In a recent issue of Podnews, editor James Cridland wrote, “Meditation and wellness podcasts are on the rise, says new data from Spotify. The company reports a 250% increase in people listening to meditation podcasts, and a 160% increase in people listening to wellness podcasts.” We know that podcasts can sell products and services, entertain, educate and influence. When we look at audio’s ability to refresh our body and mind, this is where craft is extremely important. The demand for meditation podcasts and apps is high. But, these kinds of podcasts have to make the best use of audio, writing, vocal performance, and structure. Otherwise, they’ll lose their audience before you can take a deep, cleansing breath.
Recently, apps that deliver a combination of meditation recordings, mindfulness lectures, and exercises, have become so popular that they’ve become investments to watch. Generally, the app is free, and a subscription cost is paid separately. Often, there’s a free trial.
Hundreds of podcasts exist to help people relax, focus, energize, or sleep. Picking out the “best” meditation podcasts and apps is like looking for a pair of shoes: you have to find what fits for you. In this article, we’ll show you some excellent options that I’ve tried, to get you started.
Podcasts About Meditation
Maybe you’re new to this. Perhaps someone suggested you try meditation podcasts or apps, and you said, “isn’t that just, like, breathing with your eyes closed?” If you’re curious about the practice and want more information before you try it, then these podcasts should help.
Lately, the terms “mindfulness” and “meditation” are often found together. Meditation is the practice, mindfulness is a goal of meditation and (hopefully) a result. Simply put, it means awareness without judgment. It helps the user be aware of their situation and surroundings, and deal with them objectively. You’ll see both of these terms come up in search results.
Ten Percent Happier
Journalist Dan Harris survived a nationally televised panic attack. This horrible experience spurred him to make changes in his life. He learned that his drive to succeed in the competitive journalism world had helped him report on dangerous situations, but it was not helping him out physically, emotionally, or mentally.
When he started meditating, he couldn’t find a book or a way to learn meditation that addressed his scepticism. As a result, he wrote the book, Ten Percent Happier. This blossomed into the Ten Percent Happier podcast, and a meditation app.
In nearly 400 weekly episodes, Dan Harris has interviewed experts and provides meditation recordings, to help listeners understand the benefits of meditation, how to approach it realistically, and try it out immediately. If you prefer a journalist’s approach to understanding meditation, this is an excellent place to start.
Men Talking Mindfulness
If you prefer your meditation podcast with a more hirsute angle, have a listen to Men Talking Mindfulness. One host is a retired Navy SEAL Commander in Colorado Springs. The other is a (self-described) “hippie” meditation teacher living in New York. They discuss how mindfulness impacts their lives, and how to be authentically human, without toxic masculinity.
The Science of Happiness
If all of this seems too “woo-woo” for you, The Science of Happiness is an excellent place to start. Starting with an everyday frustration, and an effect of mindfulness (greater focus, patience, etc.), it works back to meditation, as a way to achieve that goal. Co-produced by PRX and UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, this podcast explores research-tested strategies that users can act on right away.
As a podcaster, I think all podcast creators can benefit from listening to meditation podcasts, even if they don’t “need” the practice. If your podcast is supposed to help people relax and focus, any mistake becomes a huge distraction. The point is, all podcasters can learn a lot about what makes any podcast inviting, engaging, and enjoyable, by listening to meditation podcasts in general. Besides, they can be fun and pleasant.
Chel Hamilton’s approach to meditation comes from her work as a hypnotherapist. Each episode of Meditation Minis is a guided happiness tour, led with her warm maple syrup voice. Her podcast is monetized, but the ads are carefully placed so it’s less distracting. One of my favorite examples of her meditation podcast is Episode 45, Doors of Choice. In this one, she invites you to imagine options you’re debating right now, and what the result of those options would be like in five or ten years. Meditation Minis is a catalyst for change and a vivid escape from the mundane.
Mindfulness Meditation Online
The Rubin Museum of Art holds group meditation practices in their space in Chelsea, New York City. Mindfulness Meditation Online is the podcast version of the meditation sessions. Each meditation session focuses on a different work of art from the museum’s collection of Himalayan art, providing enduring and uplifting context. The episode includes a discussion of the art, a guided meditation session running about 20 minutes, and a discussion, all led by different skilled meditation teachers. Because some of these are recorded in a large room, or over Zoom, the audio has more of a thin, reverberant sound than you’d hear in a booth recording. I found this distracting, but you might not. If you want arts education and intellectual stimulation with your mindfulness meditation podcast, subscribe to the Rubin’s Mindfulness Meditation podcast straight away.
Stin Hansen’s Meditation Station focuses on problems that people want to solve. Hansen artfully uses sound effects to illustrate the meditative process. For example, in an episode about coping with unhealthy cravings, she guides the listener to adjust their breath with ocean sound, to show how the user can “ride the waves” of their thoughts. It’s a beautiful, hypnotic, relaxing meditation podcast, but the branding on this drives me bonkers. I started subscribing when Meditation Station was its own brand. Hansen now brands everything under her MyThoughtCoach.com psychology services. Which is great, but it makes it harder to find and share Meditation Station, this lovely gem of smart audio and meditation. You can find it in any podcast directory, however.
Sleep With Me
Sleep With Me is the grandaddy of sleep podcasts. It’s been around since 2013 (aeons in tech years). This whimsical podcast seeks to ramble you to sleep. Scooter (Drew Ackerman’s narrator character) talks in a stream of consciousness monotone, about topics as diverse as Doctor Who, gondolas, and Real-Time Recipes. It makes about as much sense as most people’s dreams. It’s not specifically a meditation podcast, but it deserves mention because it has been imitated by so many others.
Individual episodes can run for over an hour and a quarter, so it can be very weird if you wake back up to tales of Coney Island or dinosaurs. Ackerman monetizes the heck out of this podcast, with host-read ads, a Patreon, support from PRX and ads on the podcast website. But, he provides enough explanation of the show’s structure that the ads don’t infringe on relaxation. Ackerman is conscious of community and the need for solace. Users might feel like they’re going for a late-night ride with their weirdest uncle, but they’ll feel safe.
Editor’s Note: What About ASMR?
For relaxation, focus, sleep, and more, many people flock to ASMR podcasts. It’s an interesting podcast niche with its own audio specifications and demand. Matthew’s written a lovely article about it, What Is ASMR? Could It Boost Your Creativity, Concentration, or Mood? that’s well worth your attention.
Each of these is a self-contained experience for your phone or tablet. Like most apps, they can provide reminders to meditate, to wake up or go to bed, and/or to exercise. The app is free, but there is a subscription cost. Some of these offer free trials, and occasionally have special offers advertised. I’ll go over pricing with each.
Headspace has its foundations in Buddhist theology and sports medicine. Founder Andy Puddicombe studied both, and decided to teach the world to meditate every day. The meditations are mostly divided into courses toward a goal, though there are some stand-alone recordings. It’s highly accessible, with cartoons and progress badges to help users stay motivated. An entire section of the app is devoted to performance mindset, using a relationship with the NBA.
Headspace’s real art is in its Sleepcasts. Each recording has a narrated journey through a relaxing environment, by one of a cast of voice actors. The sections of dialogue reorder, so its familiarity doesn’t make it become stale. These include a wind-down exercise at the beginning, and some ambient noise. The narration runs for about 45 minutes, but the ambience will run until you shut off the app.
Annual: first 14 days free, then $5.83/month or $69.99/year
Monthly: first 7 days free, then $12.99/month
Calm feels Hollywood-centric. It has celebrity narrators, and tie-ins with television shows such as Thomas The Tank Engine, Stillwater, and Calm TV on HBO. Be that as it may, the meditation recordings and courses are genuinely soothing. The Calm Body program is an audio companion for gentle stretching and movement. The app has daily check-in reminders, having users record their emotions and gratitude checklists, then recommends meditations, music, or masterclasses tailored to their feelings. All of this shows users how meditation affects them over time. Calm’s Sleep Stories offer a nearly overwhelming range of choices, from a reading of the fine print of The General Data Protection Regulation 2016/679, to Harry Styles rhyming about dreams. Fortunately, the Sleep Story recordings shut off when they’re finished.
Annual: 7-day free trial, then $69.99 a year, charged once annually
Calm For Life: $399.00.
Insight Timer is very similar to Calm. It has celebrity narrators, guided yoga, and Insight Courses (mindfulness masterclasses). But, it uses content from meditation teachers all over the world, who “take home more than half of every dollar earned.” It’s also less expensive.
Insight Timer’s Pricing
Free: Offers a streaming library of meditations, a timer, and a seven-day meditation course.
Annual: $59.99/year for Members’ Plus. This version allows users to download meditations to your device, an advanced player (fast forward, rewind, pick up where you left off) and has higher quality audio.
Liberate describes itself as, “the daily meditation app for the for Black experience.” This app has meditation teachers who are Black, Indigenous, or people of color, drawing from a diverse range of cultural experiences. As one Liberate user said, “It is necessary to have contextualized media for people of color whose lived experiences are not represented in mainstream meditation apps and spaces.” The app includes topics missing in other apps, such as microaggressions, internalized racism, and ancestral healing, along with popular topics like sleep.
The subscription provides access to a full library of meditations and talks, offline listening, and exclusive gatherings for Liberate users. There’s a 7-day free trial.
Annual: $71.99/year ($5.99 a month)
Liberate also has The Liberate Fund, a user-supported fund to help people who might not be able to afford a subscription.
Meditation Podcasts, Mindfulness, and More
There’s no doubt that medical science supports meditation as a practice. It certainly doesn’t hurt, as long as you don’t listen to meditation podcasts while driving or operating heavy machinery. It can help you with objectivity, so you can do better work, and it can help you relax. Podcasters can learn a lot from meditation podcasts and apps; how they engage people and keep them there, how they’re structured, and how they build community.
If you’re interested in making a podcast of any kind, we can help. The Podcast Host Academy has courses, checklists, and resources to help you plan, launch, and grow your podcast, sometimes in less than a month. Also, our Weekly Live Q&A sessions can answer any questions you might have!