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Health A to Z  —  6 minutes

Your Digital Health: Meditation

January 19th, 2024
Biron Team
Biron Team

Finding the Best Meditation App for You

This month, we introduce you to popular meditation apps: Headspace, Petit BamBou, Calm, as well as Muse - a portable “immersive meditation device” that provides real-time biological feedback. The benefits of meditation are well documented by scientific literature. From reducing stress, anxiety and depression, lowering blood pressure and improving the quality of sleep, to alleviating chronic pain and improving memory and brain function, the advantages of simply sitting still and focusing on one’s breathing are manifold. Though by no means a substitute for professional or medical therapies where prescribed, it’s one of the most powerful tools we have for enhancing overall mental health and well-being.

Meditation itself shouldn’t be too hard — it’s making time for it that can be. Starting a regular habit of meditation, and sticking with it, can be a challenge even for the most disciplined of us. This is where mobile apps come in, reminding you each day when it’s time to stop and sit, along with guided instruction and other visual and auditory cues to help make the most of your sessions and establish an ongoing routine. To assist us in better understanding these apps and what science supports them, we spoke with Roger Simard, B. Pharm., a consultant on digital health strategies and technology intelligence for public and private organizations.

The Apps


Created by Andy Puddicombe, a former Tibetan Buddhist Monk turned meditation instructor, Headspace has been a cornerstone in the field of meditation since its launch in 2012. The captivating voice of Mr. Puddicombe guides users through specific guided sessions and thematic reflections, adding a more engaging and personal touch to the app. Furthermore, the intuitive sequencing of exercises transforms the Headspace experience into an immersion in an ongoing journey while offering a practical and accessible approach for all levels. Among the apps discussed here Headspace probably has the cleanest, most pleasing design, with lots of playful graphics and illustrations. Navigating through the array of available courses is easy. You will discover meditation sessions designed for various everyday life situations.14-day free trial; $17.99/month, $89.99/year

Mindfulness with Petit BamBou

Petit Bambou, one of France’s most popular health and fitness app for iOS, focuses on the educational aspect of meditation. It’s sleek and orderly interface presents 15 programs encompassing meditation, sophrology, hypnosis, and breathing, programs, centered around pertinent themes like self-confidence and navigating challenging emotions. Each theme includes a variety of sessions to choose from. Free version; $89.88/year ; $360$ lifetime


Recognized as Apple's 2017 iPhone App and honored with the Apple BEST OF 2018 award, Calm is widely used as a resource for stress management, meditation, and enhancing sleep quality, offering a less-structured approach to meditation practice that may appeal to more experienced meditators. The app provides a personalized approach: from your initial, it will inquire about your level of experience and the motivations driving your meditation. While the interface may occasionally seem intrusive and navigation a bit confusing, the application delivers a more intuitive experience compared to Headspace, notably with its abundance of non-guided meditation sessions. Some users may favour Calm’s background nature scenery, its broad selection of ambient soundscapes and melodies, and their stories to help fall asleep over Headspace’s more streamlined approach. 7-day free trial; $7.50/month; 89.99/year


Created by the Canadian startup InteraXon, Muse is not just an app but a sleek headsets that rest across the forehead and around the ears, with seven EEG sensors that first measure brain activity and feed results back through your app in real-time. Some of that feedback comes in the form of nature sounds, meant to represent the user’s present state of mind. The sensors are in turn used to guide the user through different meditation modes, oriented toward sleep, lowered heart rate, body movements and breathing. Muse is one of the most advanced wearables of its kind in the meditation market. Underpinned by research, it has gained international recognition among numerous neuroscientists, showcasing reliable results. $624.98 for Muse S (Gen 2) headset with a year subscription to app; $269.99 for Muse 2 headset, with a year subscription to app.

Our specialist's take

While Headspace, Petit Bambou and Calm have many things to recommend them, Simard, B. Pharm., a consultant on digital health strategies and technology intelligence for public and private organizations, says it’s important to keep in mind is that “none of the companies making these apps are doing any sort of randomized clinical trials to back up their claims, so it’s impossible to say whether one is truly more efficacious than any other. We do know from clinical research that meditation generally is good for you — so that’s what these companies are saying, ‘We have an app that helps you meditate, therefore our app is good.’”

How then to choose the right meditation app for you? “It’s all very subjective and up to user preference,” says Simard. Given that the monthly fees can make these apps expensive, Simard recommends first taking advantage of free-trial periods to determine which one you personally find most effective and agreeable to use. You might prefer the look and feel of one over the others, the quality or tone of the guidance, or the structure of lessons and specific exercises offered. In the end it’s all about which produces the best results for you, factoring in a price over the long term that you’re comfortable with.

Where the potential of apps in this category really expands is with the introduction of wearable technology that tracks mental and physical activity in real-time. This is where a product like Muse stands out, measuring the user’s brainwaves to provide biofeedback that helps improve the quality of a meditation session. It’s by capturing this data, Simard says, that an app can analyze what your mind is actually doing, then provide cues or exercises to adjust how you are breathing or what you’re thinking about — offering positive reinforcement. “The people behind Muse are neuroscientists, and unlike others in this category the device and app are actually being used in clinical settings.” And, as Simard points out, Muse is proving to have potential benefits beyond just meditation, “but all sorts of medical conditions, including ADHD and anxiety.” The headset’s hefty price tag, however, might mean it’s not for everyone, especially novice meditators just trying to get in the swing of it.

This revised edition reflects an updated version from the original version published on March 7, 2019, on our website. We have incorporated recent facts to offer you current and pertinent information.

Biron Team
Biron Team