15 Absolutely Free Meditation Apps That Are Like an Exhale for Your Brain

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While in grad school, I had a class where my only homework was to utilize free meditation apps for three minutes a day. Literally. Meditate three minutes a day and I’d almost be guaranteed an A. You’d think that this was easy, but you’d be wrong. The point of the class was to show how simple things, like eating breakfast every day, getting your steps in every day, or even just setting aside three minutes to meditate, could actually be really difficult to do when it came to balancing everything else going on in your life, despite your best intentions. It also didn’t help the stress of the semester that the so-called “free meditation app” I chose to hang my entire semester’s worth of meditating on…turned out to be not as free as I thought it would be after the initial trial period. Getting a ping on your lil’ debit card app that you’ve been charged for a year’s subscription to an app you forgot to cancel while you’re in the 19th hour of studying for finals in the basement library…was certainly not good for my mental health I’ll tell you that.

Experts In This Article

Thankfully, I know now that there *are* great free meditation apps out there, if you know where to look. “When someone is looking for a meditation app, it’s important that they sample what they offer as well as look for hidden fees,” says family therapist Kara Kushnir, MSW, LCSW, PMH-C. “Knowing what you are getting and reading reviews can really help mitigate someone having a bad experience and then turning away from the practice of meditation,” Kushnir adds.

“Knowing what you are getting and reading reviews can really help mitigate someone having a bad experience and then turning away from the practice of meditation.”—Kara Kushnir, MSW, LCSW, PMH-C, family therapist

As for what else to look for in meditation apps, psychotherapist Topsie VandenBosch suggests looking for an app that offers a variety of lengths, instructor styles, music, themes, and evidence-based techniques that are used, such as mindfulness-based stress reduction. Kushnir also adds that guided modules can help beginners find their footing. (Pro-tip from me: any guided bedtime meditation or guided morning meditation classes can help you anchor your practice to a time of day for you and make it easier to stay consistent.) Stay away from any apps that “make outrageous claims about the outcomes of meditation without scientific research backing it, as well as instructors who have not been adequately trained and vetted,” VandenBosch says.

As for what free meditation apps are worth the download? We asked the experts for their recommendations and did some of our own research to see what some of the best free meditation apps are available today. And P.S. If you need a refresher on mindfulness basics, like what is meditation, and breathwork, feel free to check out more resources here.

Is there a totally free meditation app?

Yes, there are totally free meditation apps out there. But we understand your skepticism. Many subscription-based apps offer free versions that are really much more limited versions of the full thing. However, several apps from non-profit organizations, universities, and government agencies are truly free and have the added benefit of coming from mental health research centers, so all of their offerings are evidence-based. These include apps like Smiling Mind and the UCLA Mindful App. Other apps, like Waking Up, offer scholarships to make their app accessible to all.

The best free meditation apps you can download

1. Waking Up: Meditation & Wisdom


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Price: Free scholarships available, otherwise $120/year or $20/month

VandenBosch recommends this app as a good option for free meditation apps, and while this app does have paid options (starting at $120 for a year or $20 monthly) it’s free for anyone who can’t afford it. You can request a scholarship, which allows you to use the app for free.

Waking Up offers fundamentals of mindfulness from neuroscientist Sam Harris (the creator of the app) and other meditation teachers. There are daily reflections, meditation practices, and the app promises to “pressure-test ancient wisdom against modern science, so you won’t find outlandish claims or anything we haven’t found to be empirically true,” which is especially useful in today’s world of misinformation.

Download here for iPhone / Android

2. Balance: Meditation & Sleep

Price: Free for the first year, then $70/year or $12/month

Another VandenBosch recommendation, this app also offers a paid tier, but is currently offering the first year free for users on both iPhone and Android. This free meditation app has courses to reduce anxiety, sleep better, increase focus, and feel happier. It’s personalized, so you can answer questions every day about the sources of your stress, thus leading to a more customized experience. With meditation programs ranging from “Singles” (“bite-sized meditations you can use anytime, even on the go”) to longer programs, this app has a ton of cool features to make meditation feel perfect for you.

Download here for iPhone / Android

3. Open: Breathwork + Meditation


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Price: Free trial for 7–14 days, then $150/year or $20/month

VandenBosch also recommends this app that focuses on “science-based meditation and breathwork.” For those looking to pair breathwork with meditation, this app has a special focus on guided breathwork that includes music. It also offers live and on-demand classes, ranging from one to 60 minutes, with new content added daily.

Download here for iPhone

4. Meditation by Soothing Pod

Price: Free

This completely free app may be new, but boasts 4.8 stars over 8,000 ratings. It offers guided meditation for beginners, bedtime stories, sleep sounds, relaxing music, and more. This app also has an easy toggle for Adult and Kids mode, so if you’ve got little ones in the house, you can also easily switch between kid-friendly meditation and nighttime stories.

Download here for iPhone

5. Insight Timer

Five phone screens depicting a meditation app with guided meditation tracks, a calendar, and music.
Photo: Insight Timer

A long-time player in the meditation app space, Insight Timer is the closest thing you will get to a robust meditation app with a variety of content and a sleek user experience that's free. In addition to guided meditations, there are musical tracks for meditation, a meditation timer, sleep-based meditations, and breathwork sessions. A journal section lets you track your mood and insights about your mental health, plus yoga, sleep sounds and stories, and inspirational written contact to round out your wellness practice.

There is a "MembersPlus" option that you can access through a paywall that offers some premium audio and offline features, as well as access to courses. But honestly, you could probably meditate for the rest of your life and not run out of free guided lessons on this particular app.

Download here for iPhone /Android

6. Aura


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Price: Free, with optional premium tier for $70/year or $12/month

Aura will serve you meditation content based on a sign-up quiz that gauges your interests. While it's hard to tell from the app's description where they really push users to sign up for a premium membership, there is actually still a free option, albeit a limited one. With a free tier membership, you'll get access to one new three-minute meditation every two hours daily. And if you're just getting started, that tiny chunk of mindfulness might be just what you want and need (especially since a three-minute meditation is the exact amount of time you need to reset your nervous system).

Download here for iPhone / Android

7. Smiling Mind

Price: Free

I mean, who wouldn't want their mind to smile? This app comes from an Australian non-profit determined to spread mindfulness near and far. All of Smiling Mind's programs, which include exercises you do on your own and guided meditations, are completely free. This app is also notable for its bright, poppy aesthetic that can help make meditation less intimidating for youngsters. If you're an educator or a parent attempting to teach the practice to younglings, the app has tons of free content to help you do just that.

Download here for iPhone / Android

8. Exhale


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Price: Free, with optional premium tier for $50/year or $5/month

This app is an emotional well-being app specifically created by BIWOC for BIWOC. According to the app's website, it was "born out of the idea that the Black and Brown community is holding its breath, waiting for the next video of police brutality, the next micro-aggression, or the next negative health impact statistic. It’s time to exhale – to breathe out all that isn’t serving BIWOC and breathe in healing, energy and love."

Most of the content requires a paid subscription, however when you download the app, you can still access a subset of the features for free. You can find meditations, guided visualizations, breath work, coaching talks, and affirmations. The topics are curated with the BIWOC community in mind, with topics around embodiment, microaggressions, soul medicine, ascending, and more.

Download here for iPhone / Android

9. Meditation Studio

Price: Free, with optional premium tier for $50/year or $8/month

Meditation Studio is an app with over 70 experts that provide meditations for specific goals around stress, sleep, deep sleep, work, gratitude, parents, entrepreneurs, and more. The app is free on iOS and includes a dozen of the most popular meditations, an unguided meditation timer, and more.

Download here for iPhone

10. UCLA Mindful App

ucla mindful app, an example of free meditation apps
Photo: UCLA Mindful App


Price: Free

If you appreciate some educational backing with your mindfulness, this is the app for you. Not only is it free, but this app also lets you access guidance from UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center even if you're not physically in Southern California. You can find basic meditations, wellness meditations, videos, a timer, and weekly podcasts from UCLA's Hammer Museum.

Download here for iPhone / Android

11. Mindfulness Coach

Price: Free

Created by the Veterans Administration National Center for PTSD, this app is a completely free app that won't supplement its content with advertising or sharing your data. It's designed to teach you about mindfulness through a self-guided mindfulness training program. It also has 12 guided mindfulness audio sessions, plus written articles, and other audio content that expands on a mindfulness practice.

Download here for iPhone / Android

12. Healthy Minds Program

Three soothing meditation app screens against a deep purple background
Photo: Healthy Minds Program

Price: Free

Another app out of an academic setting, this app has "hundreds of hours" of guided meditations and mindfulness and mental health learning sessions. It's made by the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin - Madison, and incorporates the research of lead neuroscientist Richard Davidson, PhD. Program donors make the free app possible, and while it's totally free to use and download, you will also have the option to donate.

Download here for iPhone / Android

13. The Mindfulness App

The screen of a meditation app showing available guided meditations, audio tracks, and other features, representing free meditation apps
Photo: Mindfulness App

Price: Free trial, then $60/year or $12/month

This app is really meant to be used as a subscription service, but if you cancel membership at the end of the free trial, you'll still be able to use a free and much more limited version of the app. This includes regular timed meditation sessions (so basically, a reminder and a timer), a new weekly guided meditation, and other supplementary content.

Download here for iPhone / Android

14. Ten Percent Happier

A screenshot of a meditation app featuring a photo of the Dalai Lama, representing free meditation apps
Photo: Ten Percent Happier

Price: Free, with optional premium tier for $100/year or $10/month

Another primarily subscription-based app, this app does have a decent amount of free content available once you download the app. For example, it released dozens of free guided meditations to help people cope during the height of the pandemic. That includes sessions created for first responders, as well as resources for the general public, such as navigating through tough times.

Download here for iPhone / Android

15. YouTube

Price: Free

YouTube is, of course, not strictly a meditation app. But if you search "guided meditation" or "mindfulness meditation," you'll find scores of meditations at your fingertips. You can also check out the YouTube accounts of popular (paid) meditation apps for tons of free meditation content. For example, Calm's "The Essentials" playlist contains 11 guided meditations for reducing stress and anxiety, doing a body scan, changing negative thought patterns, and more.

Download here for iPhone / Android

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