Tools to Improve Your Mental Health in the Palm of Your Hand
Written by Maria Serra
Category: Counseling Blog
Even when it comes to taking care of your mental health, it turns out; there’s an app for that. Developers have created a plethora of apps that can help you deal with stress, manage your symptoms, reframe your perspective and help you live a happier, mentally healthier life.
We’ve found that the most useful applications are the ones that don’t try to replace a good treatment or therapy plan, but help to complement the way a doctor might recommend you work on your mental health. Many of these apps help you to track your moods, remind you to practice self-care and encourage positive thinking. These are all things you can do without an app, but having the reminder right in the palm of your hand can encourage you to keep up with these habits and engage in the healthy activities that can help manage your mental health.
Here are some mental health apps that you might want to try to go along with your self-care and mental-care routine.
Apps to reduce stress: These apps are great for teaching you the skills and habits that will help you feel calm and manage stress. Use them along with other activities in your life that help you decompress. These three apps are all available for iPhone and Andriod.
- Breathe2Relax – This app asks you to indicate on a scale your level of stress, and then can walk you through breathing exercises to help you relax and reduce stress. It also has information and demos on how to manage stress through deep breathing. Free to download.
- Headspace – The app has a cartoon style and provides quick meditation and mindfulness exercises to benefit your health, reduce anxiety and induce happiness. It also provides single sessions for different life situations such as going on an interview or dealing with your commute. There’s even an option for kids to participate. Free to download, but many of the features require a paid subscription.
- Calm – This meditation and mindfulness app asks you to pick your top goal from better sleep to reducing anxiety. A calm, pleasant female voice walks you through guided meditations with a beautiful lake scene on the screen. You can also do self-guided meditations if you prefer, and guided breathing exercises. Free to download but you can upgrade to a premium version for a monthly cost.
Apps to manage a mood disorder: These apps certainly don’t replace going to see a mental health professional or following the recommendations of your doctor. They can, however, help you track your emotions and moods, and give you quick reminders about how to react when your mood disorder is disrupting your life.
- Anxiety Coach – This app focuses on activities that will help those with social anxiety disorder, and other types of anxiety, by using exposure techniques commonly used in cognitive behavioral therapy. The user sets a to-do list of feared activities, and rates his or her anxiety as the tasks are completed. The benefit of this app is that it encourages real world activities and provides information about anxiety and resources for therapists right in the app. Cost $4.99 to download from the App Store.
- Panic Relief – This app is meant to assist people as they experience panic attacks. The free version walks the person through a progressive arm muscle relaxation exercise. The paid, premium version of the app also walks the user through square breathing exercises and more. Free to download from the App Store, with in-app subscription and it cost $1.49 to download from Google Play.
- Pacifica – Based on cognitive behavioral therapy, this app asks users to rate their mood on a 7-point scale and, if desired, write an entry about why their mood is where it is. They can then follow activities on the app in four different categories, meditations, goals, thoughts or relax. The activities might range from recording your thoughts and going back to examine how you were feeling and what you were thinking, to deep breathing exercises. The activities are limited on the free version of the app, which can be downloaded on the App Store or Google Play.
Apps to improve mood: These apps are designed to foster positive thinking. It’s important to do small things in your daily life that boost happiness, and these apps might help remind you to take those actions both on and off your device. The following two apps are available in the App Store and Google Play.
- Happify – This app provides you with games that encourage you to think positively. They might be to pick negative emotions you’ve been feeling lately – and then knock them down – or identifying positive words on hot air balloons to make them fly upwards. The games focus on five categories – savor, thank, aspire, give and empathize – and puts you on different “tracks” to aim toward a certain goal, such as being more grateful or improving confidence. The app is free to download, with a paid premium version.
- ThinkUp – This app is based a simple concept, to inspire positive thinking with affirmations and inspirational quotes from experts – and from yourself. You can add in your personal affirmations to listen back to when you need a boost. The affirmations are also split up into categories so can focus on certain goals, like self-esteem, depression or anxiety help, among others.
As much as it sometimes seems like they might, apps on our phones don’t work magic. But when you use an app that reminds you to engage in activities that help boost your mood and encourage you to take care of yourself, they can benefit your mental health. Many of these apps are helpful in combination with therapies and recommendations from your mental health professional, to build those skills and habits that will help you feel better and improve your mental health.