You might think that technology is bad for your mental health, consuming your attention and preventing mindfulness. But what if it does the opposite?
With mental health awareness on the rise, more people are creating or searching for opportunities to improve their state of mind. Whether it's for yourself or someone you care about, here are 10 apps that better your mental health.
Created by game designers and backed by science, Superbetter is a free app that guides you through your adversities, helping you grow stronger and more resilient. The tool offers "power-ups," warns you of "bad guys" and sets up "quests" that are all tied to your actual life. Just log the goal you'd like to reach or the issue you'd like to overcome, and Superbetter will treat your situation like a videogame. Every time you accomplish something, you push an "I DID THIS!" button and progress in the game – and in your life.
Staying active is a good habit for everyone to practice, especially those who struggle with their mental health. Using Charity Miles, you'll be more motivated to run, walk or bike as often as possible. Each mile you log raises money for the charity of your choosing (over 30 different options). Not only will you be helping your mental and physical state, you'll also be giving back to those in need. It's a win-win.
TalkSpace, available online and through a mobile app, is a platform in which people are connected with licensed mental health professionals based on their individual needs. You first chat live with a Talkspace Matching Agent who will explain how online therapy works and answer any questions you have, the website says. Once you're matched, you can pick your subscription option and receive unlimited secure messaging with a therapist, starting at $32 per week.
Joyable offers you a complete program based on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), the gold standard for overcoming social anxiety. Ninety percent of Joyable's clients see a reduction in their anxiety, the website says. Take a quiz to decipher your level and type of anxiety, then meet with your dedicated coach via text or a phone call so you can describe what you're feeling. Joyable helps you challenge and master your anxiety to achieve goals. After a 7-day free trial, treatment is $99/month for an individual plan. Joyable also offers employer packages for companies that wish to provide this service to their employees as a benefit.
Operation Reach Out
Serving in the military comes with sacrifice, including mental health. Operation Reach Out is a free app that offers accessible mental health assistance to those who have served. According to the website, Operation Reach Out is aimed at preventing suicide among military personnel and veterans and encourages people to reach out when they are having suicidal thoughts. The app functions as a personal contact help center and provides activities and support to help people who are depressed stay connected to others.
Headspace was designed with a number of programs to address sleep issues, anxiety, depression and stress through guided meditation programs. Once you've achieved your first 10 days of mediation training, you're able to access the additional programs. According to the website, by using 1 percent of your day to meditate, you will be able to see a "massive difference" in your life (but 10 minutes a day is a good starting point). You can sign up for free, then opt into $12.95/month for unlimited access to the Headspace collection for a month, $7.99/month for unlimited access all year, or other subscription packages.
Sometimes mental health requires a combination of treatments, which is the goal of IntelliCare's bundle of apps created by Northwestern University and Northwestern Medicine. According to the website, IntelliCare is a suite of apps that work together to target common causes of depression and anxiety like sleep problems, social isolation, lack of activity and obsessive thinking. These apps are part of a nationwide research study funded by the National Institutes of Health. Interested users can download individual apps or the IntelliCare suite from the Google Play Store.
MindShift was built with the intent of coaching those individuals through their anxiety. According to the site, the app will help you learn how to relax, develop more helpful ways of thinking, and identify active steps that will help you take charge of your anxiety. This app includes strategies to deal with everyday anxiety, as well as specific tools to tackle better sleep, dealing with intense emotions, test anxiety, perfectionism, social anxiety, performance anxiety, worry, panic and conflict.
Simple Habit truly is simple: Five minutes a day of mindfulness to decrease stress. The app's founder, Yunha Kim, was so stressed at her startup, she turned to meditation. Since then, she has been meditating for a few minutes a day. The app was designed by a team of a Harvard psychologists and meditation experts, Simple Habit meditations are just five minutes and personalized for various life situations. From before going to work in the morning or preparing a difficult conversation, to even dealing with PMS, Simple Habit can help you get through your day, the site said.
With BetterHelp, you can do therapy on your own time and pace. The site matches you with a mental health professional who can identify your needs and help you. Communicate with your therapists as often as you want and whenever you feel it's needed. According to the site, you can start for free to feel confident the app and treatment are right for you. Once you've answered a questionnaire and have signed up for the site, you're offered a free seven-day trial before subscribing to a paid plan ($35 to $70 per week) for unlimited sessions with your counselor.
The above apps may not be suitable replacements for professional in-person therapy, and are meant as suggestions to help those looking to improve their mental health. If you find yourself in crisis, please consult help immediately from any of these resources.
Additional reporting by Shannon Gausepohl.