Headspace and Calm are the juggernauts in the meditation apps sphere. They have done a great job bringing mindfulness-based meditation to the masses. Their apps make it easier for anyone to pick up the skills to help relax, and even deal with issues like anxiety and depression.
But at $US100 ($136)/year, they sure do cost a lot. And because they are so popular, their programs can be quite generic.
If you’ve tried Headspace before and found it didn’t work for you, you should know that there is a whole world of niche meditation apps for you to explore. Try out some of these alternatives to see which one works best for you.
If you’re looking for a free alternative to Headspace, start with Smiling Mind. It’s developed by an Australian not-for-profit organisation, and the app is completely free (there’s not even a premium tier on offer).
The app offers structured programs for learning mindfulness meditation, sleep, relationships, stress, eating, and more. The “Intro to Mindfulness” course is a great place to start.
You can also use one-off guided meditations that include breath and sounds meditation, body-scan meditation, sleep meditation, and more.
Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese monk who started a monastery in France called Plum Village. He is also the author of many popular mindfulness books like No Mud, No Lotus. Plum Village has hosted many mindfulness programs, workshops, and talks.
The Plum Village app lets you explore this wealth of information from your smartphone. You get access to meditations (some by Thich Nhat Hanh himself), talks, text resources, and videos. Plus, the entire app is completely free.
Insight Timer is a community-based mindfulness meditation app and website. In an app like Headspace, you essentially have access to one or two meditation teachers. On Insight Timer, there are thousands of meditation teachers to choose from. You can even enroll in communities that practice mindfulness and meditation together.
The free version of the app offers more than 100,000 meditations, and access to live events where you can practice mediation with people from around the world. The app organizes meditations in different categories, and you’ll find different meditations for dealing with anxiety, stress, sleep, and so on.
The best thing about Insight Timer is the fact that it doesn’t restrict you. You can explore and find teachers and courses that suit your current needs.
Insight Timer has a Member Plus program that gives you access to more than 1,000 exclusive courses and offline downloads for $US60 ($82)/year, but it’s not necessary to get the most out of the app.
Ten Per cent Happier is not a cheaper alternative to Headspace or Calm (annual membership is $US99 ($135)), but it’s certainly better when it comes to targeted meditation training.
The app curates a selection of diverse teachers, that help you practice mindfulness. There are more than 500 guided meditations in the app.
What makes this one stand out is its 1:1 meditation teaching program. If you tried Headspace but weren’t able to meditate, perhaps learning directly from a meditation teacher can help.
Waking Up by Sam Harris is a different kind of meditation app. It’s actually more like a meditation course. It’s based on Sam’s book of the same name, in which he talks about awakening your spirituality even if you are not religious.
Waking Up takes the elements of Buddhism, Stoicism, and mindfulness meditation to create a 28-day long course. All you have to do is spend 10 or so minutes on the practice every day. The $US99 ($135)/year membership is certainly not cheaper than Headspace, but if you’re trying to explore the mindfulness meditation space, try out the 28-day beginner’s course — you can use the program for one month for $US14.99 ($20).
Liberate is a meditation app created by and for the Black community and people of colour in general. If you don’t find the Headspace or Calm experience relatable, take a look at Liberate.
Liberate features guided meditations, talks, workshops, and courses led by POC teachers. The app offers a unique cultural perspective when it comes to mindfulness. It helps users deal with the trauma that is contextual to the black community. The app incorporates talks about the Black Lives Matter movement as well.
Don’t want to pay for an app subscription to meditate? You don’t have to. YouTube is filled with wonderful resources to help you meditate. Just search for meditations for relaxing, anxiety, or stress. YouTube is also a great resource for learning breathing techniques, and for listening to mindfulness talks.