has a founder who researches meditation in depth and has his own views on the subject. So if the app isn’t enough for you, you can delve more intensively into the subject by reading Michael Acton Smith’s book “Calm.” Although the focus of the app itself is not on sharing background knowledge, Calm is nevertheless well-suited for beginners. A particular focus of the app is on meditation to promote calmness at work – from a series of courses on self-awareness to meditation exercises on the way to work.
Calm offers series on a wide range of topics, such as learning to meditate, reducing stress and fostering your personal development. The many individual meditation exercises, such as body awareness, come in different lengths – so you can choose them to suit how much time you have. There are also in-between mindfulness snacks with breathing exercises that are designed so that they can be built into your everyday life. A pleasant feature is the “Daily Calm”: You are provided with a new and inspiring mindfulness exercise every day.
Calm’s bedtime stories and fantasy journeys – from the hidden havens of the Scottish Highlands to sunset over the savanna – let your mind wander to beautiful places before you sleep.
Calm offers a separate zone for children with a great choice of sleep music for babies, soothing soundscapes such as rain pattering on skylights, and traditional goodnight stories such as the Wizard of Oz or Peter Pan, combined with child-appropriate mindfulness exercises.
The basics of meditation are conveyed excellently in pleasant beginner’s courses.
From electro, ambient to classical: Calm offers a very large range of music that can be filtered by moods, genres and soundscapes.
For example, there are flows from Moby or Sabrina Carpenter, soundscapes from the film Dune or rise-and-shine tracks.
Languages: German, English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Japanese and Chinese
Cost: 1-week free test phase, €38.99 a year after that
Operating system: iOS, Amazon, browser