For the New Year, we decided to depart from the slew of timer-based apps to explore three niche apps: one for those who prefer to meditate in motion, one for stressed-out teens, and one for gadget-obsessed practitioners. While these apps may seem at first glance to target somewhat limited audiences, each one offers something that might help revamp a routine practice.

Walking Meditations takes your daily practice outdoors, providing a new set of inspirations and challenges. Take a Chill is aimed at adolescents, but the useful tips and brief meditations it offers can alleviate stress in users of any age. And Thync—a wearable device paired with an app—adds some zing (literally) to your practice by providing low-level electrical pulses to your brain, stimulating states of energy or calm.

The practice of walking meditation offers a different set of challenges from seated practice because there’s more to pay attention to: the sensations of our body as well as our continuously changing surroundings. Walking Meditations, part of a suite by Meditation Oasis that includes 12 other meditation apps, includes 3 sense-based, guided audio meditations plus a diary feature. “Enliven Body” encourages inward focus, “Enliven Senses” emphasizes the environment, and “Fully Present” offers a combination of the two. The 18-minute meditations are delivered in a reassuring yet sleepy (at times almost comatose) female voice. Frequent pauses are helpful for navigating between the audio and the environment. One slight downside is that you can’t fast-forward or rewind the tracks, but since the meditations are repetitive—stressing a “relaxed, open awareness” and acceptance of all experiences and thoughts—perhaps the function isn’t necessary. Given the continual flights of the mind during a walk, the redundancy of the words can even be helpful, bringing your mind back to this moment on this walk, whether it’s down a city sidewalk, up a mountain trail, or even around your home.

Available for iPhone

Designed for teens, this app intends to instill the habit of taking a moment to stop and breathe before reacting to stress. Take a Chill offers several quick techniques set in an appealing interface designed like a doodled-on notebook page. Through graphic sequences, “Stop: Take a Moment” suggests visualizing a stop sign, saying “Stop,” and taking a breath in any situation, while “Prep” provides a longer centering sequence intended for test preparation but applicable anytime. “Daily Dose” offers a paragraph-long themed meditation for reading. The app also includes two short guided audio meditations, “Mindful Homework” and “Mindful Stopping,” which are delivered in a young female voice that occasionally sounds rote. Other audio tracks ($0.99 each or $9.99 for the album) are available for download outside the app through the iTunes Store (search for “Mindfulness for Teens”). Additional features include progress tracking, reminders and notes, and a “Stress Inventory,” which identifies common stress triggers— from decisions about sex to anxiety about school—and provides a stress-level score that can be archived and shared. As teens are often inseparable from their phones, it’s easy to imagine them toggling over to this app for a quick break.

Available for iPhone
–Caitlin Van Dusen

(Device $199; pack of reusable strips $24.99; free accompanying app)

Thync is a small, wearable device that delivers low-level electrical pulses, stimulating nerves for a heightened sense of energy or calm. Developed by a team of MIT, Harvard, and Stanford neuroscientists, it’s billed as wearable technology designed to lift your mood and lower stress without medication.

Thync is a three-part system: the lightweight device that you place between your eyebrow and hairline; an adhesive strip that sticks to your head and neck and connects to the Thync module; and the smartphone app. Users can choose between “Calm” and “Energy” programs; within those two categories there are different vibe choices, such as “Sleep,” “Deep Relax,” and “Boost.” The sessions last from 10 to 20 minutes, and you can choose to add on additional time. During the session, you’ll feel the pulsing on your head near the temple and neck— almost like a light tug or itch; you can control the intensity through the app.

Thync certainly delivers—you will feel something. But if you have a regular meditation practice, Thync may very well be an expensive shortcut to 20 minutes on the cushion. For the new meditator, or someone who is looking to reinvigorate their practice, Thync provides a taste of what contemplative practice can offer. With the device’s high price, coupled with the fact that you have to reorder the adhesive strips, there’s a lot to consider before taking the plunge. Thync should not be used if you have certain medical conditions (e.g., if you’re prone to fainting, are pregnant, or have an implanted device), so be sure to consult the website for warnings.

Available for iPhone and Android 
–Wendy Joan Biddlecombe, Web Editor