It seems we’re always “on” these days, with our smartphones and other gadgets keeping us in touch and accessible 24/7. But you can harness that power for self-care as well. It isn’t selfish — it’s vital to your physical and mental health.
That’s why so many app developers have focused on self-care apps. A quick search yields hundreds of examples. How do you know which ones are worth downloading? Here are a few we recommend — and they’re free to try. (Some have premium options for a fee.) All are offered for iOS or Android devices.
Physical Fitness Apps
In a crowded market, these two stand out for their wide range of resources.
No Fitbit device? You can still use the free Fitbit app to manage your diet, weight and more. On some phones, you can even use the MobileTrack and MobileRun features to track steps and activities. After downloading, click “Join Fitbit.” When it asks which Fitbit tracker you are setting up, scroll to the bottom and click “No Fitbit Yet?” to set up your account.
With more than 50 million downloads, MyFitnessPal is no secret. But if you haven’t tried it, you’ll find not only a calorie counter and activity tracker, but also plenty of resources to help you lose weight and get healthy. The food database has information on millions of foods, and you can add your own if something you eat regularly is not included.
Mental Health Apps
The American Psychiatric Association doesn’t rate apps, but they have a model to help mental health professionals evaluate them. Find out more.
While you shouldn’t depend on an app alone to manage a serious mental health disorder or crisis, these apps can complement treatment or just help you have a better outlook.
This popular app uses research-backed activities and games to help you learn how to be happier. Too good to be true? Well, its tracks are created by scientists and game developers, and Happify’s own data show that 86 percent of Happify users saw happiness improvements in two months. There are currently 13 free tracks, such as “Conquering Negative Thoughts,” “Defeat Loneliness,” or “Painless Parenting.” You can also share posts with other Happify users or set your profile to private.
T2 Mood Tracker
This app was originally developed by the National Center for Telehealth & Technology (T2) for military service members. Now civilians are using it and sharing the information with their doctors and therapists. It comes with six areas for tracking: anxiety, depression, general well-being, head injury, stress and post-traumatic stress, and you can add your own. You use sliders to rate yourself in these categories, and the app graphs your input over time. You can also make notes about what might be affecting your mood.
If you just want a little help de-stressing from your day, give these apps a try.
Calm claims it’s the number one app for mindfulness and meditation, and it boasts millions of users. It’s easy to see why, with guided meditations ranging from three to 25 minutes and a multitude of topics, such as forgiveness, self-esteem, calming anxiety and deep sleep. It also offers nature sounds and scenes, breathing exercises and programs for beginners to advanced meditation gurus.
This app’s name tells its story — it teaches “diaphragmatic” breathing, a proven stress management skill. Another T2 app developed for the military, Breathe2Relax lets you select scenery, background music, and inhale and exhale length. You can also chart your stress levels before and after the guided exercise.
Looking for more ways to practice self-care? Check out this list!