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Everyone may, at some point in their life, feel stressed. Calming apps can help relieve stress — typically through mindfulness and meditation techniques.
- Best for sleep meditation: Calm
- Best for guided meditation: Headspace
- Best for social coloring: Color Therapy Coloring Number
- Best for timed meditation sessions: The Mindfulness App
- Best for on-the-go meditation: Buddhify
- Best for immersive sounds: Portal
- Best for managing real-time emotions: MyLife Meditation
- Best for a range of color and patterns: Colorfy
- Best for Vedic meditation: Sattva
- Best for a combination of mindfulness and CBT: Sanvello
- Best for practical teachings: Ten Percent Happier
- Best for a choice of meditation techniques: Insight Timer
Mindfulness is the practice of bringing a person’s attention to the present moment. A person in a mindful state observes all of their thoughts and feelings without judgment.
In this article, we look at several apps that may help alleviate feelings of stress and anxiety or provide techniques to manage them.
Anxiety is common, and most people experience stress and anxiety during their lifetime. When feelings of angst do not fade after time or if they become worse, this may indicate an anxiety disorder.
- generalized anxiety disorder
- panic disorder
- phobia-related disorders
Calming apps aim to help a person cope with anxiety and stress by making them more present, or mindful. Some apps may also act as prompts for people to take time out and reflect on life to realize what triggers their stress.
When looking for a calming app for relief of anxiety and stress, a person may consider specific features, including:
- Price and frequency of charges: A person may like to consider their budget, however, there are other options to consider as some apps have multiple payment options. Some have a one-time fee, some monthly, some weekly, and some annually. Each might have benefits for a person’s differing circumstances.
- Social: Some apps have social interactions and peer support that might appeal to some individuals.
- Features: Some apps may have multiple functions, but specific areas of focus. For example, an app that has a main feature relating to sleep may benefit those with difficulties in these areas.
Medical News Today includes apps that are reputable, well-received, and with a range of price points and features.
Additionally, MNT looks at some of the following:
- Health claims: MNT includes companies that make no questionable health claims.
- Trust: MNT includes companies that operate with transparency in regard to their products, services, and leadership. Also, where relevant, chosen companies have certifications from reputable, third-party organizations.
- Business standards: MNT chooses companies that follow safe and ethical business and marketing practices.
- Reputation: MNT highlights companies that have no warnings from governing bodies, unresolved lawsuits, and that have positive standings with the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
Below, we look at 12 apps that may help a person with anxiety or stress to better manage their day-to-day activities.
Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based and correct at the time of publishing.
Best for sleep meditation
Calm uses concepts from mindfulness to promote meditation, sleep, and relaxation.
Although some parts of the app are free to access, there is an option to pay for a premium subscription, which unlocks additional content.
A 2019 study examining the effectiveness of this app in reducing stress and anxiety in college students found that not only did it reduce these feelings, but it improved their mindfulness and self-compassion.
Calm is available on iPhone and Android devices.
Best for guided meditation
Headspace is an app that teaches mindfulness. It encourages daily use to practice mindfulness skills and reduce levels of stress and anxiety.
A 2018 study looking at stress and irritability levels compared people completing the first 10 introductory sessions of Headspace with those listening to an audiobook on the concepts of mindfulness.
The researchers concluded that the reductions in stress resulting from external pressures, as well as in irritability, were more significant among the group using Headspace.
The app contains some basic content that is free to access. However, it also offers an annual or monthly subscription service for premium content.
Headspace is available on iPhone and Android devices.
Color Therapy Coloring Number
Best for social coloring
There is research to suggest that coloring can reduce levels of anxiety. Although this research has focused on physical coloring books, it may be that coloring on a mobile device provides similar benefits.
Color Therapy Coloring Number is a relaxation app where a person can pick from a number of images to color by number. There are some free images that a person can access. However, there is also the option to pay for extra content.
Color Therapy Coloring Number is available on iPhone and iPad only.
The Mindfulness App
Best for timed meditation sessions
The manufacturers of this app recommend it both for people who are new to mindfulness and meditation and for those experienced in these practices.
As well as offering meditations, this app has a reminder function to encourage people to make daily mediation a habit.
The free version of the app provides a 5-day guided introduction course to mindfulness, as well as timed meditation sessions.
A person can also pay for a premium version that provides unlimited access to more than 250 guided meditations. Some of these cover stress relief and mindfulness at work.
The Mindfulness App is available on iPhone and Android devices.
Best for on-the-go meditation
The creators of this app describe it as a meditation and mindfulness app for people with busy lifestyles. Whereas other meditation apps require people to find 10–20 minutes of quiet time, this app provides on-the-go meditation.
Buddhify also offers more traditional forms of meditation.
A person can choose to buy a yearly Buddhify membership, which allows access to extra features. Alternatively, they can pay for just the app and access more than 200 meditations.
Buddhify is available on iPhone and Android devices.
Best for immersive sounds
Portal is a sound app that claims to help a person sleep, focus, and relax by providing them with an immersive experience. The available sounds range from thunderstorms to oceans.
When a person experiences stress, it can activate their sympathetic nervous system, triggering a fight-or-flight response.
There is the option to pay for an annual subscription to access the entire sound library.
Portal is available on iPhone and iPad only.
Best for managing real-time emotions
MyLife Meditation is a meditation and mindfulness app that encourages a person to check in with their feelings and then recommends short meditations to suit a person’s current emotions.
The app is free to download and gives people access to foundational meditations. Alternatively, there is an option for an annual or monthly subscription that provides an extra 400 activities, including guided journaling.
MyLife Meditation is available on iPhone and Android devices.
Best for a range of colors and patterns
Colorfy is another coloring app that contains images of mandalas, flowers, animals, and more.
It offers different color palettes and paintbrush sizes and also has an option for people to draw and color their own mandalas.
It offers weekly, monthly, or annual subscriptions that give people access to new images to color.
Colorfy is available on iPhone and Android devices.
Best for Vedic meditation
This app relies on the principles of Vedic meditation, a type of silent mantra meditation.
It is free to download and includes mantras, chants, and guided meditations.
The app offers three types of subscriptions: monthly, annual, or a one-off lifetime subscription. These premium subscriptions give people access to the entire library of guided meditations, as well as personalized meditation and the choice to join global meditation events.
Sattva is available on iPhone and Android devices.
Best for a combination of mindfulness and CBT
The aim of this app, formerly known as Pacifica, is to improve a person’s mental health. It combines mindfulness with ideas from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This type of therapy focuses on changing negative thoughts and behaviors.
A 2019 study highlights that people using this app for 1 month saw an improvement in symptoms of anxiety, depression, and stress.
Sanvello is free to download and use. However, a premium version is also available that provides unlimited use of all the app’s tools.
Sanvello is available on iPhone and Android devices.
Ten Percent Happier
Best for practical teachings
Ten Percent Happier provides guided meditation and practical teachings that may help with stress and sleep.
The app contains meditations for specific issues and topics, such as anxiety or parenting. This feature aims to help a person find the right meditation for their emotions at that moment.
If people want to access more content, they can also pay monthly or choose an annual subscription.
Ten Percent Happier is available on iPhone and Android devices.
Best for a choice of meditation techniques
Insight Timer offers guided meditation, music tracks, and ambient sounds.
The app also provides a range of different meditation techniques, allowing people to find the one that best suits them.
People can pay annually or monthly for a premium subscription. This version gives a person access to courses, options to listen offline, and high-quality audio.
Insight Timer is available on iPhone and Android devices.
The table below compares the 12 apps described above.
|Meditation app||Best for||Cost||Features|
|Calm||sleep meditation||annually: around $40|
lifetime: around $412
|short meditation sessions, relaxing music, and sleep stories|
|Headspace||guided meditation||monthly: around $13|
annually: around $70
|meditation sessions with different durations for all experience levels|
|Color Therapy Coloring Number||social coloring||all-access monthly: around $10|
annually: around $60
|social coloring for relaxation and mindfulness|
|The Mindfulness App||timed meditation sessions||monthly: around $10|
annually: around $60
|meditation for every time of day and suitable for beginners and those more experienced|
|Buddhify||on-the-go meditation||to download: $5|
|meditation sessions for specific mental health conditions|
|Portal||immersive sounds||monthly: around $10|
annually: around $50
|relaxation and meditation with immersive sounds, visuals, and lighting|
|MyLife||managing real-time emotions||monthly: around|
|meditation and mindfulness with daily check-ins and personalized activities|
|Colorfy||a range of color and patterns||varying up to around $40||relaxation through painting artist-drawn illustrations or uploading own illustrations|
|Sattva||Vedic meditation||monthly: around $50 |
lifetime: around $400
|heart rate monitor, mood tracker, and short meditation sessions|
|Sanvello||a combination of mindfulness and CBT||monthly: up to around $9|
annually: up to around $54
lifetime access: around $200
|combining mindfulness and CBT to manage unhelpful thoughts, coaching, self-care, community|
|Ten Percent Happier||practical teachings||varying up to $99||beginners’ guides, a user-friendly interface, and introduction videos|
|InsightTimer||a choice of meditation techniques||monthly: around $10|
annually: around $60
|a community for meditators and more than 45,000 meditation sessions|
A person should consider seeing a doctor if their stress is becoming unmanageable and affecting their day-to-day functioning.
Although apps may be a good option for self-care and reflection, they can only go so far and are not a replacement for a clinical treatment plan.
A doctor may recommend therapy, medication, or both.
It is normal for a person to experience stress and anxiety at some point in their life. If this does not improve over time or becomes worse, it may lead to an anxiety disorder. Many apps are available to help relieve symptoms of anxiety and stress and help a person learn techniques to cope with them.
However, people having trouble managing stress may require medication or therapy. Therapy can help a person understand the underlying causes of stress and learn techniques to make their symptoms more manageable. Medication may also help alleviate the symptoms of stress.
Please note: Medical News Today does not imply warranty of fitness for a particular purpose or endorse any of these applications. These apps have not been evaluated for medical accuracy by Medical News Today. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved them unless otherwise indicated.