The Best Meditation Apps—and Why Multisensory Virtual Reality Makes Them Better

Lab 2-minInnovative Olfactory Technology Makes Meditation Apps Better

Meditation is powerful stuff. And the research testing—and proving—the benefits of meditating are growing exponentially, according to Harvard. Here are a few recent examples:

  • Following an audio-guided meditation a couple of times a week, on average, was shown to help employee’s well-being, work stress, and feelings of social support at work, per a 2018 study in the Journal of Occupational Healthy Society
  • Meditation has been found to improve sleep quality. According to a review study published in 2019, adults who meditated improved their sleep quality compared to their counterparts in a control group who merely participated in an activity matched for time and attention, but not meant to bolster sleep (aka received a placebo).  
  • Boost your happiness and overall mindfulness—at least that’s what happened for college students who took a semester-long meditation course, as reported in a 2020 study in the Journal of American College Health

That said, meditating can be hard, and there isn’t just one way to meditate. 


The Best Meditation Apps

Enter meditation apps! They’re an easy way to start—or test-drive—meditating. And if it sticks, they’re a great way to take your meditation practice with you wherever you go. The easy access and increased consumer interest in mental well-being, among other factors, have fueled the growth of meditation apps. They’re now big business: meditation apps pulled in $192M in 2019


These Three Meditation Apps are Ones We Consider to be Topnotch:  

1. Calm

Rated #6 in the Health and Wellness category on Apple. Plus, this app, combined with Headspace, accounts for almost 70% of the market share, says Fast Company.

2. Headspace

This app is ranked #20 in Health and Fitness on Apple. But—like Calm—it’s an “Editor’s Choice.”

3. Insight Timer. 

Awarded “Best Overall Meditation App” for 2021 by Healthline.

There’s also a new tech-forward way to meditate that’s gaining momentum and has the potential to surpass the popularity of meditation apps—immersive meditation experiences. “The more immersive the experience, the more fun and effective it is,” says Aaron Wisniewski of OVR Technology.

The Benefits of an Immersive Meditation App Experience 

We’re just beginning to understand the benefits of immersive experience, but they appear to be

substantial compared to traditional modalities. For example, workplace training programs that are immersive seem to be more effective. A 2020 study by PwC compared employee performance after participating in the same training course but in different modalities: classroom, e-learning and virtual reality (VR). Compared to classroom students and e-learners, VR learners (aka the immersive experience) learned faster and were more confident in applying the skills they learned after training, among other benefits. More specifically: 

  • VR learners completed their training 3 times faster than in-person classroom learners, and in about half the time of their e-learning counterparts. 
  • VR learners were estimated to be 1.5 times more focused than classroom learners, and 4 times more focused than e-learners. 
  • And after training, VR learners were 35 to 40 percent more confident in applying their new skills compared to classroom and e-learners. 

Another study—this one for pain management—compared an immersive VR experience to audio-only therapy. The treatment was otherwise identical. Fortunately, both groups were able to reduce their pain, but the group who participated in the immersive format had greater pain relief. 

While all modalities of meditation—a guru, an app, an immersive experience—have the power to be effective, VR is perhaps best characterized as the equivalent of a guru guiding you in-person through meditation in nature, and on-demand. “Triggering a sense of smell makes virtual experiences more emotionally engaging, more immersive, more realistic, and—ultimately—more effective,” says Wisniewski. Inhale is an experience that is designed to yield similar benefits to meditation apps—promote relaxation and general well-being—but in a more powerful way. It’s the ultimate immersive experience.



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