The 10 best apps for keeping calm during turbulent moments
Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information.
Whether you’re dealing with turbulence in the air or on the ground, both literal and emotional bumps can be difficult to handle. Perhaps you’ve found yourself in a stressful travel situation, or you’re dealing with anxiety about being stuck at home.
No matter what’s got you feeling uneasy, consider trying one of these 10 calming apps on the plane, at your hotel room, home or anywhere else the next time you need to find a moment of Zen.
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The ChillScape app is a mix of cognitive psychology, AI-generated music and mesmerizing graphics to create an experience that’s calming, fun and immersive. Each session starts with low-pitched tones, similar to those experienced in the womb. As you pop bubbles, melodies play and the soundscape evolves. Layers of sound are gradually introduced – with frequencies known to stimulate calm and create feelings of euphoria. It's available on iOS for $1.99 and is coming to Android.
With a library full of tens of thousands of free meditations, Insight Timer is great for people who want variety. Meditations vary from just a few minutes in length to more than half an hour and focus on everything from getting rid of anxiety to improving sleep.
It has more than 200 courses (10-day or 30-day) available from mindfulness experts, neuroscientists and psychologists, along with celebrities including Oscar-winning actress Goldie Hawn, supermodel Gisele Bündchen and British actor-comedian Russell Brand.
Course topics include overcoming smartphone addiction, boosting confidence, guided breathing sessions and more. The app also features sections dedicated to sleep, beginners, children, music and other groups or topics, plus meditation timers with interval gongs or bowls.
Download from the App Store or Google Play for online access to meditations for free or pay for the pro package, which includes options to download and access your meditation library offline, additional courses and more for $59.99 per year (a 30-day free trial is also offered).
With a special section for kids, master classes, breathing exercises and even Calm Body (which offers classes on stretching and warm-ups), Calm is a dynamic app for people who want to maintain a state of, well, calm.
The soundscapes feature nature melodies, lullabies and even special sounds for listeners who need to focus. The sleep stories (ones for kids and another for adults), read by celebrities such as Matthew McConaughey, are a fun and relaxing way to unwind before bed, while flying or at any other time. Frequent travelers will appreciate stories from around the world, including “A Rainy Day in Paris,” “Exploring Easter Island” and “A Cruise on the Nile.”
NBA superstar LeBron James narrates his "Train Your Mind" series, volumes one and two. The series were created to emphasize the importance of both mental and physical fitness, allowing him to discuss topics including managing emotions, sleep and maintaining balance.
Download the app for free on the App Store or Google Play. Premium access includes more than 100 meditations, exclusive music and the full library of sleep stories, with new stories added each week, for $69.99 per year (a seven-day free trial is offered).
Start your Headspace journey by selecting your focus: managing anxiety, sleeping soundly, being more active or trying something new. Based on your selection, Headspace will create meditations and courses to fit your needs.
Travelers will enjoy the “move” section, which includes specific movements and stretches to do on travel days. The sleep radio is another unique feature; it has a full eight hours of sleep audio for serious insomniacs who may wake up frequently and need help getting back to sleep or those fighting jet lag.
Although you can try three basic sessions for free, to get the most out of the app, you’ll have to pay $69.99 per year or $12.99 a month (a 14-day free trial is offered) for the daily meditations, sleep sounds and bedtime exercises. Download on the App Store or Google Play.
Plus, if you’re a World of Hyatt member, you now have access to complimentary mindfulness and sleep exercises in the World of Hyatt app. Headspace Plus provides meditations, mindfulness exercises and even expert guidance from a former monk (and Headspace cofounder!), among other programs. You’ll just need to download the Headspace app and register online using the promo code HYATT first.
Related: De-stress with at-home spa treatments, coloring books and workout classes from your favorite travel brands
Shine has a heavy focus on self-care, helping users fight anxiety and be happier. With daily reminders and guided mental health check-ins, the app also has a large community of followers you can turn to for support and encouragement. You can also share your personal wins, such as how you dealt with insomnia or what gave you a confidence boost this week.
I found the “navigating a life change” feature particularly useful when dealing with quarantine this year. This feature allowed me to access a daily meditation and asked me questions about what I was grateful for that day. Shine also has a special coronavirus care toolkit featuring free meditations and an “ask an expert” section.
Download this app for free on the App Store or Google Play. The premium version, which costs $53.99 per year (a seven-day free trial is offered), unlocks a check-in calendar and gives you access to more than 800 meditations, sounds and sleep stories.
For an app that offers you mindfulness activities that go beyond the hundreds of meditations and breathing exercises available, download Bloom. Its offerings include moon calendars, daily astrology updates, sleep assistance and a variety of ambient music options for rest, focus and more.
My personal favorite feature is the alternative mindfulness activities, such as mandalas which you can digitally color.
Although you can download Bloom for free on the App Store or Google Play, to get the most out of the app’s features you’ll have to pay an annual fee of $86.99 (a seven-day free trial is offered).
(Screenshot courtesy of iTunes)
Start your journey with Aura by sharing how you feel today (sad, great, anxious or can’t sleep). Then, tell Aura how it can be of help, by selecting if you’d like to improve focus, find calm, heal, promote self-love, encourage personal growth or more.
From there, you can select meditations, stories, life coaching, music or sleep assistance based on your mood. You can set specific times to receive notifications that will prompt you to check in with the app or get tips to deal with your current mood.
Although you can download Aura on the App Store and Google Play, the personalized mood recommendations and most of the meditations, stories and music are only available for premium users. Premium membership costs $59.99 per year (a free trial is offered).
(Screenshot courtesy of Oak)
If you don’t want a lot of fuss, Oak keeps things simple (and free).
Instead of offering a million different options, the app gives users a small variety of guided meditations, chime and background customizable sessions, breathing mantras and relaxing sleep sounds. For busy moms, business travelers or anyone who just can’t be bothered to dig through hundreds of different plans, just click “play” and do a five-minute breathing session or a quick sleep meditation before bed, on a plane or during a break from work.
Download Oak and access the library of basic meditations for free on the App Store. A premium course is also available.
Buddhify makes it easy for users to select just the right meditation program for the situation, and pegs itself as the “mindfulness app for those who just don’t have time.”
Select your focus area from a wheel with options such as difficult emotions, waking up, sleep, work break, traveling and more, and you’ll then be offered appropriate guided meditations. You can customize your wheel categories too, prioritizing moods or situations that apply regularly to you. Content for kids is also available, and you can give meditations to those in your life who may need it — they can even listen without having the app, or you can listen to special meditations with them made for more than one person.
This app costs $4.99 to download from the App Store or $2.99 on Google Play, giving you access to more than 200 meditations.
With stories, calming music, meditations and transformational programs, you’ll be healthier and happier in no time using Zen. From programs on transforming grief to meditation for beginners, finding health and drum journeys, there’s something for everyone.
You can also read motivational quotes and select daily therapy options, which are meditations based on emotions like worry, happiness or anxiety. Music offerings range from mantras to crystal healing bowls to binaural frequencies — even relaxing sounds for babies and positive music for kids.
Although some of the basic meditations, stories and more are free once you’ve downloaded Zen on the App Store or Google Play, premium access to all of the content is available for $12.99 per month or $69.99 per year (a free trial is also offered).
Additional reporting by Benét J. Wilson