Apple wants you to take a deep breath, savor the moment, and slowly let it go. Preferably while wearing an Apple Watch.
Last week, Apple unveiled Breathe, an app that will be the tech giant’s first foray into quantified mindfulness when it becomes available on the Apple Watch this fall. Breathe will join the hundreds of other meditation-themed apps that aim to help users find calm. But while scientific research indicates that meditation can improve conditions like anxiety, depression, and pain, there is scarce evidence that meditation in app form also has the same health benefits.
“Just doing some deep breathing can have some great benefits for a lot of people,” whether they’re taking a break from a busy work day or winding down for the day, Jay Blahnik, Apple’s director of fitness for health technologies, told BuzzFeed News. And with an app like Breathe, “it wouldn’t be hard for them to do it, regardless if they were a beginner or were very experienced with having more mindfulness in their day.”
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By Gabe Jaffe
Mindfulness practice has been scientifically shown to decrease anxiety, improve sleep, heighten productivity, and increase overall sense of well-being. Apps can help us attain these benefits by providing structure and guidance to our practice. We tried out the most popular mindfulness apps and chose our favorites to recommend to you.
For the beginner: Headspace walks you through your entire mindfulness journey step-by-step. Narrator Andy Puddicombe teaches you the basics of mindfulness and then slowly introduces longer and more advanced meditations. After completing a 30-day foundation course, users can choose themed packs in areas such as “anxiety” and “creativity.” To keep you on track, the app displays your progress and sends reminders to sit as designated times. You can try it out for 10 days for free, and afterwards it is $14 per month or $93 for the year.
(Note: “Calm” provides a less polished but similar experience to Headspace for only $10/month or $40/year.)
For the occasional user: Stop, Breathe, and Think is for those who would rather meditate spontaneously than have a regimented practice. When you log in, the app asks how you are feeling and suggests meditations that match your mood. Most of the app’s services are free, and you can purchase bonus guided meditations like “Falling Asleep and “Dealing with Anxiety” for a dollar or two each.
For children: Smiling Mind is a mindfulness app with services specifically geared toward children. Mom and Dad can rejoice, too, because the app is completely free.
For the intermediate or advanced: Insight Timer offers 1000 guided meditations from teachers in the mindfulness and Buddhist communities. It also includes a customizable, virtual bell with options like “ring every 5 minutes during 25-minute meditation.” Furthermore, users can join discussion groups to support their practice on topics like “Poetry and Meditation” or “Women Meditate Worldwide.”
For staying present off the meditation cushion: Chill – Instead of guiding formal meditation practice, this app sends the user “Mindfulness Reminders” to come back to the present moment throughout the day. Additionally, Chill provides a unique quote to enjoy and contemplate every day.