12 Meditation Apps & Tools for Lifting Pandemic Anxiety
Pandemic anxiety is pervasive and seemingly unavoidable. Thankfully, these free and paid apps for meditation, calm, and sleep are equally ubiquitous — and easy to access. So, close the news and open one of these tools recommended by ADDitude readers for adults and children with ADHD.
Even without pandemic anxiety ravaging their mental health, many adults and children with ADHD use meditation apps to help them practice mindful breathing, thoughtful yoga, and general stress relief. In these worrisome days, these tools are needed perhaps more than ever. That is why we asked the ADDitude readers for their favorites and assembled this list of 12 app recommendations for achieving more calm through sleep, breathing, and meditative practices. All apps listed below are available for both Android and Apple mobile devices.
Note: The ADDitude editors have not reviewed these apps for effectiveness; be certain to look over quality reviews prior to downloading any mobile app. Some research suggests that apps benefit mental health, but more research is needed.
Meditation Apps for Beginners
When the body feels emotional or psychological stress, it releases cortisol — a stress hormone. Some science shows that slowing down breathing can interrupt anxiety by helping you recognize unhealthy thought patterns.1 Meditation is one avenue for doing that.
#1. Calm was recommended by many ADDitude readers, who say it’s kid-friendly and great for a quick mood boost. The app has a free trial and offers 7- and 21-day programs that focus on topics like anxiety, joy, and gratitude. To access the full library of content, which is also available on Android, subscribe for $69.99 per year (or $399.99 buys you a lifetime subscription).
To help you fall asleep, check out the app’s “Sleep Stories” function that features celebrities reading calming tales; one reader says the app’s ‘Calm Kids’ is really wonderful, too. New during “this time of uncertainly” the company has curated additional free meditation tools and other resources on its website. Calm is compatible with most Apple and Android mobile devices.
#2. Headspace is a popular app offering short (5 minutes) and long (20 minutes) meditations for adults and kids. The content is organized according to themes such as calm, focus, kindness, and sleep — and it is geared to specific age groups. Start your day with a dose of optimism in the “The Wake Up” feature or make your workout more meditative with the new “Move Mode.” Subscriptions cost $12.99 monthly or $69.99 annually with a free 7-day trial.
#3. Insight Timer allows users to customize their meditation practice with an advanced timer function that features a variety of beautiful sounds like singing bowls, wood blocks, and bell chime. Select the length of time that suits your needs and the type of meditation you’re seeking: spiritual, Zen, or transcendental meditations; meditations for children; walking, breathing, sleep, and more. This paid app costs $59.99 annually with a 7-day free trial.
#4. The 21-Day Meditation Experience was created by celebrities Oprah Winfrey and Deepak Chopra to “eradicate fear and doubt, and renew a sense of trust and optimism about your life and your world.” The app is free, but has received an overall score of 3.3 stars out of 5 with some reports of glitches prior to the latest version, released earlier this year.
#5. The Simple Habit app helps users develop a regular meditation practice in just 5 minutes a day. Choose from a comprehensive library of meditations led by a variety of teachers including former monks, mindfulness coaches, yoga practitioners, and psychologists. Simply close your eyes and listen or access meditations to help you improve focus, boost self-confidence, and calm your anxious mind. If you suffer from panic attacks, this app offers special meditations to overcome them. This paid app costs $89.99 a year and offers a 7-day free trial.
Apps for Art, Music, and Nature Sounds
The therapeutic value of making art and music is well documented in research as well as ADDitude readers’ anecdotal experiences with the following tools designed to induce calm and focus.
#6. Pixel Art is an art-making app that offers the mental stimulation and relaxation of a coloring book in a more social setting. “It’s like color-by-numbers, but one square at a time and it has simple pictures as well as very detailed ones,” said one ADDitude reader. Pixilart touts itself as a new kind of social networking “developed to expand the art of learning and networking.” This app costs $7.99 a week with a 3-day free trial.
#7. Tide is a free sleep, focus, and meditation app that uses nature sounds to erase worry. Windy mountain, forest, ocean, rainy window, fire, and cicadas are among the selections inspired by the great outdoors. The app claims to help procrastinators who struggle to stay focused, creatives who are disturbed by a noisy environment, stressed people fighting anxiety, and meditators striving for peace in body and mind. Access a selection of inspiring, daily quotes through the app as well.
#8. Weightless is not an app, but a 10-hour piece of music available for free on YouTube featuring piano, guitar, and samples of natural soundscapes combined in an otherworldly — and very calming — arrangement that claims to be the most relaxing song on the planet. “Weightless” was produced in 2012 by the UK band Marconi Union, which worked with sound therapists to develop this soothing instrumental designed to reduce anxiety, lower blood pressure, and moderate heart rate, according to Dr. David Lewis-Hodgson, a neuroscientist who studied it. (Previous research has shown that music is known to stimulate the regions in the brain responsible for processing emotions as well as sounds.)2
Apps for Better Sleep Hygiene
An anxious mind can disrupt sleep, and insufficient rest is linked to a host of chronic and serious health conditions including diabetes, mood disorders, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Perhaps then it’s no surprise that these sleep-inducing apps topped the list for several ADDitude readers.
#9. Pillow is a sleep-tracking app that monitors motion and sound to evaluate the quality of your sleep. The app collects data as you sleep and shows periods during the night when you experience light and deep phases of sleep. It also analyzes how dietary calories, caffeine, and alcohol consumption impact the quality of your sleep. Pillow costs $4.49 a month, or $27.49 a year with a 7-day free trial.
#10. Good Morning Alarm Clock is an easy-to-use app that provides novel insight — namely, your natural waking phase when you’re most likely to be alert and energized — to help you understand the quality of your sleep and track your sleep debt. The paid app offers relaxing sounds to help you drift off at the end of the day and it wakes you up in the morning — to a playlist of your favorite songs, if you like — at the most optimal time. This app costs $4.99 to download in the App Store.
Apps Just for Kids
Children feel the stress of the pandemic as they struggle to understand all the changes and to process the worry they see in their parents. Try these apps for calmer days at home.
# 11. Stop, Breathe & Think aims to help children work through negative emotions and achieve calm. Designed for kids ages 5 to 10, the app has short and sweet activities, mindfulness games, cute animations, and virtual stickers to reward progress. One ADDitude reader told us the emojis are especially helpful for her family. “My daughter sometimes can’t verbalize her feelings but has no problem clicking on the emojis,” she wrote. “It helps me understand what’s going on with her.” The app offers some exercises for free, but premium library access costs $9.99 per month or $58.99 per year.
#12. Daniel Tiger’s Grrr-ific Feelings (PBS Kids). Daniel Tiger, the lovable puppet based on his creator, Fred Rogers, has his own PBS show developed to teach children about feelings — their own and those of other people. It also shows them how to look for the good in disappointing situations and teaches helpful strategies like counting to four and taking a deep breath when anger creeps up. Research shows the app’s emotional regulation strategies really work.3 Adults might benefit from these strategies, too. The app costs $2.99 to download in the App Store.
For more apps, check out these recommendations all reviewed by the ADAA.
1Maxwell L, Duff E. Mindfulness: An effective prescription for meditation. Journal of Nurse Practitioners (June 2016). Vol. 12, Issue 6, Pgs. 403-409. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5660294/016/j.nurpra.2016.02.009″ target=”_blank” rel=”noopener noreferrer”>https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nurpra.2016.02.009
2Eerola T, Vuoskoski JK (2011). A comparison of the discrete and dimensional models of emotion in music. Psychol. Music 39, 18–49. doi: 10.1093/scan/nsv03
3Rasmussen E, Strouse G, Colwell M, et al (2019). Promoting preschoolers’ emotional competence through prosocial TV and mobile app use, Media Psychology, 22:1, 1-22, DOI: 10.1080/15213269.2018.1476890
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