Mindfulness is at first glance a simple concept (if you need a refresher check out our mindfulness 101 post), but without regular practice, the mind will tend to fall back into its old habits of worrying about the past and future and allowing negative thoughts to create unnecessary, harmful doubt and anxiety.
Psychologists, like us, can only see patients for a short time each week, but patients can work on mindfulness exercises to reduce anxiety throughout the week with the help of new technology. There are many mindfulness apps for smartphones that can guide people through practicing mindfulness each day. Here we review the top 5 mindfulness apps recommended by psychologists.
Smiling Mind is a lovely Australian mindfulness meditation smartphone app to experience, for both adults and kids. It was created as a non-profit initiative to improve the lives of Australians through increasing clarity, calm and contentment and reducing stress via mindfulness instruction and encouragement.
With soothing colours and a simple, modern design, Smiling Mind is enjoyable to use and very intuitive. The app can be downloaded for free, and then getting started is as simple as registering and choosing your age preference. Each age group is given a set of guided meditations designed to bring users from a beginning level to a ‘mindful master’ level over time.
Kids start with a fun meditation called ‘The Bubble Journey,’ while adults start with a basic body scan. Badges, reminders and a recorded history help to encourage daily use and make practicing mindfulness a purely positive, rewarding experience.
Headspace, conceived by meditation teacher Andy Puddicombe, coins itself as ‘a gym membership for the mind.’ Users can start out with a free 10-day mindfulness meditation program known as ‘Take 10,’ and then begin a paid subscription if interested in more content. This app focuses on training the brain through a selection of special series meditations in areas such as health, relationships and performance, as well as through dozens of one-off and bite-size guided meditations for a quick centring, calming mindfulness fix. Tracking statistics, the ability to connect with friends and rewards help to make Headspace one of the most engaging smartphone mindfulness apps.
Calm is a simple smartphone app that teaches mindfulness and makes it easy to follow a daily meditation practice. The app can be downloaded for free with plenty of content, including more than 20 soothing audio/visual nature backgrounds, trackable timed sessions and free guided meditations, such as the 7 Days of Calm series and a meditation for easing tension and a body scan. Calm continually adds more unique content, but users have to subscribe for access.
Mindfulness is all about being present and aware in each moment. What better way to instil this concept than to Stop, Breathe & Think? This wonderful mindfulness app makes it easy to take a daily pause in your day to check in with yourself, and through regular practice, you can broaden perspective and ‘create your own personal force field of calm and peace.’ Users can enter their present mood and then the app provides options for the most useful meditations to use. Like Smiling Mind, Stop, Breathe & Think was created by a non-profit organisation (Tools for Peace), and is entirely free.
This is a straightforward app created by husband and wife Meditation Oasis team, Mary and Richard Maddux. Mary is a counsellor and healing arts practitioner, and her husband is a music composer. There are limited options, although the simplicity is what makes this app appealing. For a onetime fee users can download and listen to timed meditations on their smartphone with basic guided meditation vocals and optional background music or nature sounds.
Like anything worth embracing, mindfulness takes practice. The more you practice, the better you will be at it and the more you can improve your mental state. The guidance of a trained psychologist or meditation teacher can greatly enhance your path to mindful living, but for most of us a weekly session is the only help we are going to receive. This means we still must take the time to practice mindfulness on our own to effectively bring it into our lives and enjoy all the amazing benefits of being mindful.