5 Best Apps for Your Guided Meditation and Mindfulness Practice

5 Best Apps for Your Guided Meditation and Mindfulness Practice
Developing a meditation and mindfulness practice is free and requires no special clothing or equipment. Image courtesy of stock images, freedigitalphotos.net

One of the best things I've ever done is to begin a meditation and mindfulness practice. I suppose I began it almost 10 years ago when I took a hypnosis class with Rev. Jean Kadkhodaian of The Lighthouse Emotional Wellness Center in Arlington Heights. I took to it like a fish takes to water and saw immediately how it helped ease my anxiety, migraines, and improved my sleep.

I purchased a few CDs from Jean so that I could continue this practice of self-hypnosis and meditation on my own. To this day, those CDs remain on my iPod and my Meditation and Relaxation Playlist gets more airplay than anything else.

About 18 months ago, I took another class that focussed on meditation and mindfulness as a way to help quiet the doubting voices we all have in our head, regulate emotions, moods, stress, panic attacks, and overall well-being. Since that time, I've become fully engaged in a daily meditation and mindfulness practice.

What I've found is that by practicing meditation and mindfulness, I'm able to better remain calm in what would otherwise be highly stressful situations. Think about how I've handled 2014, a year filled with one crisis after another. I have remained rock solid and steady throughout all of it, which has enabled me to focus on solutions rather than get caught up in all the drama.

That's not to say that practicing meditation and mindfulness you stop feeling emotions. Quite the contrary. I am fully in touch with my emotions at all times. This practice simply allows me to not get stuck in any one emotion and to step back and evaluate all angles of a situation before reacting. I've also almost entirely stopped having panic attacks.

If you want more information about mindfulness and how it changes lives, I strongly encourage you to read 10% Happier by Dan Harris, anchor of ABC's Nightline. Dan writes from a place of real life experiences - his own beginning with his panic attacks that happened live on Good Morning America - not from a clinical place. He shares his very personal journey from skeptic to true believer, including some very unhealthy steps he took to self-medicate in an attempt to calm the voices in his head and stop his panic attacks.

I have read and re-read 10% Happier a number of times now and truly believe it to be one of the best books of 2014. I can talk on and on about it, but watch Dan explain it and see his panic attack.

As I said, I practice meditation and mindfulness daily. Sometimes my practice is 5 minutes and sometimes it's 30 minutes or more. In my current practice, I use a number of guided meditation apps on my phone. I haven't yet mastered the fully silent meditation, although I'm getting better.

One of my favorite times to use a guided meditation is just before I drift off to sleep. My Jawbone UP24 tells me that on nights I use a guided meditation for sleep, I fall asleep in under 10 minutes. Nights without it? At least 15 to 20 minutes. That's significant.

These are my favorite apps for meditation and mindfulness.

  1. UCLA's Mindful Awareness Research Center offers eight free guided meditations and is a great place to start if you're a newbie because the site walks you through the process. You can listen straight from the website or from iTunes U. In general, the MARC website is a terrific meditation and mindfulness resource. My personal favorite guided meditation is Body Scan for Sleep. It's 12 minutes in length and I've never heard the entire thing. The meditations last from 3 minutes to about 17 minutes, depending on which meditation you're using.
  2. Sleep Easily Meditation by Shazzie (free version). This guided meditation is 26 minutes in length (again, I've never heard the entire thing) and Shazzie has a very soothing voice. This app is available for both iPhone/iPad and Android products. In app purchases are available, but I've never bought any.
  3. 5 Minute Relaxation (free). What I love about this meditation is that it's actually two meditations. The first is designed for people who simply want a quick pick-me-up, reduce stress, and wake up at the end feeling refreshed. The second is designed for people who want to fall asleep. Available for both iPhone/iPad and Android products. In app purchases are available, but I haven't bought them.
  4. Mindfulness (free). This app offers multiple meditations plus in-app purchases. Meditations last from 7 to 25 minutes. Available for iPhone/iPad.
  5. Stop, Breathe, & Think (free). This is a great app because it encourages you to check-in with yourself, determine how you're feeling, track it, and then it recommends a few meditations for you. You can skip this stop if you prefer and choose a meditation from an extensive list. Once again, in-app purchases are available and it's available for iPhone/iPad and Android products.

These are the apps I use most frequently, but they are the tip of the iceberg when it comes to meditation and mindfulness apps.  Headspace is another app that's quite popular and free (again, in-app purchases are available), but I haven't tried it.

Want more information and tips on meditation and mindfulness? Check out my Pinterest board dedicated to it.

How do you feel about mindfulness and meditation? Have you tried it? Do you use any of these apps or any others?

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    A native of Chicago's Northwest Suburbs and resident of the North Shore, Little Merry Sunshine comes by her name honestly. The story goes that as a child, she was always so happy that she even slept with a smile on her face. Her mom nicknamed her Little Merry Sunshine. It stuck, along with her insatiable desire to focus on the good in the world and to leave it a little better than she found it. She does this by sharing her passions and dreams, what inspires her, and maybe you too, and furthering the discussion about how we can listen to our better angels. You can reach her at LittleMerrySunshineCN[at]WowWay[dot]com.

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