With social-emotional learning very much at the fore during this remote/hybrid/pandemic period of education, I find myself focusing on the emotional wellness of my students more so than ever before. My lessons are chunked effectively, are delivered at a slower pace, and my curriculum has been well and truly “Marie Kondo’d.”
While mindfulness and meditation might not be for everyone, I do get positive feedback from students whenever we talk about apps that allow them to take time out of their day to do just that. Guided meditations, calming soundscapes and sleep stories, music for focus, or opportunities to develop mindfulness skills and record progress on a cell phone appeal to many of my students.
I reach for meditation apps at times when I need to be still, to focus, or when I need to sleep. I reach for the same apps when I want to introduce them to my students, allowing them to cherry-pick from their resources until some embrace them and add them to their coping strategies backpack.
This is my go-to app and is the #1 app for Sleep, Meditation and Relaxation, with over 50 million downloads. It helps that I’m grandfathered in to the free premium package that they used to offer teachers. That said, there are a lot of outstanding resources available for free, and no real need to pay the $70 annual fee.
You can download a free mindfulness/health and happiness calendar with daily challenges that “serve as tiny experiments to learn more about yourself and the world. All to say it’s not about getting it right, but rather checking in with yourself and deepening your awareness.”
I’ve subscribed to the daily calendar and I get a #DailyCalm message sent to my phone. This reminds me to stop what I’m doing, and attend to the daily thought. Why not get your students to download the free Gratitude Journal or introduce them to the Intention Cards that “intentionally cultivate the qualities that support them in showing up for ourselves and others, in ways that feel nourishing and meaningful.”. They have a ‘Gratitude Toolkit’, a ‘Managing Stress Workbook’, a ‘Happiness Journal’ and my favorite the ‘Sleep Journal’.
You might be interested in the Calm book: Calm
“Your gym membership for the mind”. Proving that meditation is more than a short-lived fad in the west, the Headspace app has been around since 2012 achieving the goal of founder Andy Puddicombe who returned from being ordained at a Tibetan monastery with a mission “to make meditation accessible, relevant and beneficial to as many people as possible”.
The New York Times claimed that Headspace offers “the best experience, with excellent guided courses and great short meditations for people on the go”. The app is well designed and gamifies the meditation skills as you go from beginner, to advanced, someone who has made meditation a habit.
Perhaps the notable aspect of Headspace for you as an educator is that currently they have free access to ALL K-12 teachers in the US, UK, Canada and Australia!
- Hundreds of guided meditations on everything from stress and focus to the workplace.
- Sleepcasts, sleep sounds, and sleep music to help create the conditions for a better night’s rest.
- Inspiring videos, quick workouts, group meditations, and much more.
You’ll also love their Back-to-School page offering resources for kids of all ages. “Use them to kick off the school day, during transitions, or for winding down at the end of class — and help make this year’s unique back-to-school experience a calmer, more focused time for your students.”
And for fun? They also have a page of virtual backgrounds and phone wallpapers, great for ‘nudging’ you and your students to get a little Headspace in your life.
I’m a big Amazon Alexa fan, and there’s even a Headspace ‘skill’ to play the meditations through your connected devices.
You might be interested in the Headspace book: The Headspace Guide to Meditation and Mindfulness: How Mindfulness Can Change Your Life in Ten Minutes a Day.
Smiling Minds (download)
Based in Australia, and are proud of their 100% non-profit aim, this app seeks to equip young people with the integral skills they need to thrive in life. I first discovered this app because it was being used by students of mine. Smiling Minds offer teacher workshops, online learning hubs and classroom resources. While their work and products might be out of the reach of teachers based elsewhere, you can access their awesome free app.
The app offers programs for adults and students from 3-18. Their mindfulness targets work, sleep, sport, classrooms AND is available in some Indigenous Languages!
What I like about this app is that when you initially sign up you asked a series of short questions which allows you to personalize the apps contents. There’s an element of gamification which students will like, plus you can access the Smiling Mind blog which is comprehensive and would be a great activity with your class if you are looking to assign some reading and reflection. In the Common Sense Media review of the app they said “There are also lesson plans for teachers that can be paired with the student meditations provided. Parents can create sub-accounts so each member of the family can track individual programs, favorites, and progress over time.”
Mindful Powers (download)
If you teach, or have young kids, then this award-winner might be the app for you!
“Mindful Powers is a kid-first, holistic approach to building social-emotional learning through the power of play. Built on a skills-based methodology that helps children in early and middle childhood build a healthier relationship with life, stress, and anxiety, Mindful Powers empowers kids to bring calm to their lives at the touch of their fingertips.”
This app looks and sounds cool and calming while taking users through a series of guided stories that introduce, and develop skills that can be used to understand what is going on their heads. Users are introduced to their very own Flibbertigibbet (see the video below) who they stroke to calm down, or smooth out its bumps. I found this strangely calming, particularly as the Flibbertigibbet purred in appreciation.
As with all of the apps featured in this post, there is a free, and a premium version. That said, this free version might have you hooked and wanting to access the full range of stories.
Insight Timer (download)
This app is huge and claims to have the largest bank of free meditations focusing on over 200 topics, and their website really is impressive! You can access:
- 55,000 guided meditations and music tracks. For free.
- Live sessions every hour from the world’s best teachers. For free.
- The most popular meditation Timer in the world. For free.
- Stats, Charts, Milestones, and Groups. For Free.
Their site actually challenges you to next time someone asks you about meditation apps, reply with this question; ‘Did you know that people spend almost 3x more time on Insight Timer than many other apps who have 10 times more downloads and a bazillion times more revenue?’. This pie chart says it all!
The feature that I use the most is the timer which can be set to feature calming sounds from different bells familiar to those who regularly meditate. It sounds absolutely blissful and is a welcome break from the harsh tones featured on my phone. I’ve been using it in my remote teaching space to nudge me into chunking my lessons and not staying on one activity for too long.
*Bonus suggestion* Peloton App (download)
OK, this is a left-field suggestion, one which you might not have considered, but with Peloton being in the news recently for reducing the price of their bike in preparation for the arrival of a new product, you might be tempted to join the ever-growing legion of Peloton fans. I was!
You can download and access the Peloton app for a free 30 day trial, to scroll through the impressive, full library of live and on-demand classes. In addition to biking, running, strength, stretching and yoga classes there is an impressive number of meditation classes, both live class and audio recordings. You can refine the list by length (5-30 minutes), focus and choose from the 7 instructors. I can see why people rave about Peloton….and I can’t wait for my new Peloton bike to arrive!
I reached out to the Health Teacher Central community on Facebook to see what they had to say about mindfulness apps.
Daniel Hill said “Why focus on breathing during meditation? The breath is a constant throughout your life. Despite your age, time of day, life situations or emotional state… your breath is always there.” He would add the Mindful Life Project to the list.
Michelle Rawcliffe said “We piloted the Classroom version of Stop Breathe Think, now MyLife. I really like it. It gives teachers feedback on the collective emotions of the students and which mindfulness interventions they choose the most”
Sarah Chap mentioned that she was creating digital notebooks to “provide a link to a different exercise and students will complete it before diving in to the rest of the assignments for that day. But they’ll complete a super brief reflection about their experience trying the mindfulness technique so we can reflect on which strategies they liked best.” Sarah graciously provided this link to her latest digital notebook that she was excited to roll out with students.
If you are using these apps, or other resources successfully with your students, please leave a comment down below or tweet the #slowchathealth crew on Twitter.
You might like the slowchathealth blog post Practical Mindfulness from Leah Lipschitz in which she shared her mindfulness journey, from first seeking it out, to incorporating it into her self-care routine.