Stress Free Living: Top Meditation Apps

by Janean Flowe
man on beach sitting on sand

by Stacey Zable

Traveling by plane, train or bus is even more stressful now and serenity is only a smartphone app away. Experts agree that meditation is an excellent way to help create calm amidst the stress of travel.

“One of the greatest things about meditation is that it is portable and you don’t need any special equipment,” says Robbie Bogard and Mary Cahilly, Life Management Therapists at Canyon Ranch Lenox in Massachusetts. “Whenever and wherever you have a moment to focus your attention, it is available to you. This makes it a great practice to help you create a sense of calm when you are traveling.”

Bogard and Cahilly see mediation as a way to even enhance trips. They say: “If we use meditation [then] we can actually enjoy the trip more as it frees us up to take in the experiences, rather than be distracted by our worries or other upsets.”
There are so many meditation apps available now, that choosing the right one may actually be “overwhelming,” according to Nina Smiley, Director of Mindfulness Programming at Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, N.Y., and author of The Three Minute Meditator and Mindfulness in Nature. “As you search for your favorite meditation apps, don’t be afraid to explore and see which ones resonate with you,” she says. “There’s so much opportunity for discovery, so identify your goals and see which apps will help you best achieve them. I encourage you to sign up for free trials and experiment with the range of options before committing to your favorite ones.”

Top picks for meditation apps include:


Bogard and Cahilly like Calm as it “offers short daily uplifting messages as a gentle reminder to stay calm and relaxed,” and that it “has many user-friendly features and a library full of curated guided meditations to suit both the newbie and experienced meditator.” They add: “Users can follow a program that teaches meditation. Each day builds on the earlier material. Following the same teacher allows you to hear the same soothing voice while being introduced to new forms of meditation.” Smiley notes that Calm is “effective for those whose goals are focused on sleep. They offer ambient music, nature scenes and sounds, sleep meditations and video guides.”

Calm offers a free account with select pieces of content available by simply downloading the app. For those interested in accessing Calm’s full content library, they can choose a premium subscription for $69.99 a year. It begins with a free seven-day trial period, in which you can cancel during that period before you are charged and the annual subscription begins.

woman meditating with mobile phone on the floor


Both Smiley and Jeremy McCarthy, Group Director of Spa & Wellness at Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, put Headspace at the top of their favorite app list. McCarthy thinks it’s a good choice especially for someone who is a beginner as it is very easy and accessible. Smiley adds that “they offer meditation for any mind, any mood, and any goal. They have a wide library with guided meditations for any purpose, and I like that the platform is rooted in a scientific commitment to backing its meditation offerings with clinical research.”

Select a one-week free trial and pay $12.99 a month or opt for the first 14 days for free for $69.99 annually. Student and family pricing available.


Insight offers some 70,000 free guided meditations. “[They are] grouped into various subject areas: anxiety, sleep, peace, compassion, etc.,” says Bogard and Cahilly. McCarthy adds that “while they offer guided meditations, their focus is on offering a meditation timer. This encourages the user to practice on their own, rather than only following guided meditations, which is an important part of the practice.” Smiley stresses that “the breadth of content they have is remarkable, as is the online community that keeps adding to it.”

Beyond the very large library of free offerings, the Member Plus option is $60 a year with the chance to try additional premium features first for free for 30 days.


Another favorite mediation app of McCarthy’s is Waking Up from neuroscientist, philosopher, and The New York Times best-selling author Sam Harris. McCarthy says it “features a more scientific approach into understanding your own consciousness.” McCarthy also likes that it includes guest teachers for a variety of interesting courses. After a free trial, the annual price is $99.99. Those who truly can’t afford it, can request a free account, according to the company. Waking Up also donates a minimum of 10 percent of its profits to charity.

(Go Magazine Online Exclusive Fall 2021)

(Photo: GettyImages)


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