What does mindfulness look like to you? Maybe it’s taking a walk outside and focusing on the sounds of nature around you and how your feet feel with each step. Maybe it’s spending a few minutes before eating a meal appreciating the smells and colors of the food on your plate. Or perhaps it’s taking two minutes to focus on your breathing when you are sitting in traffic or right before leaving the house for the day.
Regardless of how you incorporate mindfulness it is sure to have a beneficial effect on you — and your entire family. That said, how do you make mindfulness a daily practice? Easier said than done, right? The resources listed below are here to help you get started!
All of these resources are FREE apps available for your computer, tablet or cell phone. Each app is summarized and evaluated based on the targeted age groups, quality of the content, extent of free content, ease of use, and presence of any extra features. Try them out with your family and let us know how they worked for you!
AGES: 2 – 4
IDEAL FOR: Young children
Healthy Star is a story book app that we encourage you to do interactively with your child so that it becomes an opportunity for learning and socializing. This is one of the few resources that helps guide very young children in starting to think about mindfulness concepts. A finger swipe across the app turns each page in the book and then the text is read aloud. Alternatively, you may mute the sound and instead read the text aloud to your child while encouraging them to point to images and answer questions raised during the story. The story is simplistic, but it encourages children to practice deep breathing and guides them through a modified body scan by asking them to think about the healthy parts of their body. Overall, this is a cute app for very young children to practicing some basic concepts of mindfulness.
AGES: 6 – Adult
IDEAL FOR: Kids
OMG. I Can Meditate! is a great app for teaching younger children how to practice mindfulness. The app contains nine meditations particularly suitable for the elementary-school aged child. The app also contains a few meditations for teens and one week’s worth of meditations for adults. This app excels in offering the targeted meditations for younger children and in offering some unique specialty meditations (such as managing relationships, how to meditate in public places, and bedtime tracks). Overall, this is an excellent app for younger children, but does not offer a lot of free content for teens and adults.
AGES: 7 – Adult
IDEAL FOR: Preteens and teens
The Smiling Mind is a superb app for children, teens and adults wishing to begin practicing mindfulness. There are different series of meditations based on your age and each series focuses on mastering a different type of mindfulness meditation. The app allows you to rate your feelings prior to and following each meditation to see how each practice affects your energy and mood. The initial series for each age group helps you think about focusing on your breath (for younger children the app guides them through placing an object on their stomach and watching it rise and fall). Other series help you think about mindful eating, cultivating happiness, appreciating sounds, and managing stress. The app is incredibly easy to use and features a wide variety of meditations and suggested activities to cultivate mindfulness. The app also tracks the number of meditations you complete and gives you achievement icons as you move through the series of practices. The audio tracks for each guided meditation are straight forward and feature a man with an upbeat Australian accent. Overall, this app provides an extensive quantity and quality of meditations for many ages.
AGES: Teen – Adult
IDEAL FOR: Beginners
Stop, Breathe & Think is a great app for those wishing to learn more about the basics of meditation and how mindfulness works. You can select one of the 15 free guided meditations or let the app suggest a meditation based on your current mental, physical, and emotional state. For example, if you say you are feeling angry the app suggests a 6-minute guided mindfulness meditation on reinforcing your sense of kindness and caring. The app tracks the ratings you give about your mental and physical health so you examine how continued practice impacts your self-assessments over time. The app also tracks the time you spend meditating and rewards you with icons as you progress through the meditations. Overall, this app is easy to use, especially for teens and adult beginners.
AGES: Teen – Adult
IDEAL FOR: Non-Beginners
Calm is a great app for when you want to create a peaceful environment to practice mindfulness. The app contains only a few free guided meditations, but the main advantage of this app is for self-guided meditation. The app allows you to pick from 23 different scenes, such as ocean waves, summer meadow, pouring rain, or snowflakes in moonlight in order to set beautiful background noises for your practice. The app then allows you to select a set amount of time to meditate and signals you when your self-guided meditation is complete. Just opening this app and watching the background scenery videos of waves crashing on a beach brings about a sense of relaxation. Overall, this app is simple, but effective. It’s a great option if you are trying to practice mindfulness on a noisy bus or want to let your mind sneak away for a few minutes of peaceful escape.
AGES: Pregnancy – Postpartum
IDEAL FOR: Parents
Mind the Bump was created by the same team behind the Smiling Mind app mentioned above. This app is wonderful in that it offers targeted mindfulness meditations that focus on common issues and concerns that arise during each of the trimesters of pregnancy and as new parents raise an infant and toddler. The app is organized in a timeline fashion that tracks through pregnancy and into parenthood. For each period there are meditations as well as suggested activities to practice training your mind. For example, one activity suggests you watch your child play and offers advice such as bringing your awareness back to your child and trying not to worry about the many tasks and chores on your mind. Overall, a lovely app for soon-to-be parents and parents of young children.
AGES: Teen – Adult
IDEAL FOR: Silent Meditation
Insight Timer-Meditation Timer does precisely what it says by providing an app to time your self-guided practice. The app allows you to choose the duration of your practice (anywhere from 1 minute to hours) and what type of ending bell noise to signal the intervals or end of your meditation. The interval bell option is especially useful for longer meditations to help you refocus and remain mindful. The app also offers some free guided meditations and keeps track of statistics about the frequency and duration of your timed practices. Overall, a straightforward app for those wishing to practice a non-guided meditation with relaxing bells to signal the beginning and end of each session.
App recommendations provided by the Vermont Family-Based Approach program at the Vermont Center for Children, Youth, and Families.