5 Of The Best Meditation Apps For Instant Stress Relief (That You Can Keep In Your Back Pocket)

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best meditation apps

Yes, you read that right: There are meditation apps for stress relief — and yes, they really work!

Unfortunately, stress compromises your best thinking abilities way too often. Sometimes, even just the thought of trying to reduce stress seems overwhelming.

But what if you could learn to harness the power of your calm at will and find instant stress relief, even when the pressure builds?

You can — it just takes practice. Practicing stress management will make your mind and body more resilient and make it easier for you to relax in the future. 

Herbert Benson, MD, calls this the "Relaxation Response" and first described this powerful practice at Harvard in 1975. Just as you physiology and brain are wired to ramp up your ability for flight or fight in response to stress, you are wired for an equally powerful "Relaxation Response." And when you practice this response, you strengthen your ability to handle life’s challenges.

RELATED: Stop Sneaky Stress In 5 Steps!

In fact, regularly practicing relaxation and meditation invokes chemicals and hormones that will:

  • Improve your decision-making abilities
  • Lower your anxiety
  • Increase your energy
  • Reduce fatigue
  • Improve your sleep
  • Improve your motivation
  • Decrease tension and pain
  • Improve your moods
  • And lower your stress hormone levels

Not a bad pay-off for practicing relaxation for just few minutes a day, huh? 

So how do you build this stress relief power?

By taking a few moments to actively relax your mind and body. This doesn’t mean plopping on the sofa for some mindless TV, nor does it mean emptying your mind of all thought.

It means bringing your attention to the process of relaxing, physically and mentally.

There are so many effective choices and strategies for achieving relaxation — all pleasant to practice. But, the problem is… knowing what works is only part of the journey. Just like purchasing a gym membership does not ensure that you'll “get buff,” the same is true for finding calm. To “buff” up your brain and improve your ability to relax, you must practice.

Here’s where meditation apps can be helpful. Apps can encourage you with information, hold you accountable, provide metrics, and often provide some a fun and easily doable way to relax. 

Here are my top 5 best meditation app recommendations to reduce stress and anxiety:

1. Headspace

The simple, clever and fun animation of this app demystifies meditation and provides a 10-day free starter course of just 10 minutes a day — the perfect starter app for those new to the practice of meditation. 

Like most of these relaxing, meditation apps, you can set reminders via Headspace to help you build the habit of daily practice. You can also set a number of mindfulness moments to pause throughout the day. This is particularly helpful in getting your brain back to neutral, so you can let go and sleep more effectively.

2. 10% Happier

This meditation app is based on a labor of love and a ton of investigation from reporter Dan Harris. After having a complete panic attack on air, he set out to find the very best ways you can regulate your mood. He even traveled across America in a tour bus with meditation teacher, Jeff Warren, who makes meditation feel easy and sensible.

Again, this stress relief app is free for the first week of really easy meditations and has a few other free perks, including access to the podcast, but for a fee, it has all kinds of bells and whistles you can enjoy — even coaching!

RELATED: 3 Ways to Calm Your Over-Thinking Mind

3. Buddhify

Well over 50 million hours of meditation time had been logged on this app. It is designed to make meditation convenient in your real modern life, using a fun color wheel of guided meditation choices to line up with your current state, activity, and available time.

It's one of my very favorite apps to reduce stress simply due to the ease of use. You can save your favorites and track your mindfulness, concentration, and balance for a one-time fee of $2.99-4.99.

​4. Insight Timer

This free app includes meditations from expert teachers around the world. This is one of the first apps I discovered, chock full of guided meditations. Guided visualization or meditation is the way to go if your brain is as busy as mine. 

You can pick by topic, genre, guide or length — anything from 60 seconds to hours — and you can bookmark your favorites to return to again and again. Some of my favorite meditation teachers featured on this app are Tara Brach and Jon Kabat-Zinn.

You can also choose any length of time to meditate on your own with ambient sounds, like lovely chimes and bells, or not.

5. Calm

The Calm app has a variety of peaceful nature sounds and a feature just to pace your breath. Talk about an ideal app to reduce stress! 

Breath pacing is a really fast way to begin active relaxation. I sometimes even put the sounds on in the background, while I'm working. As with the other apps, you can set a reminder and track your time. 

RELATED: 5 Ways To Change Your Focus And Be Happy With Yourself Right NOW

There are so many apps to reduce stress and to help you grasp your inner “calm!” We are all on this crazy journey of life together, trying to find our relaxed and empowered best selves, trying to find joy, meaning, connection, and deep satisfaction. 

Get curious; find which habits serve you best. And make those habits easier to keep by using a relaxation app that's always in your back pocket.

Dr. Cynthia Ackrill leads stress and leadership workshops in many settings from coaching and leadership programs to women's conferences.Want to learn more strategies to tackle your stress and put more YOU in your future? Contact her by email or through her courses and resources on her website.