The best meditation apps offer guided meditations and so much more. They provide mindfulness exercises to calm anxiety, help you sleep better, and elevate your mood and overall well-being. They can even relieve stress during a panic attack. Always within reach, meditation apps truly work. Among users of the Calm meditation app, 81% reported less stress and 73% experienced better quality sleep. In fact, 84% of Calm users improved their mental health overall.
But with so many good mindfulness apps available in 2021, how do you find the best meditation app out there? And is Calm worth the subscription cost when there is so much free sleep meditation content available? Let’s dig in.
What is the Calm sleep and meditation app?
Calm is the most popular sleep, meditation and relaxation app in the world. With millions of users, Calm in 2021 holds the position of No. 8 most downloaded health and fitness app at the Apple App Store where it earned the 2017 App of the Year award. You can also find Calm at Google Play, and there’s even a desktop version of Calm. Created for adults, the app has features for kids and is rated for ages 4 and older. Calm is commonly used by families to relax tension and help with symptoms of depression among pre-teens and teens.
What makes Calm a great meditation app?
Calm makes mindfulness easy.
If you are new to meditation, an app with over 700 guided meditations might sound intimidating. After all, if you want to relax and sleep better, figuring out a new technology in itself can seem time-consuming if not stressful.
But don’t worry. Calm is easy to use. The first time you open the app, it prompts you with just a few questions. From there, Calm personalizes your experience based on goals such as better sleep, greater gratitude, anxiety reduction, increased happiness, enhanced performance or even better self esteem. For kids, choices include soundful sleep and emotion management. It only takes about a minute to set up, and you will immediately see personalized meditation sessions to get you started.
Mood check-ins, daily email prompts and a brand new navigation system all assist in keeping you—and Calm’s library of resources—organized and ready at any time of the day or night.
One feature to help get you started is the Daily Calm. Narrated by author and mindfulness instructor Tamara Levitt, these 10-minute meditation sessions bring an uncanny blend of both relaxation and invigoration. Tamara appeals to visualization techniques while guiding your breathing and overall awareness of your body-state. These mini-sessions are great for a lunch break, but I found them to be the best mindfulness exercises to start the day. Users will love the sound quality and gentle, ambient sounds of nature.
Library of Guided Meditations
Calm provides more than 700 guided meditations hosted by Tamara Levitt and other mindfulness experts. Again, don’t worry that you’ll be sorting through such a vast library of meditations on your own. Simply choose from categories such as meditation for beginners, stress reduction, sleep enhancement, personal growth, increasing focus or others. You will also find kids’ and unguided meditation categories.
Typical mindfulness and meditation sessions range from 3-30 minutes. Some tracks progress through a multi-step program lasting over days or even weeks to build your best meditation practices. As with Daily Calm, the sound quality is amazing through quality earbuds or headphones. Many meditative sessions include ambient sounds to help you tune out the world for a deeper, more focused experience.
Sleep better with the Sleep feature.
Do you have difficulty sleeping? Do you struggle to leave the day behind and enjoy the tranquility of a deep rest? We all do at some time.
Calm offers a wide variety of sleep choices including sleep meditations, bedtime stories for adults and children, soundscapes and relaxing music. There’s even an easy-to-use sleep timer so that the sounds and music can last for just a few minutes or throughout the night.
A standout option is the Sleep Remix Series. Here, popular songs invite you in with familiar voices and sounds, but with a tempo designed for rest. These songs are amazing, and familiarity invites you in. Offerings include the music of Katy Perry, Ariana Grande, Post Malone, Jhené Aiko and others designed specifically for a calming bedtime experience.
Calm has other mindfulness and health features too.
Calm is an ambitious app, and it offers plenty of secondary features to keep you engaged and learning. Each feature integrates well with the app, augmenting your journey rather than feeling “tacked on” or gimmicky.
For instance, Master Classes provides 15-plus classes to guide you through topics such as achieving peak performance, living stoically, and mindful eating. The Spark, on the other hand, offers a talk-show podcast type of format to tackle issues such as envisioning success, interpreting dreams, and even how to discuss politics effectively. Calm Body with Katie Shill and Christi-an Slomka guides you through movement and exercises to relieve tension, lift mood, and sleep more soundly.
And lastly, there’s Breathe. This deceptively simple but highly effective tool guides you through breathing exercises to help you relax, energize, focus, restore, or unwind from stress. Set the timer for as little as a minute, and the app helps you to breathe better. Since I have Calm handy on my iPhone, I found myself using this feature several times a day when I felt myself becoming too “wound up” or unfocused.
Where the Calm app could improve
The Calm meditations are designed for beginner to intermediate level. If you are highly experienced in meditation and seeking deep, master’s level guided lessons, this app likely isn’t for you. And you need to enjoy Tamara Levitt’s teaching style and voice as she constitutes a fair portion of the content.
Additionally, some may find the $69.99 annual subscription fee prohibitive. A seven-day free trial mitigates that somewhat. Try Calm for free, and if you choose to cancel, the simplest way is through the Calm website. Simply visit your profile and choose “subscriptions” to find the cancel button.
Is the Calm app worth the price?
The benefits of meditation apps in improving mindfulness, reducing stress, and increasing focus are well-known. And Calm stands in the platinum league of meditation apps for quality and range of content, usability, and breadth of features. In fact, it was the app used in a scientific study showing great sleep and mindfulness benefits for its users.
Yes, a great deal of similar content waits for free on YouTube, Spotify, and other streaming services. But if you want to relax or listen to a sleep story, it’s easy to go down a 20-minute wormhole searching online. Plus, the quality of results will vary.
I found the convenience of having so much content handy and in one one place well worth the Calm subscription fee. You will never spend more than a few seconds finding exactly what you need. At what comes down to pennies a day, Calm is worth every cent.
Where can I find the Calm meditation app?
Find Calm at:
- The Apple App Store
- Google Play
- Calm Website for Desktop
Photo by @Wutzkoh/Twenty20
Bryan enjoys the digital space where arts and technology meet. As a writer, he has worked in education, health and wellbeing, and manufacturing. He also assists smaller businesses in web development including accessibility and content development. In his free time, he hikes trails in central Florida.