You’re stressed out. We’ve got 18 mental health apps to help keep you sane.
Whether it’s mindfulness, meditation, or Mai Tai’s, people will do much of anything if they believe it will alleviate their stress.
We’ve tracked down 18 of the best apps to help you keep sane through everything from deep-breathing to talk therapy.
The iOS and Android app Pause asks you to follow an onscreen blob with your fingers – apparently it’s based on the principles of Tai Chi, and is “proven to produce a calmer state of mind and a lower mental workload”.
So you’re going to try to meditate for 20 minutes a day – but how do you manage to relax when you’ve got one eye on the clock the entire time? Insight Timer is the “top free meditation app on the iOS and Android stores,” offering free guided meditations as well as a simple clock that won’t jar you from your hard-fought equanimity.
Since launching in 2010, Headspace has become a tech leader in managing (and monetizing) meditation. Their meditation app offers ten free introductory sessions; after that, subscriptions start at $6.25 per month.
If you can get past all the site copy about “science-based happiness”, Happify provides games that will “train your brain and build skills for lasting happiness.” The platform offers a series of games and exercises for iOS, Android, and desktop that also helps quantify your daily emotional state.
A randomized controlled study from the University of Pennsylvania has suggested that “playing SuperBetter for 30 days improves mood [and] reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression…” The website and apps embrace the idea of gamifying your emotional life, complete with Quests, Power Ups, and Bad Guys.
Breathe2Relax and Tactical Breather
Sometimes all it takes is a deep breath, and there are a variety of apps that promise to improve your mood through breathing technique. Breathe2Relax and Tactical Breather were developed by the U.S. Department of Defense “for the warfighter during intense combat situations.” If you can forget about their martial origins, the site promises “anyone can benefit from the ideas taught in [these] application[s].”
The apps from Breathing Zone not only guide the user through a five-minute controlled breathing exercise, but also use the phone’s microphone to analyze the user’s breath. It’s recommended by the Harvard Medical School.
If you need to reach out to a real human being, but you don’t have the time to wait on a doctor’s appointment, you’ve got some options. Joyable uses the slightly controversial technique of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and personal coaching to help lessen social anxiety and depression. The San Francisco company focuses largely on corporate clients, though individual programs are available.
Perhaps the biggest player in virtual therapy, TalkSpace will pair you with an online therapist immediately. The service comes closest to establishing a traditional patient-therapist relationship, though it’s not cheap – plans start at $32-per-week.
The AbleTo platform also offers personalized, one-on-one sessions, although their focus is more on coaching individuals to help manage stress and set personal goals.
Ieso also uses Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to help address anxiety and depression, however their sessions are conducted via real-time, typed conversations. Currently the service is only available in Colorado and the UK.
Sleep always helps – and your phone can actually help. Sleepio uses CBT to manage your sleep patterns – several trials have shown the app to help long term insomnia. ”
Sometimes it’s not so clear what inspires your mental black clouds – that’s where mood tracking comes in. Mood 24/7 was developed by Johns Hopkins University to track your moods based on once-a-day text prompts.
How Are You
The How Are You app, for iOS and Android, is meant to supplement talk therapy, using occasional tests to track your mood.
If you’re more of a diarist, the iOS, watchOS, and Android app iMoodJournal provides a convenient way to track mood changes, which can help identify triggers.
A Friend Asks
Here’s the thing – if you or someone you know is suffering from severe mental issues, there’s not an app in the world that will replace real psychiatric care. If you’re worried that a friend is in danger of harming him/herself, A Friend Asks offers tools, resources, and information to help.
Crisis Text Line
You can also help a stranger by volunteering for Crisis Text Line, a text-message based suicide prevention hotline. And don’t forget, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is available 24/7 – the number is 1-800-273-8255.
Keep something in mind – many, if not most, of these apps have not been put through a rigorous clinical trial. As with any other product promising miraculous health benefits, it’s best to keep a skeptical attitude.
And if you’re experiencing serious mental problems, please seek help from a professional as soon as you can.
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