My Favorite Apps for Meditation and Self Care

2016 has been an eventful year.  Some good, some not so good. Facebook is a tiny, often not accurate reflection of our lives - engagements, marriages, Disney World, new puppies, newborn babies, cute animal videos, promotions, raises.

At the other end of the spectrum, via phone calls, text messages, personal emails, I learn about struggles, divorces and illnesses. The worst fear of all is possibly taking of care of a sick spouse or child. Unfortunately, life isn't without hurdles. And when it rains, it pours.

"My child is very sick and I just lost my job", "My spouse was diagnosed with a severe condition and our children are still so young". These were real phone calls I received in the past few months.

I don't come close to knowing all the answers. But having experienced family medical issues with my father back in 2008-2009, I know intimately what it feels like to be desperate and hopeless.  That's when I sought out a support network - a combination of trusted friends, psychiatrists, activities, software and mobile apps.

For the purpose of this blog post, I'll focus on mobile apps. These are the most accessible outlets for mild to moderate anxiety. However, they do not replace social networks and medical treatments for severe depression and emotional trauma.

#1. Insight Timer (iOS and Android)

Hands down the best mobile I have ever discovered! Insight Timer is available and free on both iPhone and Android. Unlike the other medication apps, Insight Timer gathers some of the best meditation teachers from around the world (approximately 900+ as of October, 2016).

There's a social feature where you can connect with your friends and other people meditating (at the same time as you) from around the world. This is useful feature though not necessary for my personal practice.

The User Experience (UX) design is efficient and intuitive for beginners and experiences users. Under the "Guides" menu, you have the option to Bookmark, check out  Featured classes, and Explore something new on your own.

The app is also useful in curating and targeting your potential needs at the right time. For example, if you open the app at 11pm, you'll be served with a list of relaxing and sleep-aid related lessons. I bookmarked "Theta Dreams 20" - Binaural Music, The Healing Pool, Healing Darkness.

Similar to popular wearables, Insight Timer offers an activity and stats tracking under "Profile". From an overview to detailed reporting, you can get a clear sense for your progress.

#2. Tara Brach (podcast)

Tara Brach is a meditation teacher, psychologist and author. I discovered her through a podcast with Maria Popova (the creator of BrainPickings.com).

You don't need to download a native app, rather you can access all of Brach's teaching through any podcast app (Apple or Android) - simply search for "Tara Brach". In addition, I was able to find Brach as a teacher via The Insight Timer app mentioned above in #1.

#3.Pzizz (Android only)

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This is an app exclusively designed for Sleep or Power Nap.

"Using the science of psychoacoustics, the app's patented algorithm plays you a sleep-optimized mix of music, voiceover, and sound effects to quickly quiet your mind, put you to sleep, keep you asleep, and then wake you up feeling refreshed."

The voice is by Michael Breen, a NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) coach and trainer. The music is composed specifically for Pzizz with a custom algorithm. The experience is always different yet somewhat familiar. I find Breen's voice incredibly easy to listen to.

#4.Headspace (iOS and Android)

Created by Andy Puddicombe, a meditation and mindfulness teacher, Headspace is one of the most popular apps in this category by far. Headspace is designed and developed with guided medications and superb animations.

It is also user friendly, especially for newbies who have never attempted meditation before. The easy to follow, initial 10-step process gets you started right away with no setup, no hassle. Beyond the first 10 lessons, assume you are hooked, a subscription model kicks in ($7.92/month yearly or $12.99/month monthly as of Oct 2016).

Why did I put Headspace as #4? Well, I get a little bored listening to the same person. Don't get me wrong, Andy's great. But Insight Timer offers so many more varieties and options (based on my needs) that are hard to resist.

#5. Stop, Breathe and Think (iOS and Android)

Stop, Breathe and Think was one of my favorite apps for a long time. This app targets beginners who have little to no experience and time.

After answering just a few questions on how you feel a) mentally, b) physically and c) emotionally, the app spins up 3 meditation lessons for you to choose from before getting started on your practice that day. I really like this feature because every day is different. Hence what you need at that moment can differ drastically.

Each lesson has a clear title, a brief description and duration (typically it takes about 5-10 minutes to complete each one).

This app has been widely adapted because it has a small learning curve. I've also read articles in the past that the app had a positive impact on students' lives after being introduced to several middle and high schools.

#6. The School of Life

Created by Alain de Botton, author, philosopher, television presenter, The School of Life is an extensive compilation of programs and services to help people "live wisely and well". There's a YouTube channel where you can access a library of educational, interesting and often funny videos from The School of Life. I suggest you start with YouTube.

The School of Life website can be a permanent and all-inclusive resource for your medication journey at every level. There's also a "sister site" called The Book of Life, known to be the 'brain' of The School of Life, a gathering of the best ideas and wisdoms.

Did you enjoy this post? If so please share your feedback and apps that have helped you out during turbulent times.