Experts’ Favorite Apps and Books for Learning Mindfulness Meditation

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.    

Apps:

Free/inexpensive apps

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 trialwith 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.

Websites:

Books:

For kids and teens:

Mindful parenting:

Audio:

Videos:

Resources for self- and other-care in difficult times

Many of us have been impacted by the election results.  Whether you are feeling shock, fear, anger, sadness, confusion, disbelief, or excitement, joy, satisfaction or hope, you are likely not alone.

If you have been struggling, some of these resources might be helpful (thanks to Jennifer Villatte for sharing this list).  I prefaced each with a quote that spoke to me.  I also noticed the urge to provide a more in depth review of each, but eventually decided to practice self-care by calling it good :).  I hope you find something you might be seeking.

Resources for Self-Care in the Face of Social Injustice and Marginalization

“When we hold space for other people, we open our hearts, offer unconditional support, and let go of judgement and control.”
What It Really Means to Hold Space for Someone, by Heather Plett
http://upliftconnect.com/hold-space/

“Have you showered in the past day? If not, take a shower right now.”
4 Self-Care Resources for Days When the World is Terrible, by Miriam Zoila Perez
https://www.colorlines.com/articles/4-self-care-resources-days-when-world-terrible

“Oppression is far more effective when the oppressed are also mentally drained and physically ill, so our physical and mental wellness is, in itself, a personal counter-attack on oppression.”
3 Ways to Prioritize Self-Care While Resisting Dehumanization: Because #BlackWellnessMatters, by Akilah S. Richards
http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/07/self-care-resisting-dehumanization/

“There are things you can do for yourself right now to get prepared for the next four (to eight) years.”
What to Do If You’re Trans and Live in America Now, by Jessica Lachenal
http://www.themarysue.com/trans-in-america-2016/

“Anger used as a catalyst for social transformation can go a long way.”
Transforming Anger into Building Solidarity, by Beth Berila
http://www.contemplativepracticesforantioppressionpedagogy.com/blog/transforming-anger-into-building-solidarity-by-beth-berila-phd

“Sometimes saying no is a radical act of self-care that’s as vital to our struggles as the marches, teach-ins, and walk-outs in which we participate.”
5 Self-Care Tips for Activists – ‘Cause Being Woke Shouldn’t Mean Your Spirit’s Broke, by Kim Tran
http://everydayfeminism.com/2016/04/self-care-for-woke-folks/

“The antidote for exhaustion isn’t rest.  It is wholeheartedness.”
What’s Missing When We Talk About Self-Care, by Carmenleah Ascencio
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4eX5Wjm4FrE

Resources for Engaging in Difficult Conversations and Being an Ally

“I’m more interested in helping them change their oppressive behavior than publicly shaming them for it.”
Calling In: A Quick Guide on When and How, by Sian Ferguson
http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/01/guide-to-calling-in/

“Comfort IN, dump OUT.”
How not to say the wrong thing – The “Ring Theory” of Comfort, by Susan Silk & Barry Goldman
http://articles.latimes.com/2013/apr/07/opinion/la-oe-0407-silk-ring-theory-20130407

“13. Recognize That Yes, You’re Going to Do it Wrong and 14. Apologize Without Caveats”
30 Ways to Be a Better Ally, by Jamie Utt
http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/01/30-ways-to-be-a-better-ally-in-2014/

“We Center The Voice and Leadership of the Survivor and Oppressed Communities.”
Being An Ally/Building Solidarity, by Southerners On New Ground (S.O.N.G.)
http://southernersonnewground.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/SONG-Being-An-Ally-Building-Solidarity.pdf

“Create and Share Art, Support People with Disabilities”
26 Ways to Be in the Struggle Beyond the Streets, by Anderson, Barett, Dixon, Garrido, Kane, Nancherla, Narichania, Narasimham, Rabiyah and Richart
https://issuu.com/nlc.sf.2014/docs/beyondthestreets_final

To those who feel afraid or hurt after the election

For many of us, these are frightening and uncertain times. We at Portland Psychotherapy want to make a declaration of support to the millions of people around the nation and here in Portland that have been targeted, oppressed, attacked, or silenced and to those who feel fearful of what may come.  Portland Psychotherapy does not endorse discrimination in any form and is invested in ensuring the safety of all members of our community.

If you feel marginalized, oppressed, angered, hurt, afraid, ashamed, or stigmatized, we want you to know you are welcome here.  You are all part of the community we love and serve. This is a safe place for you to speak and to be heard. We value you.

The Staff of Portland Psychotherapy

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