It's not hard to let the new SARS-CoV-2 strain of coronavirus put pressure on our minds. Fear of catching COVID-19 is never far from the topic of conversation. But it doesn't have to be that way. If you're struggling with anxiety, stress, depression, or any negative emotions due to the virus's effect on our lives right now, you might find some solace in meditation.
Thanks to an ever-growing market for meditation apps, your iPhone or Android device is the perfect place to start your journey to a calmer mind.
Meditation isn't the only skill you can practice to help ease negative thoughts and emotions. There are plenty of apps for tackling issues you might be currently struggling with, from fun games to emotion trackers. All that to say, you don't just need to rely on the apps below to get you through these unprecedented times.
If you've heard of any meditation apps before, you've likely heard of Headspace, and for a good reason. Headspace is an excellent guided meditation experience. Looking to ease anxiety? Headspace has a course for you. Having trouble falling asleep? Headspace has you covered.
Unfortunately, almost all courses are locked behind a paywall, but that's not actually a huge issue, because the real benefit is the free ten-lesson course. The course features all the skills you need to learn meditation for the first time, and if you don't want to pay, you can repeat it as much as you'd like.
If you work in the US healthcare industry in any way, Headspace is offering free access to its Headspace Plus premium service until the end of 2020. Visit its COVID-19 page for more info.
Like Headspace, Calm is another titan in the meditation app market. That said, it's an entirely different experience altogether. Calm is less of a meditation sandbox and more of a personalized meditation assistant. You tell the app what you're struggling with, and it generates meditation courses to fit those issues.
Of course, you can choose your own path, if you want to. Calm also offers a paid tier with a slew of features you won't find for free. But if you're looking for an app that will guide you through your first guided meditation steps, Calm might just be the app for you.
While Calm hasn't opened up its paid service to everyone during the coronavirus pandemic, it does have a slew of resources free of charge — and you don't even need the apps to use them.
Stop, Breathe & Think takes a page from Calm's personalization philosophy and runs with it. When you boot up the app, it asks you how you're feeling physically, mentally, and emotionally. After you enter your current state of mind, the app recommends different meditations it thinks you would benefit from. Some of these recommendations will be premium only, but many will be free of charge.
You don't need to follow the app's recommendations to a T — if you see a meditation you want to try, go for it. If you'd rather skip one, you can do that too. It's all just a guideline to help you meditate in a way that will benefit you the most.
There is a premium service, just like the other apps, but during the COVID-19 crisis, Stop, Breathe & Think has created a new "Calm Coronavirus Anxiety" category in its app, which includes premium tracks for free. Everything in that category is at no-cost for 60 days.
Like Headspace, Zen is a mostly premium app. That said, its free features are really cool. Instead of offering just one course, Zen offers one type of meditation lesson for nine different emotions and issues: Tranquility, Insomnia, Sadness, Anxiety, Discouragement, Irritation, Worry, Sentimental, and Happiness. You can play through each as many times as you like, so you'll always have a resource when you're struggling.
If you want to pay for the app, you'll find meditation lessons for a wide variety of themes, like Inspiration, Success, Motivation, Overcoming, Reflections, and Harmony, as well as "Wisdom" meditation lessons that aim to inspire your healthy side. There's even a seven-day free trial if you're interested.
While we didn't see it live in the app yet, there will be an "In Difficult Times" group of selected meditations to help with the stress of COVID-19, which will likely be available for free.
Ten Percent Happier is all about personalization. The app asks you about issues you're struggling with, how you'd like to meditate, and what you hope to get out of meditation. Once you feed that information into the app, it creates a unique meditation plan just for you, with new lessons unlocking as you progress through the program.
Unfortunately, other than a seven-day free trial, there's no free version here. That said, the app is insanely popular, no doubt thanks to meditation expert Dan Harris' contribution. You can even follow along with live meditation sessions with Harris every weekday, so it's not entirely by yourself. How's that for social distancing?
If you're a healthcare worker, Ten Percent Happier is offering its premium service for free. You can find out more info in its "Coronavirus Sanity Guide," which also includes links to live meditation streams daily at 3 p.m. EDT, its podcast, and some guided meditations you can try out without even installing the app.
Insight Timer's premium features might include personalized meditation, but that's not why we're featuring the app. Instead, we like Insight Timer's 35,000 free meditation sessions. That's enough sessions to ensure you never need to pay for mediation if you don't want to.
Most of these sessions run 10–30 minutes long, but some even reach an hour. They run the gambit when it comes to themes — anxiety, serenity, even coronavirus-related sessions, all geared to ensure you can focus on meditating to ease any issues you might have.
Balance: Meditation might just be an iOS app, but it's so cool we had to feature it on our list. While many meditation apps personalize your experience, none do it like Balance. The app feels straight out of the future, from its excellent soundscape to its simple questionnaire, you'll be meditating with a made-for-you plan in just one or two minutes after installing the app.
It isn't something that just happens when you open the app once, either. Balance will ask you questions every day, tweaking your experience along the way. Who knows — maybe the app will end up knowing more about you than you do!
Balance is offering anyone who wants it a free year of its premium service due to the coronavirus scare. It usually costs $11.99 per month or $49.99 for a year!
- App Store Link: Balance: Meditation (free)