The 5 best meditation apps for 2024

Meditation is often touted as a mental cure-all, purported to help with stress, sleep, mood, focus and even certain medical conditions. I’ve been meditating most of my adult life. I’ve done silent retreats. I’ve been formally trained in various techniques. I’ve had someone in my contacts list who I referred to as a “guru.” So I feel I’m relatively qualified to give some bad news: Meditation won’t fix your life, despite what David Lynch says. However, there’s also some good news: Despite not actually being a cure-all for everything bad in the universe, meditation can certainly take the edge off.

This is where meditation apps can come into play. Of course, practicing mindfulness doesn’t require an app; people have been doing it for thousands of years, with nary a smartphone in sight. But mindfulness apps can be useful in a number of ways. They provide access to all kinds of guided meditations to suit different styles. Some even offer social connections, which can motivate you to keep up your practice via the magic of peer pressure. They are also particularly well-suited to beginners, with many of them offering a free trial. With all of this in mind, I downloaded some of the most popular meditation apps and set about sitting calmly on a comfortable chair to test them out. What follows is a comparison aimed at real people just looking to squeeze a bit more joy and relaxation out of daily life.

How we tested meditation apps

Every brain is different, so I did not rate these apps based on if they sync up with my preferred meditation style. First and foremost, I looked for apps that cater to various methods and those that offer guided meditations that go beyond what’s free on YouTube. All of the items on this list are available on both Android and iOS, so you won’t have to worry about something being only for iPhone owners.

Of course, there’s lots of free stuff out there, from podcasts and videos on YouTube to audio tracks on streaming services. You can even find guided breathing sessions on an Apple Watch or Fitbit, as well as meditations in Fitness+, Samsung Health or any number of workout video providers. For this guide, I focused on apps that stood out in some way. I liked apps with huge libraries of guided meditations and those that offer additional mindfulness activities, like yoga routines. I also looked for easy-to-use apps with well-designed layouts. You don’t want to start your meditation journey with a clunky app that actually increases anxiety.

The most important thing with meditation is to keep doing it, so I awarded points for clever gamification elements, simple social network integration and anything else that encourages repeat visits. Finally, I considered extra features that set an app apart from the glut of competitors out there. For example, some meditation apps offer novel ways to track your progress, access to yoga routines and a whole lot more.

At the end of the day, each of these apps has its strengths. But if installing an app or using a device is not how you prefer to meditate, you can always turn off your phone and find a quiet room or environment. For those of us who need a little help from a digital guru, though, here are our favorite apps for meditation.

Other meditation gear we tested

Brain-tracking wearables have been around for years, but there are some newer devices that have been tailor-made for meditators. These gadgets track the brain during meditations and offer real-time feedback. It’s a real boon for the data-obsessed, but also a real bank account drainer, with some gadgets costing thousands of dollars. I took two of the more-popular options for a spin to see what they’d make of my brain. Neurofeedback System is a weird contraption that not only claims to track brainwaves, but gives real-time feedback to “teach” people how to meditate and enter a flow state. The device involves a giant headset that’s stuffed with brainwave sensors that detect beta, alpha, theta and gamma waves, in addition to heart-rate sensors. It also comes with a truly bizarre companion gadget that uses light stimulation (transcranial photobiomodulation) to keep an eye on focus and attention levels. The whole thing is combined with an app that keeps track of dozens of data metrics and allows access to various guided meditations.

I’m as surprised as you to say that this thing appears to work, with some caveats. It’s uncanny how well it monitors the brain during meditations. If I got lost in a thought spiral about lasagna at six minutes in, sure enough, there would be a dip in analytics at the six-minute mark. It’s also fairly easy to use, despite a process that involves wetting a number of electrodes. As magical as the accurate brain-tracking seems to be, however, I wasn’t as keen on the actual training portion, which often involves staring at a screen throughout the entirety of the practice. It’s also not for the financial faint of heart, as the device costs $1,500.

NeoRhythm Omnipemf

NeoRhythm’s Omnipemf is another wearable to help people get into that ever-elusive flow state. It doesn’t track your brain, but rather floods it with electromagnetic fields at specific frequencies to make it more susceptible to meditation and focus. This is supposed to prime your brain for the meditative state and, in theory, make it easier to capture that zen. However, I didn’t get much from it, other than a placebo-esque buzzing in my head.

To use it, you simply pop on the wearable and go about your day. You aren’t tied to an app, so you can meditate in whatever way you like. There are multiple modes that go beyond meditation, as this thing is supposed to help with focus, pain relief and sleep. I’d wait for some peer-reviewed studies, however, before buying this.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at