A "mindfulness" craze has swept the West, with millions of people trying to find their zen by focusing on the present, acknowledging emotions, and practicing meditation. Today there are more than 1,300 apps devoted to mindfulness and meditation, including industry leader Headspace, which has been downloaded more than 11 million times and is valued at $250 million.
Many mindfulness apps are free to download and offer short, guided meditations, as well as alerts throughout the day giving users reminders and tips on staying in the moment. Paid subscriptions allow you to go "deeper" into the mindfulness journey, with some price tags as high as $400 for lifetime access.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence supports the use of mindfulness to combat depression and has been prescribing mindfulness-based cognitive therapy since 2004, The Financial Times reports, but oftentimes the bite-sized regimens pushed in downloadable apps don't quite match up with the long-term practices suggested by the research. One 2015 study found many apps "lack of scientific credibility and subsequent limited clinical effectiveness."
That's not to say they're all bad. Just that there might be more effective ways to find inner peace than staring into a smartphone screen.
Editor's note: A previous version of this article misstated the size of the mindfulness industry. It has since been corrected. We regret the error. Kelly Gonsalves