By: Kiersten Anders & Janelle Williams
If there were ever a time we needed to focus on wellness and self-care, it's now. When we talk about the idea of these two terms, which are largely interchangeable, many people are turned off because they fear a time commitment. You feel you need to dedicate more time than you have in order for it to be successful or worthwhile.
WRONG!! Nothing could be further from the truth!
Think of your overall wellness as being a book - and this is actually a great analogy, because reading a good book is a perfect way to practice wellness and self-care! Dozens of chapters make up that book, and each chapter takes time. There is no dedicated time frame involved - you're not bound to a chapter a day - you just chip away at the chapter each day, little by little, until you reach the next one. Lather, rinse, repeat.
You don't necessarily have to focus on the content of that wellness book, either. While self-care can mean exploring and understanding your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, the focus doesn't always have to be (and shouldn't be) serious. You should also be enjoying yourself - engaging in activities that provide an escape or outlet from the stressors of your day. So, instead of reaching for Atlas Shrugged, maybe pick up Harry Potter instead. Seriously, I don't care if you're pushing 40 - pick up Harry Potter. It's fantastic.
Finding what's right for you can be time consuming, and just the idea of spending time researching can be a deal breaker for those who need it most. So, we did it for you! Here is a list of our 10 favorite wellness apps, listed alphabetically. We encourage you to try something new. Take some small steps and add just 20 minutes of self-care to your daily routine. It can have a huge impact over time!
Created by Dan Harris, ABC news anchor who had a panic attack on live TV, 10% Happier is a book, app, and podcast. Focusing on the app, it offers over 500 guided meditation videos from renown teachers for particular moments or scenarios. This allows the user to develop their own mindfulness journey. Furthermore, it offers one-on-one coaching sessions with teachers should any questions arise. What makes this app unique is Dan Harris’ humor and his ability to make meditation relatable. His sessions include down to earth discussions and questions with meditation teachers followed by the actual practice. This could be due to his journalist background. Like the other apps, this offers a trial period and is then a paid service. However, they are currently offering full access to the app for healthcare workers. They have included dispatch in this, as I used it for my membership. Simply visit https://www.tenpercent.com/care. This app is free to download on both iOS and Google Play.
The Calm app and website is a paid service that you can use for guided meditations, sleep stories, stretches and ambient noise. It contains hundreds of meditations that range from beginner with step-by-step voice guided steps throughout the exercise to less guidance for those more familiar with meditation. Their sleep stories are a collection of children’s stories familiar from childhood, along with relaxing stories about the natural world and modern wonders. The narrators are experienced actors, authors and meditation experts and they are tailored to an ideal pace for optimal relaxation. Calm has also curated relaxing sound playlists which are arranged in sections for what you’re trying to accomplish, whether you need to focus on projects or want to bring your mood up to relaxing before bed or falling asleep. The app also has a breath bubble, an animation that allows you to breathe with it for however long you need to help you regulate your breathing and slow your heart rate. There are even video stretches that are customized to the time of day you would use them. A limited amount of their practices are available for free, but you can unlock the rest for a yearly or lifetime paid subscription.
Charity miles is a simple activity tracker that helps donate back to over 40 worldwide charities. For every mile you walk, run, or bike corporations agree to donate to the charity the user chooses. Charities include Habitat for Humanity, ASPCA, Wounded Warrior Project, and Stand Up to Cancer. The app itself is straightforward. Simply pick the charity, the activity, and users are on their way to earning money. It helps provide the extra feel good motivation for activities users are already doing. In terms of an actual tracker, users have reported some issues with long term tracking of activities in the app. For tracking users goals, another app might be more helpful. To give back to charities and feel good about staying active this app is definitely a good choice. This app is free to download from iOS and Google Play.
Fitbit is one of the leading apps for health and fitness tracking. While it may seem like an obvious pick, considering it’s compatibility with Fitbit wearables and smartwatches, there is more to this app even without the premium membership. The free app helps users track health goals and progress over time. With a customizable Fitbit Today tab, the user can keep track of activity and data by logging hydration, workouts, food, sleep, heart rate and more. There is also a Discover and Community tab. The first allowing the user to check out their states, challenges, adventures, mindfulness courses, and Fitbit coached workouts. The second introduces the user to the worldwide Fitbit community, showing them you can be as involved and connected as they want in their journey. Additionally, Fitbit also created a Covid-19 tab with resources during this time. Most of the Fitbit app is free aside from the original purchase for the wearable. Some of the additional courses or coaching do require the upgrade to premium. This app is free to download from iOS and Google Play.
Forest is a productivity app. It allows you to plant virtual trees in order to help you focus on your tasks, whatever they may be, and increase your productivity. The trees change sizes based on how long you stay focused, beginning as a smaller tree and growing at 60, 90 and 120 minutes into a larger tree. You also accumulate coins for staying focused which allow you to purchase more trees and plants, including shaped trees, clover and even coral. The app is entirely free to use as much as you want with the option to purchase the premium version for only $1.99. This unlocks achievements, friends and allows you to convert your virtual trees into real trees planted by organizations through the use of the coins you earn in the app. To date, users of Forest have planted 738,453 trees! That’s a lot of productivity. Use it when you need to get a project done for work, want to spend time meditating, break up your phone usage, or focus on fitness.
Headspace is a great meditation app for beginners who want a structured or regular approach. In fact, it even promotes itself as a “gym membership for the mind”. Assuming users have not meditated before, it begins with 10 free sessions that introduce techniques. Co-founder Andy Puddicombe’s friendly and calming voice guides users through each practice with helpful visualizations and animations. Some may find the free content limited, as anything after the first 10 sessions requires subscription. Once subscribed, the app includes shorter meditations, more focused courses, daily meditations, messages sent to the user’s phone, a kids version, and sleep meditations. The kids section is a nice addition, much different from anything else. This app is free to download from iOS and Google Play.
Insight Timer is a free app with the option to buy a premium subscription. It touts the largest library of free meditations, currently said to be around 24,000 available for use. It even has a bilingual option for the meditations. There is an option to do an open-ended no guidance meditation where you choose chimes to keep you focused on the activity and lets you set timers for your meditation length. Insight Timer offers groups you can join based on interests or locations where you can connect with others who are meditating and you can connect with friends who also use the app and choose to let them see what you’ve been doing to practice mindfulness and meditation. The app offers soundscapes as well, letting you relax to whatever you find comforting. While they do offer so many exercises for free, they do offer an annual subscription which unlocks their courses which are tailored to many focuses such as self-compassion, creativity, happiness, better sleep and even learning to teach others the practices you’ve learned.
Sanvello is a wellness app that is free to download and use some features with a paid premium subscription. The cool thing about Sanvello is that the developers are working on more free features and their eventual goal is to partner with companies and health insurance providers for the app to be free to as many users as possible. They already partner with several providers, including United Healthcare and some employee assistance programs. Like many other apps, it provides access to meditations and mindfulness practices, but it also allows you to connect with a therapist or psychiatrist through virtual telehealth appointments. They are working on providing this service to more states but it is already available in some locations. It also acts as a message board where people can choose topics to post in and voice their concerns or what they are seeking advice with and get other anonymous feedback from other users. It also allows you to conduct self-assessments and check-in with your progress on basic needs through the day, such as water intake, sleep and hygiene. Special Offer: The full, premium version of Sanvello is currently FREE to all new users during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Shine is a meditation app that started as a simple messaging program. It has grown into a self-care app incorporating over 500 meditations, bedtime stories, ambient music, and community discussions. This app allows for a personalized wellness journey by sending daily encouraging messages with links to further inspirational content dependent on the user’s responses. The app also allows the user to log responses and moods, further tracking wellness and mental health. The discussion area encourages community; users reflect, react, and get support from others in similar situations. When it comes down to it, this app combines a supportive friend and a life coach. The overall tone and feel of the app may be a little too upbeat and cheesy for some, but the energy can be exactly what others are looking for in this type of app. This app is free to download from iOS and Google Play.
Youper is a mood tracking app that uses artificial intelligence to interact with you and help track how you feel throughout the day. It chats with you and allows you to assign your feelings and explore why you’re feeling that way, whether you’re as happy as you ever are or if you’re having bouts of sadness or anger. It then asks you about what is related to your feelings, whether it’s work, home, family, being alone or something else. Over time, it keeps track of your moods and what factors you’ve assigned to each of them and lets you look back into what makes you feel happiest or saddest, amongst other moods. It even allows you to monitor yourself for depression, anxiety, PTSD and other mental health disorders. It asks you questions and allows you to evaluate your moods over a longer period of time to determine how at risk you are for the disorders. While it doesn’t replace a doctor’s evaluation, it can help you track your emotions and help you tailor a response to them, whether that’s scheduling an appointment with a mental health provider or making lifestyle changes to combat your negative feelings.
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