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Mobile App Review: Mindfulness
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Mobile App Review: Mindfulness - Executive Leadership Articles

Mobile App Review: Mindfulness

Executive Leadership Articles

Mobile App Review: Mindfulness

Just as mobile technology has helped us with our physical health, it can be a powerful aid in maintaining our mental health. There are literally hundreds of apps in the “mindfulness” category, and for the sake of general relevance we’ll use that term in the most generic sense possible. Yes, the term itself comes from a certain Buddhist teaching, and many of the exercises the apps provide have roots in spirituality, but many people practice them in the complete absence of religious or spiritual thought, so this is how we’ll use the terms and evaluate the usefulness of the apps, in broadly secular terms. Of course, you can use the apps in spiritual ways if you’d like, and there are even specific apps with religious preference in mind, so if you’re just starting out, try one of these recommended apps and then do a search for one catering to people of your own spiritual leanings. It’s almost a guarantee that there’s something out there for you.

Mindfulness, as Wikipedia helpfully defines it, is “the psychological process of bringing one's attention to experiences occurring in the present moment,” and it’s often a term people use to describe methods for slowing down, to decreasing anxiety, lowering stress, and being appreciative for their lives now, rather than be disappointed about the past or worried about the future. “Gratitude,” “calm,” and “rest” are common words when mindfulness advocates speak on the subject, and who couldn’t use a little more of that?

Most mindfulness apps offer variations on common themes. Each has some kind of guided meditation time, designed to be listened to with headphones while someone tells you what to focus your thoughts on. Many offer timed, silent meditations time with ambient noises (such as rainfall or rustling tree leaves) for a set duration. We found most of them very relaxing and as conducive to sleep as to active meditation.

People we surveyed most frequently mentioned Headspace (Android and iOS), which has a free, introductory tier called “basics,” aimed at the person wanting to explore the fundamentals of mindfulness. Unlocking the extensive library of guided meditations beyond the basics costs $13 per month, or $95 per year. A few minutes a day, perhaps at the end of a lunch hour gives can give you a better sense of self, better rest, and better appreciation, according to our respondents who’ve tried it. We found the basic meditations to be about the same as other meditations, but the subscription price seemed a bit steep.

If price is a concern, Insight Timer (Android and iOS) is a great place to start, with more than 8,000 meditations and 1,000 music tracks, a plethora of “teachers” to guide you, and a sense of community. When you open the app, it tells you how many people are meditating at that moment, and one feature lets you see how many people in your vicinity are meditating right now. In-app purchases can enhance the experience, with different chimes for sound effects and other “collections.” Honestly, there’s more here than you could consume in a very long time, so the free stuff is definitely worth checking out.

For the mindfully curious but not committed (like us), Aura (Android and iOS) is a nice way to dip your toes into the water. Its free program delivers a different 3-minute guided meditation each day, so when you open the app, you aren’t faced with the thousands of choices other apps present. The gratitude journal and mood tracker are nice, but really, the three minutes of peaceful pondering are the feature. Miss a day, and you miss a specific guided meditation, but you’ll get a new one the next day with no repeats. The premium level costs $8 per month or $30 for six months, or $400 for a lifetime membership, and offers meditations in varying lengths (from three minutes to over ten minutes), offline listening, saved meditations for future use, and the chance to listen whenever you want, if three minutes per day doesn’t do it for you.

Our takeaway is that the apps serve two basic functions. First, they guide you toward mindfulness with inspiring discussions on such topics as gratitude, living in the moment, and being conscious of ourselves in our spaces. Second, they teach you the practice of meditation. It’s sort of like content (mindfulness) and medium (meditation), so if you really need one more than the other in your life, you may find some of the features extraneous. Although mindfulness seems like a worthy pursuit, we found more value in the time spent just resting with a clear mind in the unguided meditations, something just as adequately provided by a recording of a good baseball game or a familiar podcast we’ve already listened to a few times, saved in our phone just for that purpose.

Still, each of these apps had nice presentation as introductions to the practice of mindfulness, and you can’t go wrong with any of these three.


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Mobile App Review: Mindfulness - Executive Leadership Articles

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