Portland Psychotherapy recently asked members of the Association for Contextual Behavioral Science what they think are the best tools for learning about and practicing mindfulness meditation. Top experts from around the world chimed in to let us know about apps, recordings, books, and other resources they find to be the most useful, and we wanted to take the opportunity to pass their insights along to you.
What is Mindfulness Meditation?
Mindfulness meditation, sometimes referred to as present moment awareness training, builds skills that have been scientifically proven to improve psychological health. Dozens of scientific studies show that mindfulness training can increase well-being, reduce psychological suffering, enhance emotional processing, improve performance, and help people to focus their attention on who and what they care about the most.
Chances are that if you live in a large enough city there are probably a lot of community resources for learning about and practicing mindfulness (click here for mindfulness meditation resources in Portland, OR). For thousands of years, face-to-face interactions with professional teachers and fellow practitioners have been a reliable way to learn mindfulness meditation. Having a community of people who are supporting each other in practice is a great resource. However, there are also lots of other ways to learn to meditate. These include the options below.
We hope the following tools can be of help to you in building a kinder, more compassionate world for yourself and others.
One-Moment Meditation This app has a great graphic and goes for a minute so it can also be used with children (Free)
Smiling Mind is modern meditation for young people. It is a unique web and App-based program, designed to help bring balance to young lives. It is a not-for-profit initiative based on a process that provides a sense of clarity, calm and contentment. (Free)
Mindfulness:The Art of Being Human aims to help you: Explore insights into the human mind and behaviour; Step out of unhelpful thinking patterns; Gain a greater sense of connection to meaningful life experiences. Mindfulness practice can help you lead a more contented, happier and meaningful life. (Free, IOS, Google Play)
ACT Coach (only on iPhone for the present, intended shortly to on Android) is entirely free and was designed by the US Department of Veterans Affairs for Veterans, Service members and others who are in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) with a mental health professional and want to use an ACT App in conjunction with their therapy. It offers exercises, tools, information, and tracking logs so you can practice what you’re learning in your daily life. (Free)
Conscious (Android only) This app suggests a different informal mindfulness task each day. You can set reminders to prompt you during the day and you are given the opportunity to report back on your progress each evening. An interesting aspect is that you get to see how many people have signed up to the task with you, creating a sense of community in using the app.
SuperBetter increases resilience – the ability to stay strong, motivated and optimistic even in the face of difficult obstacles. Playing SuperBetter makes you more capable of getting through tough situations—and more likely to achieve the goals that matter most to you.
Honest Meditation: (*if you’re okay with crude language in the service of humor, this app is a hilarious light take on mindfulness) (Free)
Mind the Bump: is a free Mindfulness Meditation App to help individuals and couples support their mental and emotional wellbeing in preparation for having a baby and becoming a new parent. (Free)
Free but require subscription or in-app purchases
Pacifica This app includes daily mood tracking and relaxation and mindfulness tools. (Free download but require paid monthly/yearly subscription)
Petit Bambou (French language app) is the same as Headspace but for french speaking (Free but requires subscription)
Stop, Breathe & Think A great app for computer or smartphone. Great intro and resources for going deeper. Has a check-in that asks questions and suggests some useful types of mindfulness practice. (Free but requires subscription for unlimited features, web, IOS, Android)
Colorfy (mobile coloring book) Choose your favorite color and give your touch to beautiful drawings. Florals, animals, patterns, mandalas, cats, gardens, famous paintings, and more. ( Free but requires subscription, IOS, Android)
Headspace is meditation made simple. Learn online, when you want, wherever you are, in just 10 minutes a day. This is fairly expensive, with a monthly subscription, which will add up over time.
Habitica is a habit-building program which treats your life like a Role Playing Game. Level up as you succeed, lose HP as you fail, earn money to buy weapons and arm or, compete with your friends.
Apps requiring payment
SmartQuit uses ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) to help people quit smoking. Developed at Fred Hutch Cancer Research Center, SmartQuit is different. Smokers create a personal plan. They become very aware of their urges to smoke. Lastly they learn new ways to notice the urge to smoke, without acting on it. SmartQuit is the first smoking cessation “app” that has been tested in a randomized control trial – with quit rates 2-3 times better than quitting on one’s own. (Free but requires subscription)
The Sleep School App helps you practice The Sleep School sleep tools & techniques until you have mastered them for life. The app delivers The Sleep School approach across its 5 core areas in a highly interactive audio-visual format ($3.99)
Mindfulness Daily This app supports quick, effective guided practices to reduce stress/anxiety, improve performance and enhance sleep ($1.99 plus in app purchases of audio)
What’s Up? Uses techniques from ACT and CBT, including mindfulness.
ACT Companion – the Happiness Trap app: (most highly recommended) The new edition of ACT Companion features loads of new content – guided mindfulness, written and experiential exercises – from none other than Russ Harris, author of the best-selling book The Happiness Trap. Simple defusion and acceptance techniques, easy values-clarification and goal-setting tools, powerful ‘observing self’ and self-compassion exercises – you’ll find it all here. In total, the app features over three-dozen exercises and tools, including two-and-a-half hours of guided mindfulness audio tracks, many of them featuring Russ’s voice.
Salute The Desk helps you stretch and relax, right at your desk. Improve your posture and release tension through yoga poses. Feel calm and refreshed with guided relaxations. Plan your sessions and set reminders to practice. Developed by a qualified yoga, tai chi and qigong instructor. ($2.99)
buddhify states it is “the most convenient, best value and most beautiful meditation app available today. Helping people around the world reduce stress, sleep better & be present in the midst of it all.” Certainly is the best looking mindfulness app! ($4.99)
Insight Timer Free for iPhone and Android with option of purchasing upgrades, $2.99 for iPad. Worth it for the Tibetan bells alone, now expanded with many meditation practices of varying lengths.
- https://www.tarabrach.com/guided-meditations/ (a variety of brief and longer guided meditations)
- www.marc.ucla.edu – the free guided meditations are good.
- http://marc.ucla.edu/body.cfm?id=22 (can get audio online, transcript, or itunes of several brief introductory medications such as breathing, loving kindness, body scan, etc.)
- “I feel like shit”: This is meant to be an interactive flow chart for people who struggle with self care, executive dysfunction, and/or who have trouble reading internal signals. It’s designed to take as much of the weight off of you as possible, so each decision is very easy and doesn’t require much judgment.
- http://www.moritaschool.com/research/ Provides link to free book: Mindfulness in Plain English. This is a very straight forward how-to guide.
- Unified Mindfulness core training program is a free, interactive, online course based on the teachings of meditation teacher Shinzen Young.
- http://www.positivityresonance.com/meditations.htmlBarbara Frederickson’s work (Positivity and Love 2.0) provides loving kindness meditations on her website
- The Mind Illuminated: A Complete Meditation Guide Integrating Buddhist Wisdom and Brain Science by John Yates
- Focused and Fearless: A Meditator’s Guide to States of Deep Joy, Calm, and Clarity by Shaila Catherine
- The Blooming of a Lotus: Guided Meditation Exercises for Healing and Transformation by Thich Nhat Hanh
- Transformation and Healing. Sutra on the Four Establishments of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh
- Satipatthana and The Direct Path to Realization by Bhikkhu Analayo
- Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Mark Williams and Danny Penman
- Why Can’t I Meditate?: How to get your mindfulness practice on track by Nigel Wellings
- Wildmind by Bodhipaksa
- Zen Flesh, Zen Bones by Paul Reps (ed)
- Heal Thy Self: Lessons on Mindfulness in Medicine by Saki Santorelli (useful for those in the healing professions)
For kids and teens:
- A Still Quiet Place: A Mindfulness Program for Teaching Children and Adolescents to Ease Stress and Difficult Emotions by Amy Saltzman MD and, Saki Santorelli EdD MA
- Sitting Still Like a Frog: Mindfulness Exercises for Kids (and Their Parents)(and accompanying CD) by Eline Snel and Myla Kabat-Zinn
- Ready, Set, Breathe: Practicing Mindfulness with Your Children for Fewer Meltdowns and a More Peaceful Family by Carla Naumburg
- Mindfulness Skills for Kids and Teens by Debra Burdick
- The Joy of Parenting by Lisa Coyne and Amy R. Murrell
- Mindful Parenting for ADHD: A Guide to Cultivating Calm, Reducing Stress, and Helping Children Thrive by Mark Bertin MD and Ari Tuckman PsyD
- Parenting Your Anxious Child with Mindfulness and Acceptance: A Powerful New Approach to Overcoming Fear, Panic, and Worry Using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy by Christopher McCurry PhD and Steven C. Hayes PhD
- Insight Meditation by Sharon Salzberg and Joseph Goldstein
- When Pain is the Doorway by Pema Chodron
- How to Meditate by Pema Chodron
- 2 Minute Beginner’s Guide to Mindfulness
- Why Mindfulness Is a Superpower: An Animation. Practicing mindfulness is one of the single most powerful things you can do for your wellbeing. Want to give it a try?
- 2 Minute Mindfulness for Sleep video shows you how mindfulness skills can help overcome insomnia.