These are stressful times. The global coronavirus pandemic is already seeing a resurgence across much of the country and there’s the related financial uncertainly. On top of that, the nation has seen civil unrest marked by months of uprisings. So, let’s just say 2020 has provided challenges.
While you might not realize it, you could find a bit of solace in a device you always have in your hands.
Apps for smartphones and tablets can provide a mental break from it all, whether it’s tied to meditation and mindfulness, yoga, breathing and relaxation exercises, or getting a better night’s sleep. The following five are worth considering and are available for both iOS and Android.
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Have a few minutes to spare? The newly-updated Unplug Meditation app dishes up more than 750 videos to help you hit the reset button during a hectic day.
Led by celebrated meditation teachers across the globe, you can try out the Meditation of the Day; browse by teachers, time (from one to 45 minutes) or topics (like “Great For Beginners” or “Guided Journeys”); or search by keywords such as “kids,” “sleep” or “dogs” (yes, there is a “Pet Meditation” session led by Heather Hayward and her loyal canine companion, Bubbles).
Unplug also offers a meditation timer, ambient sounds (for self-guided sessions), challenges – lasting seven or 30 days – a calendar and journal, and the ability to sync your meditation stats with Apple Health (though the app works with Android, too).
After the seven-day free trial, the app costs $59.99/year or $7.99/month.
As the name suggests, Relax Melodies could help you fall asleep with its myriad of soothing nature sounds (like crashing waves, light rain in a forest, or a crackling fire). There’s also white noise, meditation sessions, bedtime stories, music, and a section on SleepMoves, a series of mind-body exercises and relaxation techniques to help you unwind before bed.
To keep things fresh, new sounds, meditations and stories are added weekly. A new Discover homepage was recently launched, to help listeners find new releases and recommended content based on previous likes and listens.
This week, the company announced a collaboration with Choice Hotels, where guests at more than 400 Sleep Inn hotels across the U.S and Canada gain complimentary full Premium access to the app for the duration of their stay.
On that note, Relax Melodies is free to start, with access to selected content per section, but the $59.99/year Premium subscription unlocks all features and content.
Described as not a game or an app, but an artificially intelligent companion, #SelfCare is a very different kind of relaxation experience. #SelfCare starts with soft music, rain and an animated image of a person curled up under some bedsheets.
I started by tapping a black cat, which brings it full screen, allowing you to stroke its face, fur, and paws. After that I tapped on some tarot cards (which you can access anytime you like for a reading and interpretation), and then I began to look around the room to see what else to do – all in the name of achieving peace and self-connection.
You can blow bubbles, drag letters to form words, write in a journal, play with crystals, look at plants, place virtual items you find on a triangular alter in your room, and more.
#SelfCare was meant to be your own private place to harness “warm energy,” and explore various activities and soundscapes.
It’s likely you have seen the television ads for popular mindfulness and meditation app Calm. The app is loaded with guided sessions in varying lengths, ranging from 3 to 25 minutes, and with content designed for beginners, as well as intermediate and advanced users (including seven- and 21-day programs).
Simply choose a topic that matters most to you such as Happiness, Managing Stress, Focus, Calming Anxiety, Deep Sleep, Self-Esteem, Forgiveness, Breaking Habits and Concentration – and the desired length of the session. Track your progress with gamification elements including daily streaks.
There are free sessions to get you started, but subscriptions are $14.99 per month, or discounted to $59.99 per year. Subscribers get full access to all the instructions – along with a new 10-minute program added daily – more than 100 “Sleep Stories,” breathing exercises, relaxing nature sounds and more.
And if you have a smart speaker (Amazon Echo or Google Nest), you can use your voice to open Calm and be verbally guided through sessions.
An Apple “Editor’s Choice” app – as was the Calm app – Headspace is billed as a “gym membership for the mind.” Headspace features a clean and easy-to-use interface, and offers a free beginner series called “Take10” – 10 sessions, each 10 minutes, over 10 days – using proven meditation and mindfulness techniques that could help clear your head, reduce stress, improve sleep, and increase overall happiness.
Available for iOS, Android, Amazon, and on the web at Headspace.com, the lessons include stat tracking, rewards, and an optional buddy system for friends to motivate each other.
If you want more than the introductory Take10, Headspace has a subscription service ($12.99 monthly or $69.99 annually). This grants you access to “SOS” sessions, for moments of panic and stress, while newly added sessions include “The Wake Up” (daily inspirational short real-life stories and advice) and “Move Mode” (guided workouts to exercise your mind and body at the same time).
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Sleep better, meditate and relax with these smartphone apps