No matter how you try to spin it, a global pandemic is a scary thing—and odds are you’re feeling pretty anxious right now. Unfortunately, that anxiety can easily spiral into feelings of panic and powerlessness, and being revved up in “fight or flight” mode 24/7 poses a whole other very real threat to our health.
None of us can control this crisis, but when you can get your mind in a good place, you’re also doing something very powerful to protect your wellness. Meditation and other mindfulness practices are a time tested way to calm down and stay present—and to help you remember that in this moment, during this breath, you are safe.
More good news: Mindfulness techniques are simple enough for anyone to learn if you’ve got the right resources to get you started and keep you motivated. So relax, take a deep breath, and get ready to discover seven free and low cost mindfulness apps that can help you feel safe and present—one breath at a time.
With over 40,000 free meditations from every tradition you can imagine, Insight Timer truly has something for just about everyone. In addition to all the pre-recorded meditations, it also has an actual meditation timer with customizable background soundscapes. Once you download the app to your phone, it’s easy to explore the nearly endless practice options—plus there’s a sense of community because you can see how many other members are meditating with you. We love that there are no fees or commitments with this app, and that you can tailor your practice to your belief system, state of mind, and schedule.
Grownups aren’t the only ones who could really use a mindfulness break these days, and Smiling Mind understands that meditation benefits the whole family. With free meditations for children and adults, this app has fun programs designed for specific age groups as young as 7-11 years old. There’s an introductory practice to get absolute beginners on board, and then lots of free meditations for everyone in your house to try out. You can even save and download your favorites!
Stop, Breathe & Think
Created specifically for kids, teens, and Generation Y, Stop, Breathe & Think is a wonderful introduction to mindfulness. Twenty free user-friendly activities are included with the app, and you can purchase a membership for just $9.99 a month to access all the content. The structured, short activities are just right for those new to meditation—something that kids, young adults, and even the “over 25” set will appreciate. You can also connect Stop, Breathe & Think to Alexa to help make meditation a healthy daily habit when you’re not near your phone.
At just $2.99 for Android and $4.99 for iOS, Buddhify’s 80+ custom meditations are practically free. Once you download the app, there are no further monthly costs to worry about—but an optional $30 annual membership is available for those who want to deepen their practice. Buddhify specializes in mindfulness on the go rather than strict seated practices, featuring custom meditations for quick breaks, waking up, dealing with stress, and sleep issues. This popular app has also earned a reputation for being one of the best options out there for anxiety.
Ten Percent Happier
Not sure if this whole meditation thing could possibly work for you? Check out Ten Percent Happier. Using simple, everyday language, this app is designed for those who are skeptical about meditation, and is based purely on neuroscience. This means you can find your calm without worrying about whether your practice conflicts with your religion (or lack thereof). Try a free trial to see if you like the app, and then it’s $99 a year if you want to continue. Ten Percent Happier deserves special kudos because they’ve made their entire program free to all healthcare workers during the coronavirus crisis.
Like many other mindfulness apps, Sattva offers lots of great free and low-cost meditations. What sets it apart—especially during this isolating time—are unique features that allow users to create a sense of community. Link with friends to meditate together, or join up with a group of people you’ve never met. You can even chat with other Sattva users to connect and deepen your practice. If you feel ready to move beyond the free content, a one-time payment of $108 buys a lifetime membership.
Anything that makes us feel less alone during social distancing is a good thing—and Aura earns points for being one of the more interactive mindfulness apps out there. Although it runs on artificial intelligence, Aura has a surprising way of engaging the user and creating a feeling of connection. The app has a menu that asks how you’re feeling, and offers mindful activities to make you feel better, including meditation (of course!), life coaching, stories, music, and even a gratitude journal tool. Give this lovely app a spin with their free trial, or access the full content for $19 a month.
To begin your mindfulness journey, find a quiet, comfortable space where you won’t be interrupted. Diffusing some lavender oil, lighting a candle, or simply wearing a grounding crystal can help make your space feel more sacred.
It often takes some trial and error to discover what best helps you get present—so it’s fine to experiment with a few different apps before choosing a favorite and settling in.
During periods of uncertainty it’s especially comforting to know that with every breath, each of us still holds the power to relax into the present moment. And if mindfulness can accomplish anything during times like these, just imagine how much it will enrich your life once this pandemic is finally behind us.